Disaster Risk Governance and MODDI’s Effect

By: Prof. Santosh Kumar

NEW DELHI: For thousands of years in the past as mentioned by Yuval Noah Harari in his book “Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow” three problems preoccupied the people of 20th century China, India and Egypt. Famine, plague and war were always on the top of the list. Generations after generations human have prayed to every god, angel and saint and have invented countless tools, institutions and social systems, but they continued to die in the millions from starvation, epidemics and violence. May thinkers of that time concluded that famine plague and war must be the part of God’s cosmic plan. But with technical and intellectual development of humanity in last few decades we have managed to rein in famine, plague and war. Although these problems have not been completely solved but they have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. We now quite well understand what needs to be done in order to prevent famine, plague and war and we have been usually succeed in doing it. Societies have survived by recognizing challenges confronting them and finding solutions. Sitting idle and expecting god, saint or any invisible hand would come for our rescue is insane.

Last year, Kerala faced unprecedented flood situations resulting in about 483 deaths and billions of property loss.  Unprecedented and recurring flood situations in the same year affected nearly eight to ten states of India resulting in hundreds of (preventable) deaths, thousands have become homeless and taken refuge either in relief camps or somehow managed to migrate to cities considering as safer areas to survive. Floods are the recurrent phenomenon for many of the states in India. Some states (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh) are getting surprises with the new phenomenon of floods. Frequently affected states are considered to be better prepared ones than those which do get surprises as these states are not identified as flood prone ones.

Disaster is a mixture of astonishment and surprises. If we go purely by the definition given in the dictionary – the two words (astonishment and surprises) keep influencing each other which make disaster events uncertain.  The case of astonishment where we do not expect to happen at all, i.e. Latur earthquake, Japan earthquake leading to Tsunami, Flooding and nuclear emergency which astonished every one. On the other hand, surprise where the element of risk is known but we are not sure about its timing when it is going to happen, i.e. we know the Himalaya is prone to earthquake ( seismic zone V) but we are not sure about when? These two situations poses many challenges. But where it is known that during the monsoon season flood would come and people and properties might get affected. Despite this information, if deaths are happening, people are getting badly affected, properties get destroyed then certainly it is a grave concern. Why it is happening? Why preventable deaths could not be prevented? Why we always get overpowered by known natural activities? We need strategy, commitment and perseverance for confronting with these situations as we could do in the past for famine, plague and war.

Two disasters, 1999 Orissa Super Cyclone and Bhuj earthquake 2001, have changed the disaster discourse in India which later was substantiated by Tsunami 2004, Uri Earthquake 2005 and Mumbai floods 2005.  Professionals, administrators, academia, civil societies and faith-based organizations have been responding to the disasters situations in the past but it never became as turning points for ex-ante disaster risk reduction. The combination of disasters which occurred in quick successions created pressure on the governance. The Push factor worked well. And, subsequently, the proactive governance the pull factors together changed the entire discourse.

Professionals working in the sector might be having different views on the preventing the preventable impact and also about narration of the push factor. But in my opinion, Gujarat earthquake of 2001 may be considered as watershed event for paradigm shit in disaster management governance in India. I do not hesitate calling it as “MODDI EFFECT” (Magnificent, Obtainable, Diligent, Demonstrative & Innovative). My argument is based on my personal encounters/experiences in three disaster recovery programmes which went on in parallel in which I was associated very closely. Prior to Gujarat earthquake recovery programme, Latur, Maharashtra was considered as a successful story of long term recovery and reconstruction which was undertaken in 1993 with the support of World Bank, ADB and DFID. Latur recovery was first of its kind. Larger reallocation of the affected people and also new actions for disaster management got initiated such as preparation of disaster management plans, setting up of control rooms, disaster management capacity building and training etc. Latur was known for its housing reconstruction with earthquake resilient technology.

In 2001 Gujarat struck by a severe earthquake. This created colossal damage to property and large number of human casualties’ occurred. Challenges before the Govt of Gujarat and the people were the same as of Maharashtra for rebuilding Gujarat. If we just quote for understanding the impact of earthquake “Ashok Lahiri’s, Planning Commission Member data, nearly 19,000 people died. Kutch alone reported more than 17,000 deaths.1.66 lakh people were injured. Most were handicapped for the rest of their lives. The dead included 7,065 children (0-14 years) and 9,110 women. There were 348 orphans and 826 widows. As per ADB and World Bank’s Gujarat Earthquake Joint Assessment Mission, the disaster loss was estimated at INR 99 billion. Reconstruction costs were estimated at INR 106 billion. The annual loss of state domestic product was estimated at around INR 20 billion (assuming an ICOR of 4) for the first 12 months”. Rebuilding was a huge challenge before the government.

After eight years of Maharashtra, two other long term recovery programmes were undertaken. One was of Orissa Super Cyclone of 1999 and the other one was Andhra Cyclone, 1997. All these four recovery programme was having two things were in common. One that all were undertaken with the assistance of the World Bank and secondly, building resilience. Hence I would, while respecting all the good works/work done by other state governments, like to highlight a few points of the Gujarat recovery as long-term effects. Govt. of Gujarat under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, the then chief Minister of Gujarat, who could bring some phenomenal initiatives which turned around the entire disaster management discourse in the country. The work of long term recovery and rehabilitation in the aftermath of the earthquake of Gujarat may be considered as full of innovations which later recommended for the global learning process as best practices for post disaster long-term recovery.

