India sets up control room to handle natural calamities

New Delhi: Following glaring lapses by federal and state agencies to immediately respond to the people in distress during natural calamities, the government is setting up an integrated control room for emergency response especially to handle natural disasters and to carry out a strategic level of monitoring.

“It has been found that during natural calamities, the response time of the state and central governments is delayed causing loss of many lives,” said a senior officer in Ministry of Home Affairs. Similar situation arose during floods in Bihar last week wherein the state and Centre’s response was very much delayed.

As per the Flood Situation Report prepared by the Home Ministry, at least 1,633 people died and 1.59 crore population in 20,613 villages across the country are affected this year so far. Also over 2.30 lakh houses and 13.76 lakh crops have been damaged so far.

Establishing an integrated control room for emergency response was in the pipeline but Ministry of Home Affairs has expedited the process this week. The ministry’s internal note states: “The Ministry of Home Affairs proposes to establish an integrated Control Room for Emergency Response in the national capital for handling natural disasters and emergency situations with situational awareness and strategic level of monitoring.”

The note further points that the comprehensive backend and control room infrastructure will be primarily located at New Delhi City Centre-II towers at Jai Singh Marg in New Delhi with an additional room infrastructure in North Block, which will serve as a front office to the control room.

It is also planned to augment existing National Database for Emergency Management (NDEM), a GIS-based repository of data, at Shadnagar in Hyderabad and integrate it with control room. NDEM supports the total cycle of disaster, emergency management for the country, in near real time with a complete database.

The control room will be based on state-of-the-art information technology and will be equipped with latest video walls. “Two control rooms each are contemplated at the NDCC-II Building and North Block for a total of four control rooms. There is no immediate plan for a control room at NRSC Shadnagar.”

The ministry also stated that the first National Disaster Management Plan was prepared on June 1, 2016. The plan aligned with the Sendai Framework of Action, which was agreed upon by 187 countries, including India in March 2015. It aims to make India disaster resilient and significantly reduce the loss of live and assets. The plan covers all phases of disaster management: prevention, mitigation, response and recovery.

On September 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

The Prime Minister had made the announcement of the coalition at the Climate Action Summit, which was witnessed by global leaders, government functionaries, international delegates and diplomats from across the world.

“India is launching a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. I invite all member states to join this coalition,” Modi said.

The partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programmes, multilateral development banks, financing mechanisms, private sector and knowledge institutions will promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to tackle climate and disaster risks, thereby ensuring sustainable development, the home ministry stated.