• Any disruption in functioning – material, economic, social and environmental losses which exceed the ability to cope using its own resources.
  • Disaster = Hazards + Vulnerability + Risk

Hazard vs Disaster

Disaster risk can be determined by the presence of three variables: hazards (natural or anthropogenic); vulnerability to a hazard; and coping capacity linked to the reduction, mitigation and resilience to the vulnerability of a community associated with the hazard in question.

For example, let’s assume we are dealing with a poor community (i.e. an informal settlement situated in the flood plain). Certain socio-economic and political dynamics in the country force poor communities to settle in unsafe conditions (e.g. distance from employment opportunities, urbanisation, poor land use planning etc.). Along comes a natural hazard such as a significant flood, and the community settled in the flood-line is exposed to the point of experiencing a disaster. However, this should not be seen as a natural disaster.

In the above case, although a natural hazard was the trigger for the disaster, however it was human-made. If proper settlement planning, land use planning, building codes, community awareness, economic policies, and the like had been in place, then this “natural disaster” would have been mitigated.

Why disaster are increasing?

  • Globalization, urbanization, large-scale migrations of human population and climate changes
  • Scourge of terrorism
  • Increasing dependence on communications and computer networks have increased the threat of newer emergencies in case these are disabled by accident or design.(Net-banking, share market, Financial Terrorism etc)

Types of Disasters

Natural Disasters

  • The term “natural disasters” refers to those disasters that are triggered by natural phenomena. These phenomena (such as earthquakes, cyclones, floods, etc.) are known technically as natural hazards.
  • In recent years, a special type of natural disaster has begun to occur more frequently. This disaster is environmental degradation.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came to the conclusion that, worldwide the frequency and magnitude of all types of natural disasters are on the rise

Man-made Disasters

  • The term “man-made disasters” usually refers to disasters resulting from man-made hazards.
  • Man-made disasters can be divided into three categories:
  1. armed conflict,
  2. technological disasters, and
  3. disasters that are not caused by natural hazards but that occur in human settlements.

Slow vs Rapid Onset disasters

Slow onset hazards

  • Are the easiest to predict and plan for, but can have the huge environmental impact.
  • This type of hazard is normally preceded by a number of early signs or indicators. Early warning and early warning systems play an important role in risk reduction along with the preparedness and mitigation of such possible disasters.
  • Examples of slow onset hazards are droughts, landslides due to heavy rains, environmental degradation or pollution, deforestation, desertification and tropical cyclones.
  • Interestingly enough, early warning signs often tend to be ignored until it is too late to take any risk reduction or preventive action.

Rapid or sudden onset hazards

  • As the classification indicates, rapid or sudden onset hazards strike without any or very small prior warnings.
  • Despite these hazards being mostly unpredictable, proper planning and preparedness can mitigate the effects of such disasters.
  • Examples of this type of hazard are wild fires, floods and flash floods, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis (tidal waves), and pest infestations.

India & Disasters

  • India is very vulnerable to natural hazards because of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Disasters occur in India with grim regularity causing enormous loss of life and property.
  • Almost 85% of the country is vulnerable to single or multiple disasters and about 57% of its area lies in high seismic zones.
  • 40 million hectares of the country’s land area is prone to flood
  • 68% of the area is susceptible to drought

Disaster Management


  • “Disaster management” can be defined as the range of activities designed to maintain control over disaster and emergency situations and to provide a framework for helping at-risk persons to avoid or recover from the impact of the disaster.
  • Disaster management deals with situations that occur prior to, during, and after the disaster.


It is also necessary to recognize that often a crisis does not emerge suddenly; it has a life cycle, which may take days, months or even decades to develop depending on its causative factors.

This ‘life cycle’ of crisis management may be divided broadly in three phases –

  • pre-crisis – Preparedness; Prediction & Warning
  • during crisis – Response
  • post crisis – Recovery, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction; Hazard Analysis; Vulnerability Analysis; Mitigation & Prevention

Most of the natural disasters can now be predicted with a fair degree of accuracy (earthquakes are an exception).

Similarly, a reservoir of knowledge and experience now exists about managing all aspects of disasters. The challenge is to ensure that the community at large and the decision makers are empowered with this knowledge.

disaster management

Specific Hazards


  • Himalayas – the youngest among the mountain ranges therefore center of seismic activities. Severe earthquakes in several parts of the Himalayan and surrounding regions
  • This makes the entire region covering fourteen states (located in western and central Himalayas, northeast, and parts of Indo-Gangetic basin) highly prone to earthquakes.
  • The other seismically active regions of the country include the Gulf of Khambhat, Rann of Kutch in Western Gujarat, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Earthquakes can neither be prevented nor predicted in terms of their magnitude, or place and time of occurrence.

