Prevention

A hazard becomes a disaster only when it affects human settlements and causes loss of life and damage to property. In order to reduce the impact of such events through mitigation efforts, it is necessary to understand how such hazards become disasters. The extent of vulnerability of the area people and property to a hazard or the probability of its occurrence defines the extent of risk. Vulnerability analysis and risk assessment therefore are essential forerunners for evolving appropriate preventive measures and mitigation strategies. The document on "Risk Assessment and Vulnerability Analysis" for the State of Karnataka assumes significance in this context, and needs further refinement and updating in order to monitor the effectiveness of preparedness and mitigation efforts. Karnataka is vulnerable to different hazards in varied degrees. Preparedness and mitigation plans, therefore, will have to be evolved locally to reduce the impact of the disasters. While evolving such area specific preparedness and mitigation plans, types of vulnerabilities will essentially define the levels of preparedness and mitigation strategies. These strategies will have to be concentrated more towards the social and economically backward communities, as against the vulnerability of the overall system. The social and economic backwardness is a direct result of marginalization, non-access to goods and services, illiteracy and population growth. In some cases, particularly in urban areas, with a high population concentration of the poor, preventive service measures cannot reach everybody, resulting in large sections of people being left to face the impact of the hazards with their own means. Preparedness and mitigation strategies will have to be oriented, in such a situation, to higher degrees of community involvement and participation. In rural areas, characterised by inadequate infrastructure and poverty groups, all mitigation efforts will have to be backed up by a strong and committed programme of social development for the communities. There ample evidence and extensive literature describing the relationship between disasters and development. Constant re-examination, therefore, of development policies and programmes, leading to equity and social justice, will be a pre-requisite to ensure the success of mitigation efforts that are being proposed.

Disaster Mitigation

Pre-disaster planning consists of activities such as disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness. Disaster mitigation focuses on the hazard that causes the disaster and tries to eliminate or drastically reduce its direct effects. The examples of mitigation strengthening buildings to make them cyclone or earthquake resistant, planting of crops that are less affected by disasters, changing crop cycles, controlling land-use patterns to restrict development in high-risk areas and diversification of economic activities to act as insurance to offset losses in different sectors. Structural measures such as the construction of protective works or alterations designed to diminish the vulnerability of the elements at risk, and non-structural measures, such as regulating land use and building codes and bye-laws, incorporating preventive aspects into development planning, and equipping line departments for damage reduction, can all reduce the impact of a disaster on a region or a population. Everything that is done to reduce or prevent the damages that a disaster may cause is called "mitigation of risks." Such mitigation measures can be integrated with normal development activities and inter-departmental coordination. Mitigation is not, in fact, a cost. In the long run it pays for itself. And it does so in lives saved and in real money.