International Workshop on Sensors and Small Satellite Technology for Disaster Management – SSTDM 2016
PP Shrivastav, IAS (Retd)
Starting service as Lecturer (Chemistry) in a Government College in 1954, Shri Pramod Prakash Shrivastav, joined the Indian Police Service (1957) in Rajasthan and later in the difficult North-Eastern frontier areas where he was selected into IAS (1960). He ably handled the situation during the Chinese aggression (1962). The main highlights of his service career included:
- 5 years as Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi,
- 2 years as Chief Secretary of the State of Goa;
- 1 year each as Adviser to Govrnor in Assam (1990-91), Himachal Pradesh (1993) and Manipur (1994) while under President’s Rule;
- 12 years in Ministry of Home Affairs (in 3 tenures), dealing with various subjects including the North-East and superannuating in 1993 as Special Secretary;
- Around 23 years of postings in North-East (including 81/2years (2005-2013) as Member of North Eastern Council in the rank of Union Minister of State.
Education, Urban Affairs, people’s participation in Governance and Disaster Mitigation & Management remained areas of special interest for him, North-East India being one of the world’s six seismically most active (Zone-5) Disaster-prone areas. He gained knowledge and experience of handling natural disasters like Earthquakes, Landslides, Floods and Cyclones with local resources and traditional wisdom and coping practices, and maintained close and coninuous personal contacts with NDMA since its setting up in late 2005. He initiated
- (2009) FLEWS (Flood Early Warning System) which enabled warnings to be issue to State/District Control Rooms of likely inundation of precise villages/areas (with maps) 12-24 hours in advance of actual flooding. This was achieved by bringing together all concerned specialized Agencies (mainly ISRO, IMD, CWC, and States through personal level meetings and continuing consultations) with NESAC playing the lead role.
- System of Early Warning of Cyclone/Thunder-storms (on the lines of FLEWS;
- Actively participated in initiating and organising 3 sessions of Indian Landslides Congress (Lucknow-2010; Guwahati-2012 and Port Blair-2013).
- Presently associated with Amrita University for fine-tuning and implementing Early Warning Systems at Landslides that pose imminent danger to human life.
- Encouraged focussed studies of Earthquake-precursors NEIST in association with acknowledged experts, and involved NESAC, Ministry of Earth Sciences, GSI, DST and Universities in the NE Region.
- Initiating setting up of NER Node for DRR at NESAC which was jointly inaugurated by Chairman ISRO and him.
Prime challenge in Management of natural disasters How BEST to Save life
Man has little control over Natural Events like Earthquakes, Cloud-bursts, Cyclonic disturbances etc, but the loss of life and property caused by them can certainly be substantially minimised by use of Science & Technology and through advance preparation, mass awareness and training of the community which is invariably the first responder in disasters.
The fact is that loss of life directly by the natural upheavals in the Earth, Sky and Waters is far less compared to the heavy toll of life taken by the consequential damage to man-made structures and obstructions to natural waterways. It is well within our competence to harness Science & Technology to neutralise the damage-potential of these factors that are the real killers. The real remedy to the malady would thus lie in taking seriously the disaster-concerns in our developmental policy and procedures. This has become mandatory with the enactment of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, but its sincere follow-up is taking its own time. The need is for listing out knowledge of area-specific hazards and rigorous application of the measures to neutralise them. That calls for wide-spread dissemination of awareness of the risk and skill-cum-training to prevent and neutralise the same. The focus in the article will be on the worst-case scenario that obtains in the North Eastern Region where the terrain is hilly and the climatic conditions tend to be extreme, the lessons learnt from there would be applicable mutatis mutandis to all regions where severity of the disasters may be lesser.
Emphasis in the article is to highlight the need for giving special attention to development of practical Early Warning Systems (EWS) for the different types of natural disasters. FLEWS (Flood-EWS) has been saving lives in Assam since 2009. EWS-LS (for Landslides) has also been developed by the Amrita University and one such system (with which the author is also associated) is presently in operation in Sikkim under a project approved by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Enough material on Earthquake precursors has been compiled by CSIR-NEIST through liberal funding assistance by NEC and its systematic study and analysis by a multi-disciplinary team of experts is likely to lead to a practical EWS-EQ that can play a substantial role in saving lives by giving reasonable time to the people to save their lives.
Coming largely from the local populace, the academic community, with the dual asset of faculty which is the storehouse of knowledge, and students with boundless energy and enthusiasm, is ideally suited to take on the task of spreading awareness across the community. Working closely with the State/District Disaster Management Authority, they can motivate and train the youth and the women in pre-Disaster Risk Reduction measures and in training them to be ready all the time to face disasters (e.g., with emergency-kits; emergency-plans for home/office/locality/school/institution/ town/mock-drills etc).