NEPAL - 7.9 On Richter Scale
Earthquake (EQ) is a natural phenomenon that defies prediction. Instances of last moment sensing, nevertheless, by the birds and animals have been noticed time and again. It also goes without saying that EQ is facilitated and bolstered further by the unjustified greed of human beings to build unaesthetic dwelling units in the dangerous seismic Zones IV and V. Delhi is a blatant example and one and all are oblivious to it.
Vulnerability Of The Eastern Himalayas.
The Himalayas, a relatively young and fragile mountain system have been always susceptible to the catastrophe, such as, Avalanche, Landslides, Cloud-bursts and EQs, if the available data of last two centuries is to be assessed and reviewed. Of the two gigantic parts of the Himalayas, the Eastern one is more risk-prone and thus continues to cause perpetual tension. The region, apart from being one of the Bio-diversity Hot Spots of the World, abounds in a large number of gorgeous water bodies and snow-capped mountains having an average height of more than 20,000 feet.
One can not say for certain but the slow melting of Glacier systems and unchecked, rather, commercial mountain climbing activity by non-serious adventure lovers in the last two decades, also has added fat to the fire ignited during the British Era. Should not such climbing be banned both by the Indian and Nepalese Governments during the current natural calamity? Budding and experienced climbers are supposed to concentrate on 'peak' rather than on 'speak'.
Gradual Neglect of Sustainable Livelihood
The sustainable livelihoods of the mountain folk, together with endemic flora and fauna are being also harmed consistently, threatened and pushed aside, if not being lost altogether, also by massive construction of hydel projects,all in the name of 'clean' power.
Economically weaker sections are gradually shifting to the deceptive 'green' pastures down the valleys, thus leaving behind their spouses, young nutrition-deficient children and ageing parents. When a misery like EQ, Landslide, Cloudbursts or flood occurs, they have to fend for themselves in the absence of their earning members. The reported inefficient administrative set-up and the name-sake health and education backup,possibly caused by long political instability in Nepal adds to the crisis.
Core vis-a-vis Periphery
Even if relief and rescue(R&R) is taken up on a war footing,above hinted peripheries are last to be noticed. The attention of the World is initially focused on the Core, the capital of the country. This was exactly the depressing scenario witnessed in Pokhara Dist. villages and a remote village in Gorkha Dist, four days after the biggest tragedy in 81 years. The village in reference was at the epi- centre of 7.9 Richter Scale EQ. According to one source, of the 150 single unit weak houses, 140 of them were found reduced to rubble by the rescue team. Needless to say, a sizeable number of lives and cattle were lost by then.
Given the grim state of affairs,it may be worthwhile to take note of the following viable steps:
--One has to avoid any panic reaction upon hearing about a calamity.Any report received/transmitted/broadcast/telecast/e-mailed/faxed etc. has to be checked & verified prior to locating scene of occurrence,
--Communication,by and large, in the local lingua franca may have to be established with the affected lots,Punchayat and Administration at the cutting edge without losing time and sight..Why sight,because last six to seven major EQ's since 1988 in the region have happened in the late afternoon or at dusk(Sikkim had the misfortune of an Earthquake Anniversary as well,the difference being only 3 minutes between the gloomy dates of 18th Sept.2011 and 18th Sept 2012),
--When you rush Helicopters/Aircrafts from bigger places,either they cannot land immediately for want of clear signals or due to visibility constraints. On landing too,they are kept immobile during the first night. In the process,the Golden Hour is invariably lost.
--Personnel with prior Hill/Mountain experience should form the bulk of the Rescue teams. The teams should settle down swiftly and not appear to be adding to the crisis,The 'Routing through' process may have to be settled well in advance,by ignoring and setting aside 'Ego' factor.
--Day After is the most decisive day both from the point of view of planning & saving trapped lives but also for locating the injured,re-opening the clogged footpaths& roads,setting up cold & rain resistant tents, arranging make-shift toilets with 24x7 water back-up,restrengthening the health centres,reassuring the doctors & the para-medics etc.
