New Delhi, June 24: The major reason behind Uttarakhand government's inability to contain the scale of the devastation that has taken place in the state because of flash floods was its lack of preparedness to deal with such disasters. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had warned the state two months ago about its dysfunctional disaster management system.
In its performance audit report on the disaster management mechanism in the country, submitted to Parliament on April 23, CAG had highlighted that the Uttarakhand disaster management authority (SDMA), constituted in 2007, had not formulated any rules, regulations, policies or guidelines for disaster management in the state.
The authority is headed by the chief minister and has eight more members in it. The state executive committee that was constituted in 2008 to advise SDMA on matters of disaster management had also not met since its creation.
Even worse, the state did not even have the mandatory disaster management plan prescribed by the Disaster Management Act of 2005. The actionable programmes for various disasters were still under preparation when disaster struck though these should have been well in place given that Uttarakhand has a history of being hit by natural disasters, said CAG.
The state has not even mapped the frequency and intensity various types of disasters it has suffered. Besides, there was no plan prepared for early warning of disasters and the communication system was inadequate. This has often resulted in delayed information to vulnerable people, said the CAG report.
The Blame Game
The country's disaster management chief today said lives could have been saved if the weather office had issued precise forecasts. "They (India Meteorological Department) need to develop a more precise observational and forecasting capability," M Shashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said here. He said IMD followed a standard format of weather forecast and used certain terminologies like rainfall, heavy rainfall, but "how are we supposed to translate it into action? They need to pinpoint where and how much it is going to rain."
The report had also found several loopholes in the disaster management mechanism of the country at national level, including the ineffectiveness of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the prime minister. NDMA, whose mandate is to prepare disaster management plans and guidelines and ensure their implementation at state and district level had never followed up with the states on these guidelines, CAG said.
Villages could be saved
The CAG report highlighted that the Geological Survey of India had identified 101 of the 233 Uttarakhand villages affected by the disaster of of 2008 as vulnerable. But the state did not make any arrangement for relocation of these villages in the past five years. CAG also noted irregularities in the management of the state disaster response fund.
The state potentially lost an interest of Rs 9.96 crore between 2007 and 2011 because it did not properly invest its funds. The state did not submit fund-utilisation certificates and annual reports of natural calamities to the Central government, resulting in delayed release of Central share of funds in these five years. In 2011-12, the Central fund was not even released to the state, reported DownToEarth.
CAG also pointed out how the state government did not sanction posts for the state disaster management authority, which affected the establishment of management information system. In the 13 districts, only 66 posts were filled against the sanctioned manpower of 117.