CHENNAI: Ever since the tsunami struck the Tamil Nadu coast and snuffed out thousands of lives exactly a decade ago, there has been a paradigm shift in the focus of disaster management.
Rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction have been given greater emphasis, while steps are constantly on to upgrade other elements of disaster management — prevention, mitigation, and preparedness.
Both the Central and the State governments have taken multiple steps to build systems that send disaster alerts right up to the last person in vulnerable areas and create awareness about facing any such eventuality.
“With the advancements in technology, now predicting a natural disaster in advance has become possible (except in the case of earthquakes). After the tsunami, when the State received tsunami alerts on a few occasions, the official machinery was able to take quick measures to face the eventuality,” say official sources.
Out of 35 States and Union territories in the country, 27 are prone to disasters.
Besides tsunami, the coastal community faces disasters like cyclone and floods periodically. Communities in other hazard prone plains and hilly regions of the State face threats from landslides, earthquakes and floods.
Over the past 10 years, the Central and the State governments have spent around `10,000 crore under various heads — relief and restoration works immediately after the tsunami attack, reconstruction activities, steps to bringing back normalcy in the areas hit, addressing the psycho-socio requirements of the people in these areas, counselling to the needed and so on.
Presently, residual works in the `1,481.8 crore Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Project is being implemented. Commenced in 2013, this project will go on for next five years. Under this project, Early Warning Systems will be installed in 439 places in the 13 coastal districts at a cost of `50 crore. Already these systems have been established on an experimental basis in three places — Nainarkuppam, Kanathur Reddy Kuppam and Kudumiyandi Kuppam in Kancheepuram district. The technical committee is examining these systems. Based on its report, similar systems will be installed in other places. The important aspect of this system, which will come up in 439 places, is that it will issue an alarm with a voice message that can be heard within 1 km.
Besides, a Community Based Disaster Risk Management Programme will be implemented in 600 coastal villages. Under the `15 crore scheme that is to be implemented with the help of NGOs, training would be provided to the youth in the coastal villages on disaster risk management.
The programme, supported by the World Bank, will be implemented through the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Agency and the State Institute of Rural Development. Under the project, each village will have a disaster risk management plan based on a social mapping, seasonal calendar, household data and vulnerability analysis.
Village disaster management committees will be formed and separate teams for early warning, evacuation, search and rescue, first aid and shelter management will be constituted. On a pilot basis, the training of youth has started in two villages of Kameswaram and Seruthur in Nagapattinam district.
Overhead electrical lines are a hazard, so they are being converted into underground lines in coastal areas. The project is to be initially implemented in three places — Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Velankanni.
Construction of 121 multipurpose evacuation shelters is also to be taken up at a cost of `315 crore. These centres will be functioning as schools in normal days and will be turned into shelters during times of emergency. In all, 143 evacuation routes with signage have been identified and set up at a cost of `25 crore so that people in these areas can converge there when disaster strikes.