Disaster Safe Construction
The severity and frequency of natural disasters in India is increasing at an alarming pace. Regions that were not previously known to suffer from droughts, are witnessing floods and windstorms. Such unprecedented weather changes and associated disasters are being attributed to global warming and climate change.
The Vulnerability Atlas of India compiled by BMTPC has classified the country into various zones based on their vulnerabilities. According to the XI Five Year Plan, about 60 percent of the landmass in India is susceptible to earthquakes and over 8 percent is prone to floods. Of the nearly 7500 kilometers long coastline, approximately 5700 kilometers is prone to cyclones. 68 percent of the total land area is susceptible to drought. This vulnerability is further compounded by the risk of new and sometimes relatively unknown disasters attributed to climate change. Thus there is a need to integrate disaster vulnerability as an important consideration in planning of habitats.
Losing one’s habitat is a severe setback for disaster survivors. Within the habitat, a house not only assures protection from the elements for the inhabitants, it is linked with householder’s dignity and provides a basis for identity. It is thus important that houses in non-disaster times are constructed in a manner that makes living safer. It is equally important that construction is carried out in a manner and with technologies that are carbon as well as resource efficient. The operation of buildings with minimal dependence on fossil fuels is desirable as well.
Post-disaster reconstruction must be seen as an opportunity to reduce the risk to lives by integrating disaster resilient practices in settlement planning, building design and construction. While traditional and indigenous technologies may be environmentally and socially sustainable, it is also important to adapt them to make them disaster resilient. It is critical that ‘build back better’ is adhered to as a fundamental principle to enhance the quality, sustainability and safety of new settlements. Reconstruction using alternate technologies promotes decentralised production processes for building components, thus creating local level livelihoods. Through a well-designed process of capacity building of construction workers, it is also thus possible to address their economic vulnerability.
Risk reduction needs different stakeholders to collaborate - NGOs, charitable institutions, government departments, members of self help groups, private agencies and many other civil society institutions. At the level of the government, this realisation has led to the formation of district, state and national level Disaster Management Authorities with links at the block and village level. This continuing effort is towards reducing disaster risk of communities by means of integrating disaster risk reduction into development planning.