Friday, June 14, 2024
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Ham radio, bamboo applications recommended for NE

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New Delhi: A meeting of India’s top seismologists and earthquake specialists, which discussed issues arising from the Sikkim earthquake, has strongly recommended that northeastern states set up their own state disaster response units instead of being dependent on centralised forces like the National Disaster Response Force.

In addition, the national workshop on ‘Housing, Resilience and Rehabilitation’ on Nov 11-12 at Jamia Millia Islamia, which saw senior level representation from the governments of five states – Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim – suggested several innovative steps such as extensive use of ham radio operators and “community radio stations in every district” to respond to crisis where normal telecommunications are knocked out, including mobile phone networks.

The ‘father’ of earthquake engineering technology in the country, A.S. Arya, and others emphasised the critical need to develop quake resistant technology and use bamboo applications wherever possible. They said that most urban centres in the northeast faced major disasters in the event of a severe earthquake: retrofitting of existing buildings, especially “lifeline buildings such as schools and hospitals” was crucial.

“Retrofitting Clinics may be established in every district to develop cadre of trained masons, contractors and engineers and provide information and guidance on retrofitting to the community,” the recommendations said.

While awareness was flagged as a key component of preparedness, the workshop recognised the urgent need for “short-term sensitisation programmes for elected representatives, community leaders and government officials…”.

For Sikkim, the workshop declared that the state government should consider setting up a separate “Department for Disaster Management under a designated officer no lower than a rank of a Secretary/Commissioner who will report directly to the SDMA (State Disaster management Authority”. It also noted that the Regional Node for Disaster Risk Reduction in North East Space Applications Centre premises at Umiam, Meghalaya, should be the nodal agency with centres in each NE state with electronic and satellite connectivity.

In addition, the workshop flagged the need to involve communities in projects, programmes and policies. “Since public awareness is at the heart of preparedness, an intensive campaign must be waged from door to door and village to village, involving students and teachers and using the excellent network of Panchayats in Sikkim to sensitise communities and to enable them to meaningfully participate in the reconstruction process.”

Other specialists called for campaigns using SMS’ and new technology to sensitise and train people to how they could respond to earthquakes. Another suggestion made was for a “community based participatory monitoring system to track the progress, implementation of technical guidelines, grievance redressal” on the lines of existing processes in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Bihar.

Launched on Nov 11 by Jamia Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung, the programme began with a minute’s silence to honour the late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika and listened to his legendary song, “Buku hom hom kore”.

The workshop was organised by Sanjoy Hazarika of Jamia’s Centre for North East Studies under the auspices of its Sikkim Studies Programme with collaboration from the National Centre for Peoples Action and Disaster Preparedness in Ahmedabad of Rajendra and Rupal Desai.

Presentations were made by G.C. Khanal, joint director, Department of Land Revenue and Disaster Preparedness, Biswajit Sarma, head, Centre for Disaster Preparedness, Assam, T.P. Khaund, adviser to the Mizoram chief minister, P.P. Shrivastav, member, North Eastern Council, Suhel Akhtar, Manipur’s principal secretary for disaster preparedness, and Pankaj Jain, government of Meghalaya as well as Jemino Mawthoh of the Department of Continuing Education at NEHU. (IANS)

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