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India has approved the National Policy on Disaster Management

Covering an area of 3,287,590 sq. km, India shares its borders with Pakistan, Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan. It is covered by water on three sides, with the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. Its vast population speaks over 1500 languages and dialects. At present the Republic of India comprises 25 states and 7 Union Territories. Geographically and climatically too the country is very diverse, including snow-capped Himalayas in the north, tropical maritime climate in the south, desert in the west, alluvial plains in the east and a plateau in the central region. The River Ganges rising is the life source of the people in the north. The country on the whole has four seasons: winter, summer, spring and monsoon rains.

Different parts of India are affected by different calamities: floods, tropical cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, hailstorms, avalanches, fires and accidents from time to time.

Floods The country is divided into four flood regions according to the river system. They are the Brahmaputra region, Ganga region, Indus region and the Central and Deccan region (comprising the river Narmada, Tapti and all rivers flowing south eastwards). It is estimated that an average of 40 million hectares are subjected to floods annually.

Droughts Thirty percent of the land area receives less than 750mm rainfall per year and is classified as drought-prone. Besides this there are other regions, which receive medium rainfall and are said to be transitional zones. The rivers in the southern part of the country are fed by the rains and in the years when the rains fail these regions suffer from drought-like situations.

Cyclones The coastline of India extends over up to about 8,000 km, and is affected by 5 to 6 cyclones every yea, out of which 2 to 3 are more often than not severe. Cyclones occur mainly in the months between April and May and October and November.

Earthquakes 56 percent of the total area constitutes an active seismic zone. The northern regions are the most susceptible to earthquakes.

Institutional Structures

  • National organizations for disaster management

Disaster management is the responsibility of the State Governments. The Central Government has a supportive role, which includes provision of physical and financial resources, and complementary measures in sectors such as transport, early warning, and interstate movement of food grains or relief material. There is a National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) constituted in the cabinet secretariat. NCMC is headed by the secretary to the Prime Minister and includes the secretaries of other supporting ministries. For natural disasters, the Ministry of Agriculture was the nodal Ministry until recently; this responsibility has now been conferred upon the Ministry of Home Affair. In the event of a disaster, a multi-disciplinary Central Government Team at the invitation of the affected State carries out a disaster assessment and makes recommendations for assistance.

  • State-level organization

Disaster preparedness and response in the State is delegated to the Relief and Rehabilitation Department or the Department of Revenue. The Crisis Management Group at the State level, headed by the Chief Secretary of the Government, comprises all the related agencies. Each State has State-level Committee. The size of the fund is determined by the vulnerability of the State to different disasters. There is a national Contingency Action Plan, which is updated every year to facilitate the launching of relief operations without delay. At the State level, the Department of Revenue directs and controls relief operations through District Collectors and Deputy Commissioners. At District level, a coordination and review committee is constituted, chaired by the Collector, with participation of all other related agencies and departments.

As part of the preparedness and mitigation measures, there are a number of institutions such as the India Meteorological Department, Central Water Commission, and National Remote Sensing Agency, which have the mandate for forecasting and warning about cyclones, floods and earthquakes. In addition a number of structural measures are taken, such as construction of embankments and drainage channels to prevent and mitigate floods, irrigation development to meet drought, balding cyclone shelters, and forestation of coastal areas to give protection against cyclones.

As part of long-term mitigation measures the country has initiated program based on the goals of the IDNDR. The institutional structures for this include the central Natural Disaster Management Programme (NDMP), implemented since 1993, which aims to enhance national capacity for disaster reduction, preparedness and mitigation, and to create awareness among the community. This programme has set up the National Center for Disaster Management (NCDM) and separate Disaster Management Faculties in 14 State-level training institutes. It is also engaged in documentation of major disasters, training, awareness building and education campaigns.

In India, a High Powered Committee (HPC) on Disaster Management was set up in 1999 (with the approval of the Prime Minister) by the Ministry of Agriculture, along with the National Disaster Response Plan. This was the first attempt in India towards drawing up a systematic, comprehensive, and holistic approach towards disaster. The initial mandate of the HPC was to Prepare management plans for natural disasters; however later on it was expanded to include man-made disasters and developing plans of action encompassing disasters of all origins.

The work of the HPC, according to its report, is seen as an initial step on the long journey to take the country towards disaster preparedness. The next step in the process is identified as setting up an all-party National Committee on Disaster Management under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister, to implement the recommendations of the HPC and follow-up action. The HPC has already been converted into a Working Group, under the Vice-Chairman of the National Committee.

Links & Sources


India Member List

OCHA Situational Reports

CARE India

Sharma VK, 'Natural Disaster Management in India, paper printed at Duryog Nivaran Policy Forum' Future of Mitigation, South Asian Disasters; New Delhi, February 5-6(1999)

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