NEW DELHI: A national disaster risk index mapping hazards and vulnerabilities across 640 districts puts Maharashtra at the top of the chart followed by West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, while Delhi is most at risk among Union territories (UTs).
At first glance, the lower hazard ranking to states like those in the north-east and others like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, which are prone to earthquakes or floods, seems surprising but the index takes into account economic vulnerabilities and actions taken to mitigate risk.
The index factors in exposure of population, agriculture and livestock and environmental risk in drawing up the rankings. The top three states are followed by Rajasthan, Karnataka, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar while those vulnerable to disasters like cyclones, landslides and earthquakes, like Andhra Pradesh and hill states, are relatively lower in the index.
Some states have made significant progress in disaster risk reduction (DRR) by building resilient infrastructure and investing in early warning systems. Capacity building by Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh has lowered their net risk to population and economic losses.
The index is currently in the form of a draft report prepared by the Union home ministry with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
States like UP, MP and Rajasthan are considered high-risk states despite facing lower natural hazard possibilities due to high vulnerability and low capacity-building, the report notes. The report has also separately ranked states on just hazard, exposure and vulnerability indexes. These will be used to prepare a composite disaster scorecard, the first of its kind by any country.
The idea of a DSC is to have a “comprehensive assessment of hazards, vulnerabilities and risks of disasters at different levels, prevention of new risks and mitigation of existing risks, and mainstreaming DRR across different sectors of development”.
This national disaster risk index is also in line with India’s commitment to the Sendai Framework, successor to the Hyogo Framework, where it has to substantially bring down disaster losses in terms of lives and properties. The government is simultaneously working on a disaster database which will capture nationwide losses due to disasters on a digital platform.
India at present relies on global estimates on losses caused by man-made and natural disasters. From 2005 to 2014, at least 167 disasters struck India, inflicting damages of more than $47 billion, ranking India among the top four countries in the world with the highest number of reported disasters, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The National Disaster Management Authority, with the help of UNISDR, UNDP and Unicef, had held a workshop in the capital last month with representatives from states central ministries on the proposed national disaster database.
A working paper prepared by the NDMA said India is vulnerable to more than 30 different types of disasters. In 2015 and 2016, more than 1,100 people were reported killed in disasters and over 350 million affected across the country. The damage to property in these two years alone has been estimated at over $4.4 billion, indicating the urgency for the government to develop a unique platform that will help policy makers plug gaps with interventions.