Statement by Secretary (BM) at the Annual Meeting of UNDAC Advisory Board
[11 February 2014; Geneva]
Distinguished Chair, participants of the Advisory Board from the Member countries and other distinguished delegates,
1.It gives me immense pleasure to take part in UNDAC Advisory Board meeting in the “Capital of Peace”, Geneva.
2. India has been a member of UNDAC since 2002. Our country, due to its geo-climatic conditions has been among one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. About 58.6% of its landmass is prone to earthquakes; over 40 million hectares (12% of land) is prone to floods; 68% of the cultivable area is susceptible to drought and out of the 7,516 km. coast line about 5,700 km is prone to cyclones. Fire incidents, industrial accidents and other manmade disasters are additional hazards, which have underscored the need for strengthening mitigation, preparedness and response measures.
3. Recently, India experienced two large natural hazards. I am glad to share with you that we handled these natural hazards with least possible human losses The cyclonic storm ‘PHAILIN’ struck two coastal States of Odisha & Andhra Pradesh on 12 October last year. Accurate prediction of cyclone movement using satellite-based Early Warning System helped us to evacuate over million people from the cyclone prone coastal areas to safe buildings, including the cyclone resilient multi-purpose shelters. The active involvement of the State Government apparatus and the National Disaster Response Force helped us to undertake one of the biggest preemptive measures. As compared to over 9,000 deaths during 1999 cyclone in Odisha, this time there were only 45 people who had lost lives in ‘Phailin’. Because of our timely action, loss of life has been restricted to minimum.
4. Another natural disaster that struck us was large scale flooding in the northern State of Uttarakhand in June last year. The National Disaster Response Force, Indian Army, Air force and Central Police forces were deployed for a massive rescue operation involving evacuation of over 150,000 people stranded in the difficult, mountainous and high altitude areas.
5. We have undertaken a paradigm shift in disaster management, from the relief-centric classical approach of the past to a more holistic approach. We have taken measures to deal with disaster situations in a more institutionalized manner, right from the local level up to the central level. India’s disaster management strategy is based on Community-based disaster management, Capacity development and Consolidation of past initiatives and best practices. We have also created the institutional framework at the Central level, including the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as well as National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), as well as at the State levels..
6. As part of our efforts to upgrade our own mechanisms to deal with hazards in an effective and timely manner, we look forward to learning about best practices in the UN system as well as in other countries and also latest innovative practices and technological advances to mitigate the effects of disaster as part of national disaster management.
7. India would continue to take part in UNDAC activities. We also look forward to send qualified candidates for UNDAC induction training courses. We are also open to UNDAC organizing training programme in India including at NISA Hyderabad and other select locations to be mutually agreed upon. In this way, we also hope to upgrade skills sets of our experts and also be in a position to make available Indian members as part of UNDAC teams.
8. I am hopeful that the outcome of the deliberations on the UNDAC Strategy for 2014-17 during the Advisory Board meeting in the next two days would also contribute to further streamlining and strengthening of the UNDAC system, and also benefit members and participating countries in augmentation of domestic capacities to handle disasters more effectively.