Cyclone Michaung is just the tip of the iceberg. ‘Chennai Floods’ is becoming a frequent phenomenon in recent decades. In the face of escalating challenges posed by cyclones in the Indian Ocean region, there is a pressing need for meticulous preparedness and coordinated efforts among municipalities, communities and authorities. In tropical regions like the Indian subcontinent, with their susceptibility to heavy rainfall, monsoons and cyclones, there is a need for proactive approach to mitigate the devastating consequences of natural disasters. Learning from global leaders in flood management, particularly Japan and the Netherlands, provides valuable insights for addressing the increasing vulnerability in the North Indian Ocean region.
In the face of mounting climate challenges, Japan and the Netherlands showcase the power of community initiatives and disaster drills in mitigating the impact of natural disasters, particularly floods. Recognising the vulnerability of their regions, both nations have developed robust strategies that actively involve communities.
Japan’s proactive approach includes a sophisticated early warning system utilising advanced technologies like UAVs and satellite imagery. Communities engage in regular drills, simulating flood scenarios and ensuring residents are well-prepared. Public awareness campaigns emphasise the importance of early warnings, evacuation procedures, and the creation of emergency kits.
The Dutch employ an integrated approach, combining dams, dikes, and strategic river widening. Local communities actively participate in planning, learn about emergency preparedness, and contribute to decision-making. The emphasis on public awareness extends to climate change, ensuring citizens are informed about rising sea levels.
The North Indian Ocean region is experiencing an alarming increase in the intensity of severe cyclonic storms, attributed to atmospheric parameters influenced by global warming. The Power Dissipation Index (PDI), which calculates the strength of a cyclone, has witnessed a significant rise, signalling the need to revisit and refresh existing flood management systems. Some studies even show that the power of the tropical cyclone has doubled in last 20 years and the frequency of the tropical cyclone has increased around 50% in the same time. These findings underscore the role of climate change in shaping the escalating trend of severe cyclonic storms.
From the local body side, effective early warning systems, risk assessment and planning, regular drainage management, and collaboration with national and international resources are crucial. Municipalities need to adapt to changing climatic conditions and invest in robust infrastructure.
However, community preparedness emerges as the vital component of effective flood management. Communities must be educated about the risks and trained in evacuation procedures. Awareness campaigns play a vital role in teaching residents how to safeguard their homes and families during floods. Encouraging households to prepare emergency kits with essential supplies becomes a crucial aspect of community readiness.
Disaster drills are pivotal in ensuring that communities know how to respond effectively during actual emergencies. Regular practice drills and simulation exercises prepare communities for real-time challenges, enhancing their response capabilities. These drills serve as a tool for testing and refining emergency response plans, fostering coordination, communication, and overall disaster resilience. These drills not only help the community to prepare themselves but also help the authorities of different organizations to coordinate effectively.
As the proverb goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Proactive measures can significantly reduce the impact of floods, saving lives and minimising economic and social disruptions. Nature-based solutions, including environmental conservation, should be the priority, thus ensuring sustainable and effective flood management practices for the future.
Communities must be educated about the risks and trained in evacuation procedures. Encouraging households to prepare emergency kits with essential supplies becomes a crucial aspect of community readiness
Footnote is a weekly column that discusses issues relating to Tamil Nadu
Azhagu Pandia Raja MP
(The writer is Guest Lecturer, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras; he could be reached at Azhagu.firstname.lastname@example.org)