The Govt, after realizing the colossal damage of property and loss of lives, became very particular to not to rebuild disaster risk again. They committed themselves to confront with the challenges they had before them for building a resilient Gujarat. Their well planned efforts for resilient rebuilding could lead to transformation.

Magnificent, as moving out from ex-post relief centric to ex-ante disaster risk reduction was achieved by setting up of the institutional system for undertaking risk reduction – Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management, Seismological Research Institute, bringing disaster management curriculum for school education and earthquake engineering in technical engineering Institutions. Bringing new legislation for disaster risk governance, State policy on disaster management, various structural and non-structural projects and programmes for risk reduction, introducing risk insurance in housing sector, making it inclusive recovery by giving women as joint owners of the house leading to women empowerment process, Risk reduction features for housing and infrastructure recovery. The four affected urban towns- Bhuj, Bachau, Anjar and Kuchha witnessed sea-change by bringing land use planning, earthquake resilient housing etc. which brought many new dimension in disaster risk reduction. MODDI’s effect led the creation of resilient Gujarat. International media was also looking at Gujarat very critically.  Professionals working in the area were also very anxious about the whole new experiment. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UN organizations were very skeptical. The people of Gujarat were very nervous too. But after the completion of the task, the third party monitoring and Benefit-Monitoring of the investment made for recovery the MODDI’s effect turned out to be a global example as best practices. UN SASAKAWA Award was conferred to the Govt of Gujarat.

So magnificent initiative became Obtainable. All planned activities got translated on the ground with quantifiable targets. Careful planning, setting of Institutions for its execution, constant monitoring, developing new capacities became the integral part of the entire process. The diligent drive withdemonstrative character with highest political commitment could bring the change. The entire process of new paradigm got replicated both at the national and international action and dialogue. Disaster affected countries adopted the process for their recovery programmes especially community driven housing reconstruction. Demonstrative capacity of the project led the process of new learning in disaster recovery. Here lies the innovation. Many things, which were tried out and completed in time, were not known or popular in the literature of disaster management. So MODDI’s effect is the new abbreviation could be used in the learning process of innovative governance. Building financial resilience lead to the implementation of housing insurance as one of the risk transfer mechanism. Most of the houses got reconstructed were duly insured of earthquake risks and resilient too.

At the federal level, rule of business for disaster management was also undergone into change. The subject of disaster management, which was earlier with the Ministry of Agriculture, got shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2002.  Soon after that, in the year 2003, Ministry of Home Affairs initiated the process of drafting new legislation on disaster management.   National legislation which adopted many things from the Gujarat State Disaster Management Act was introduced in the Parliament in 2005. Parliament passed the Bill and the birth of a new legislation took place in the form National Disaster Management Act 2005. The main thread of the Act is a paradigm shift in disaster management from post disaster centric (relief and response) to the pre-disaster risk reduction (prevention, mitigation and preparedness).The new era (ex-ante risk reduction) of disaster management begun in the country.

At the international level too, the discourse was changing. The world also moved from response and recovery to risk reduction. In South Asia, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe there was a shift from INDNDR decade of Yokhama Strategy, Hyogo Framework of Action and now Sendai Framework of DRR 2015. India is committed for undertaking the agenda priorities of Sendai framework i) reducing the number of death occurring due to disaster ii) reducing the number of affected people iii) reducing the loss of property and iv) building disaster response system and build-back better. Now there are many changes are taking place in many states of the country for the implementation of Sendai framework. Bihar is the first state which could draft the multi sectoral disaster risk reduction action plan in consonance of the Sendai Framework.

UNISDR also declared India as Asian Champion for disaster risk management in the year 2015. Being the Asian champion for Disaster management took several responsibilities for propagating the subject of ex-ante risk reduction. India, organized its first Asian Ministerial Conference in 2016 after the Sendai declaration in 2015 on disaster risk reduction where the Asian road map for disaster risk reduction was drafted named as Delhi declaration and adopted by all the Asian nations. Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi had inaugurated the conference and announced 10 agenda points as a road map to all the Asian nations to follow for making people of Asia disaster resilient.

In India, state governments are now preparing for disaster risk management in a more professional and organized manner. Constitution of State Disaster Management Authorities/ District Disaster Management Authorities, adoption of  legislation for disaster management, strengthening state disaster response capacity by building State Disaster Management response force, building capacity of Panchayat and local bodies, review of development projects and programmes as disaster risk auditing is gradually picking up momentum but it is yet to be institutionalized and strengthened. Although, the speed is not at the expected level, nevertheless the glimpse of MODDI’s effect could be seen. Most of the states are now trying to work in the same way and bring effective disaster risk governance for making their efforts visible in building resilient development. Asian nations along with India are committed to undertake the ten point agenda for disaster risk reduction framework 2030 along with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Continuity of action for disaster risk reduction is the key for sustainable development otherwise I would just be creating an island of success stories. MODDI principle could be a good planning example for confronting with the challenges of disasters and to emulate in the disaster risk governance for achieving sustainable development goals and building resilience.

Prof. Santosh Kumar PhD is Professor & Head of Governance, Policy Planning & Inclusive DRR, National Institute of Disaster Management under the Ministry o Home Affairs, Got. of India. Formerly, he was director, SAARC Disaster Management Centre; Executive Director (I/C), NIDM, MHA; Disaster Management Specialist, The World Bank. Views expressed in this article is his personal. The author may be reached at profsantosh@gmail.com

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