Stakeholders at Odisha Vikash Conclave 2016 have outlined the theme to and design the road map as a part of good governance and sustainable development.
Odisha is vulnerable to multiple natural hazards and has faced series of natural disasters since the past several decades. Due to its sub-tropical littoral location, the State is prone to tropical cyclones, storm surges and tsunamis. Though a large part of the State comes under the Earthquake Risk Zone-II (Low Damage Risk Zone), the Brahmani-Mahanadi graven and their deltaic areas come under Earthquake Risk Zone-III (Moderate Damage Risk Zone) covering 44 out of the 106 urban local bodies of the State. Heat-wave conditions during summer months also lead to heat stroke deaths. Odisha also faces severe drought situations due to erratic and deficient rainfall during the South-West Monsoon. For example, the State received 14% deficit rainfall leading to a drought situation and crop loss above 33% in over 5.23 lakh hectare of cultivated land in the year 2015. Balasore, Bargarh, Balangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kalahandi, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabrangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada, Sambalpur and Subernapur were among the districts that received deficient rainfall. The State Government declared 123 blocks spread over 14 districts as drought affected.
The effects of natural disasters are further compounded by accompanying socio-economic conditions, unplanned urbanization, development within high-risk zones, environmental degradation, climate change, geological hazards, epidemics and pandemics.
Disaster Management is a dynamic process. It involves multiple stakeholders for immediate response, recovery, prevention, mitigation and preparedness. The 1991 Odisha Super Cyclone did teach some good lessons. Institutional mechanisms are put in place at the state, district and sub-district levels. The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) was set-up by the Government of Odisha to take up not only the mitigation activities but also relief, restoration, reconstruction and other measures. In addition to the institutional mechanisms, the Odisha Relief Code elaborates on rain recording, reporting of weather and crop situation, duties of the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC), Collectors and Sub-collectors, district-level calamity committees, crop loss assessment, declaration of drought, master plan for drought-prone areas, provision of immediate relief and other provisions including ensuring supply line of food, provision of drinking water, provision of water for cattle, immediate irrigation facilities, suspension of collection of loans, relief to students and educational institutions, reports on starvation etc. This beside humanitarian agencies and the Inter Agency Groups have also been playing a very critical role in pre, during and post disaster situations.
However, despite such mechanisms in place, the Disaster Management Act is yet to be implemented in its full spirit at the district level. The State Disaster Management Plan has not dealt with drought or like situations, despite the fact that the State often reels under severe droughts. Odisha is also prone to low level earthquakes – the cities with high-rises are vulnerable; but there is no such plan in place to make the cities and buildings earthquake-resilient. As a result, though the State has been able to reduce human loss in the wake of natural disasters to some extent, the importance of long term mitigation measures to reduce the impact of both human made and natural disasters can’t be understated.
Given the scenario, the Odisha Development Conclave-2016 would focus on the following key areas to discuss and deliberate upon disaster management and disaster-resilient sustainable development in the State.
- The current response system: Issues & Challenges
- Policies, Act and Institutional Mechanisms
- Mainstreaming DRR: The need for coherent and coordinated approach
- Drought, flood, climate variations and its socio-economic effect
- Sharing of Good Practices and the opportunity to scale up