As Uttarakhand suffers one of the worst disasters in recent decades, questions are being raised about the role of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The apex body to deal with all types of disasters, natural or man-made, was constituted in 2006. The objective of the authority has been to lay down policies and guidelines for effective management, risk mitigation and prevention of disasters in the country. However, in Uttarakhand, people were caught unawares by the series of flash floods and landslides in the absence of any mitigation measure or early warning despite the state having a history of such disasters. The post disaster relief response has been equally poor—more than 70,000 people are reported missing.
NDMA was constituted under the Disaster Management Act of 2005 to draft policies and guidelines on disaster management, approve and coordinate the implementation of plans for disaster preparedness and management at the Central, state and ministerial levels. The authority is headed by the prime minister. However, in the past seven years, the authority has been ineffective in carrying out most of its functions.
NDMA had initiated projects for flood mitigation and landslide mitigation at the national level in 2008. However, those projects have either been abandoned midway or are being redesigned because of poor planning. The projects to prepare national vulnerability atlases of landslides, floods and earthquake are also incomplete. Experts feel if such projects would have been implemented properly the damage in Uttarakhand could have been much less.
As per the performance audit report of the disaster management mechanism in the country by the the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, submitted to the Parliament in April this year, NDMA has neither had information and control over the progress of disaster management work in the states, nor could it successfully implement various projects it had initiated for disaster preparedness and mitigation. What’s more, the authority has been functioning without its core advisory committee of experts that advises it on different aspects of disaster management for the past three years.
According to law, NDMA should have an advisory committee of experts in the field of disaster management at the national, state or district level. The first advisory committee of NDMA was constituted in 2007 for two years. Later, the term was extended for one more year. However, since June 2010, NDMA is functioning without the advisory committee. First, the reason for delay that was cited was that several ministries had not sent the proposals of the names of experts to be included in the committee. Now, it is being said that the names are being reviewed by the Prime Minister’s Office.
No major project completed
The CAG report also highlighted several other loopholes in the functioning of NDMA. It said none of the major projects taken up by NDMA was complete even after seven years of its functioning. The projects were either abandoned midway or were being redesigned because of initial poor planning. The major projects include producing vulnerability atlases for floods, earthquakes and landslides, national landslide risk mitigation project, national flood risk mitigation project and national disaster management information system.
As per the CAG report, NDMA has also not been performing several functions as prescribed in the Disaster Management Act. These include recommending provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation and recommending relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans. Besides, several critical posts in NDMA are vacant and consultants were used for day to day working.
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