--Enlisting the support of Social welfare trusts and organisations for organising drinking water,Generators and bare minimum food & medicine would be in the fitness of things,Good co-ordination with the local Bureaucracy with a clear channel of communication and regular sharing and dissemination of information is the corner-stone of an effective R&R Mechanism.Uncalled for statements through media send wrong signals,apart from wasting prime time.
--Proper storage as also onward supply of needed food packets,drinking water bottles,warm cloths,essential medicines,dis-infectants etc. has to be ensured on a war footing. Additional relief material from abroad will have to be sent for quick distribution on a day today basis,especially to the remote and far-flung villages(not connected by road).The Street tensions and bouts of snatchings thus can be minimised.
--A Core Group comprising of senior civil and police personnel, experienced Institutes,independent experts,relief workers with the knowledge of affected terrain,doctors,para-medics etc may have to be constituted at the earliest.Same may meet,review,confabulate and draw up strategy on an alternate day basis.
--Rumour-mongering of any sort through any medium has to be checked,rebutted and suppressed on the Day After as also the following day. Diversion of attention on this count may prove inhuman.
--Jams at the airports,helipads,railway stations,bus-stands and markets will have to be cleared in a regular way, TIA, Kathmandu was unnecessarily burdened by a bee-line of affected people who could have also taken the land route to Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar from day three. Cribbing never goes, whether victims are air or land lifted. Apart from facilitating rescue,it would prevent and check spread of many water and air born diseases.
– Immediate Counseling Sessions be organised for those(mainly women & children) who have survived and have the courage and strength to live in temporary dwelling units even in view of further suspected tremors.
--Rains will continue to take place, occasionally with hail storms, at the current phase of Monsoon. Rescuers, therefore, may have to get used to the prevailing circumstances. Life has to resume in full gear,gradually.
- Forces and funds will continue to flow in from the developed countries for the time being but what is important and significant in the ultimate analysis is the LOCAL CAPACITY BUILDING WITH AN ELEMENT OF SUSTAINABILITY.
- Whatever has been seen thus far,is THE TIP OF ICEBURG. The devastation of much more magnitude is bound to surface in the following week or fortnight when number of dead would exceed even 15,000.One has to prepare,therefore,with more care and precaution for the challenges emanating from the fresh discovery of dead bodies as also the epidemic that normally follows in such trying conditions.
All said and done,thanks to a very timely initiative by the advance thinking Prime.Minister. of India ,many precious lives of not only the Nepalese and Indians but also of 170 Nationals of 15 countries were saved at the nick of time. Same is close on the heels of similar dare devil rescue of the Nationals of 45 countries from Yemen by the MEA and IAF, barely a fortnight ago.
India is not only re-iterating its long standing and trusted human commitment,it has been also in a position to effectively display its robust Disaster Management acumen to the whole world in the backdrop of the multiplicity of tremors in Nepal resulting into the death of 6000 lives,11,000 injured and loss of over 20,000 houses, so far.
Perhaps we may have reasons to negate the famous statement of noted Economist Malthus. He had stated "When Man fails, Nature TAKES over".In the changing scenario, should not we say"The nature may have a propensity to take over but man, upon learning bitter lessons,does shift the focus from the Centuries-old Relief Method to a better equipped,trained and experienced Mitigation Regime.?"
Lives are still being lost but in lesser numbers and people being shifted in time far outnumbers the people earlier dying during what is called the crucial Golden Hour.
AN OLD WOMAN RESCUED AFTER 50 HOURS ,A TEENAGER AFTER 6 DAYS AND A FIVE MONTH OLD BABY AFTER 22 HOURS SPEAKS BOTH OF HUMAN ENDURANCE AND IMPACT OF RENEWED RELIEF INITIATIVES.
R&R NO LONGER HAS TO CATER TO POLITICAL MILEAGE NOR FOR T.R.P. IS IS DECISIVELY INCHING TOWARDS RE-INCULCATION OF THE SPIRIT OF HUMANITY>