Lok Sabha discusses losses due to natural calamities since 2012

Only 59 per cent of the funds allocated for relief operations were actually released in 2015 as compared to 77 per cent in 2012
Lok Sabha discusses losses due to natural calamities since 2012

More than 9,700 people have died due to natural calamities in the country since 2012, it was revealed in a discussion on losses due to such events in Parliament on Wednesday. The number of deaths was 984 in 2012, 5,844 in 2013, 1,696 in 2014 and 1,192 in 2015.

Among states, West Bengal was the worst affected in 2012, reporting 241 deaths. In the following years, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal reported maximum deaths caused by natural disasters.

Union Home Minister of State Kiren Rijiju stated that funds allocated by the Centre for carrying out relief operations in disaster-hit states have increased by 65 per cent since 2012. However, only 59 per cent of the allocated funds were actually released in 2015 as compared to 77 per cent in 2012. The revelation was made in an annexure released by Rijiju in response to questions posed by Tamil Nadu Member of Parliament (MP) T G Venkatesh Babu and Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal.

“State governments undertake relief operations using SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund) already placed at their disposal,” Rijiju said.

The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) is dispatched when resources under the SDRF are inadequate and after an inter-ministerial team led by the Centre has visited the disaster-hit site and assessed the level of impact.

In response to a question on the mapping of prone areas, Rijiju revealed that earthquake-prone areas have been identified under the aegis of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The country is grouped into four seismic zones—II, III, IV and V. Of these, Zone V is seismically most vulnerable, while Zone-II is the least. The entire Himalayan region, from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, lies either in seismic zone IV or V.

On the other hand, mapping of flood and river erosion impacts has revealed that 12 per cent of land is vulnerable while 5,700 km of the Indian coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunamis. Also, nearly 68 per cent of the cultivable land in India is prone to droughts.

The 14th Finance Commission had listed cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, fire, floods, tsunamis, hailstorms, avalanches, cloudburst, landslides, pest attacks and cold waves/frost as natural calamities. This list excludes other disasters such as erosion. The Commission recommended that expenditure for providing relief to victims of disasters that have not been included in the notified list can be met from SDRF within the limit of 10 per cent of annual fund allocation of the SDRF, subject to fulfillment of certain conditions.

Commenting on the long-term plans formulated to tackle the impacts of natural disasters, Rijiju said, “The Government of India has approved the Central sponsored scheme of National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) Phase-I and Phase-II for the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The project is expected to benefit coastal people and help protection of coastal land in these states.”

Venkatesh Babu and Mohammad Faizal also raised the issue of declaring flood and land erosion in Assam as a natural calamity. To this, Rijiju replied that the scheme for flood and erosion control in the state has been planned, funded and executed by the state government and the Centre only has a technical, catalytic and promotional role to play.

“The Central government supports the nationwide Flood Management Programme, which seeks to mitigate, control and help reduction of the adverse impact of floods and control erosion in the country including in the state of Assam,” he said. The programme is implemented by the water resource departments of the states.

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