Whenever we use the term “Disaster”, it often talks about an event having unfortunate consequences. In particular, it is said to be a sudden accident or a natural catastrophe due to which great damage or loss of life is caused. Furthermore, disasters can be categorised into two types- Natural Disasters and Man-Made disasters. As their names suggest, man-made disasters are the calamities that happen due to the actions of human beings. However, the question that remains as a curiosity is what are natural disasters.
What is a Natural Disaster?
A natural disaster is a massive calamity that took place as a result of the natural processes of the Earth. It can cause severe damage to life and property. The chances of natural disasters are usually accelerated due to the exploitation of nature’s resources done by humans. Thus, these disasters may not be man-made but they surely happen to take place at a faster rate due to man’s deeds. A few examples of natural disasters are – Earthquake, Flood, Tsunami, Landslide, Wildfire, etc.
Causes of natural disasters
Now that we know what natural disasters are, let us understand the causes of a few major disasters that are common to most parts of the world and in India:-
It is referred to as shaking or trembling of the Earth’s surface which might result in displacing and disrupting the ground. Earthquakes can range from very weak ones that can’t be felt to the very massive ones that cause severe damage in the affected areas. The frequency or the magnitude of the earthquake is measured with the help of the Richter Scale. The point from where the earthquake originates is called the epicentre and if this point is located offshore, the seabed might displace sufficiently to cause a tsunami. Depending on the location of the epicentre, a new calamity might get triggered such as a landslide, volcanic eruption, etc.
It is a series of water waves in a water body due to the displacement of a large volume of water. The displacement may be caused due to another disaster like volcanic eruption, earthquake, etc. or due to the movement in tectonic plates causing a gap in the seabed.
It is an overflow of water from water bodies such as river, lake or ocean which submerges the terrestrial areas. This overflow is usually due to human changes to the environment which result in the accumulation of rainwater. The human changes which impact directly are deforestation, urbanisation and climate change. The tidal waves wipe off everything that comes in its way and thus, causes major damage to both biotic and abiotic elements of nature.
The definition of a landslide states that it is the movement of the mass of rock or debris or earth down a slope. It may vary depending on the region experiencing it and therefore, can be characterised by either steep or gentle slope or even underwater ( which are known as submarine landslides ). Gravity is the main reason behind it however it may also be caused by land instability which may be due to heavy rainfall or earthquake or even deforestation.
It is an unwanted and uncontrollable fire in a combustible vegetation area. The fire can also be categorised into various types depending upon the vegetation present. It can be classified as a forest fire, desert fire, peat fire, grass fire, etc. The Earth being a carbon-rich planet, can be called inflammable and thus, these fires become more widespread once out of control. These can also be categorised based on the cause of ignition, effect of weather and the combustible vegetation present. Wildfires are found destructive for human life but sometimes can be considered beneficial for the native flora and fauna.
Disaster Management and rehabilitation
Disaster management refers to the conservation of life and property during a disaster. It deals with the emergency preparedness a nation needs to know of. Management and rehabilitation talks about four factors which are –
- Preparedness – Planning how to respond
- Response – Efforts to minimize the hazards created by a disaster
- Mitigation – Minimizing the effects of a disaster
- Recovery – Returning the community to normal
The whole process includes a few basic and common procedures yet varies with each disaster. Since India is a huge country consisting of many states brought together, each state is prone to different natural disasters depending upon its climate and geographical location.
To work on this major concern, the government of India passed Disaster_Management_Act,_2005. The Act established the National_Disaster_Management_Authority_(India), having the Prime Minister as its Chairperson. NDMA has 9 members and each member has a tenure of 5 years. Its role is to formulate policies, plans and guidelines according to each disaster. These rules and regulations ensure the steps that need to be taken as a precaution, during the disaster and after the mishappening. It also ensures funding for disaster relief which is an equally important aspect that needs to be taken care of during the need of the hour.
Then and now
Earlier the chances of a natural calamity were found less. It was so because the human interference in the natural cycle was almost negligible and did not impact the earth negatively.
However, science and technology back then were not much advanced and therefore, people could not be given a forewarning nor could be educated about the necessary steps before, during and after the disaster. As a result, the disaster caused more damage to life and property. The impact used to be severe enough that bringing life back to normal took decades and rehabilitation seemed an impossible task.
In contrast, at present, with the help of advanced technology and modern methods, people can be sent a warning signal prior enough for them to be prepared for the incoming danger. Moreover, various changes have been brought up with time in the infrastructure and the settlements which in itself works as a precaution and minimizes property damage. Having said that, with the growing human interference in search of newer technology, the chances of natural as well as man-made disasters has increased rapidly.
As evidence to that, an overview of the mishappenings that took place in the previous year, 2020, can be observed below:-
Second cyclone within two weeks after cyclone Amphan
Took place in June and caused landfall in Maharashtra while affecting the whole western coast
Happened over January – June
Affected several parts of the country
Struck India in late November and affected the southern portion of the country
Took place in December and affected Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala severely
Happened due to heavy rainfall in the month of august
Caused due to heavy rainfall and flooding of Brahmaputra river in May 2020
In October 2020, heavy rainfall in the southern coast resulted in a deep depression in the north Indian ocean which affected southern and the western parts of the country.
Oil and gas leak in Assam
The Baghjan natural gas leak took place in May 2020 which caught fire and caused damage to nearby Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Other than these major disasters, approximately 30 earthquakes happened in the year 2020 whose magnitude was above 5.0 on the Richter scale.
We may not be able to control natural disasters but we can surely avoid the interference in nature that triggers them. Such a change shall also minimise man-made disasters. The growing technology can still be put in use to prevent damage to life and property while using to preserve nature. It is said that an investment is not an investment if it destroys our planet. Then let us come together and work towards a sustainable future.