Therefore, the most effective measures of risk reduction are

  1. Building construction norms
  2. effective rescue and relief actions immediately after the occurrence of the earthquake.


  • More than 8000 km of coastline in the east and the west face the hazards of tropical cyclones,
  • An effective cyclone disaster prevention and mitigation plan requires efficient cyclone forecast and warning services
  • rapid dissemination of warnings to the government agencies, particularly marine interests like ports, fisheries and shipping and to the general public
  • construction of cyclone shelters in vulnerable areas, a ready machinery for evacuation of people to safer areas and community preparedness


  • Tsunamis are large waves generated by sudden movements of the ocean floor that displace a large volume of water.
  • Usually associated with earthquakes
  • But tsunamis can also be triggered by other phenomena like submarine or terrestrial landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions or even impact created byasteroid, meteor, comet etc.
  • Tsunamis have the potential to strip beaches, uproot plantations, and inundate large inland tracts and extensively damage life and property in coastal area.
  • The tsunami in December 2004 caused severe damage to life and property in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


  • The term flood is generally used when the water-flows in rivers, streams and other water bodies cannot be contained.Floods occur regularly in India affecting about 10% of area.
  • In many cases, the natural process of flooding is aggravated by man-made due to unplanned or unauthorized construction activities; Increasing pace of urbanization.
  • The incidence of floods in recent times in urban areas such as Mumbai, Surat, Vadodara and other places is symptomatic of this trend and is the direct result of unauthorized construction activities.
  • Poor urban planning and implementation,
  • Lack of investment in storm water drainage and sewerage
  • The country has to shift towards efficient management of flood plains, disaster preparedness, response planning, flood forecasting and warning
  • There should be strict regulation of settlements and economic activity in the flood plain zones along with flood proofing, to minimise the loss of life and property on account of floods.
  • Flood forecasting activities should be modernized


  • Landslides are mass movements of rocks, debris or earth, down mountain slopes or riverbanks. Such movements may occur gradually, but sudden sliding can also occur without warning.
  • They often take place in conjunction with earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions
  • Prolonged rainfall causing heavy landslides block the flow of rivers for quite some time, which on bursting can cause havoc to human settlements downstream
  • hilly terrains of India, particularly in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, are most vulnerable to landslides.
  • In contrast, the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills are geologically stable
  • Solution: regulate settlements in hazard prone area, construction of retaining walls against steep slopes.


  • sliding down of snow cover on mountain slope causes avalanches
  • Avalanches create various crisis situations for the local administration;
  • road traffic may be blocked and communication links to vital areas may be disrupted
  • winter sports may be disturbed stranding tourists in places with scant facilities.
  • Small rivers may be blocked creating danger of down stream flooding.
  • Avalanches may sometimes hit or bury human settlements down the slopes
  • Solution: remove snow deposits on slopes by blasting, predicting avalanches and evacuating people from vulnerable areas.

Climatic Change

  • Climate change is defined as ‘a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate for an extended period (typically decades or even longer)
  • Global warming caused due to the “Greenhouse effect” is one of the major reasons for climate change.
  • Global warming leads to melting of glaciers, rise in sea level and threatens low lying coastal areas (Like the Sunderbans and entire nations such as Bangladesh and Maldives)
  • Combating global warming requires urgent and concerted efforts by the international community.


  • Droughts refer to a serious shortfall in availability of water,  thus  affecting agriculture, drinking water supply and industry.
  • Inadequacy of rains coupled with adverse land-man ratio compels the farmers to practice rain-fed agriculture in large parts of the country
  • Irrigation, using groundwater aggravates the situation in the long run as ground-water withdrawal exceeds replenishment; in the peninsular region availability of surface water itself becomes scarce in years of rainfall insufficiency

Desertification and Soil Degradation

  • Any kind of land degradation can be termed as desertification.
  • This can take place due to soil erosion, increasing alkalinity in soil and water-logging
  • Land degradation is estimated to affect one third of the total area of the country
  • process of desertification is accelerated due to continuing cultivation.
  • alkalinity and salinity coupled with water-logging= seriously reduces agricultural productivity and has grave implications for our food security system.

Sea Erosion

  • landward displacement of the shoreline caused by the forces of waves and currents is termed as erosion.
  • Coastal erosion occurs when wind, waves and long shore currents move sand from the shore and deposit it somewhere else.
  • this results in permanent changes in beach shape and structure.
  • The impact of the event is not always seen immediately, but it is equally important when we consider loss of property that it causes.
  • It takes months or years to note the impact. So, this is generally classified as a “long term coastal hazard”
  • While the effects of waves, currents, tides and wind are primary natural factors that influence the coast,
  • construction of artificial structures, mining of beach sand, building of dams
  • About 23 per cent of India’s mainland coastline of 5423 km is getting affected by erosion

Industrial Hazards

  • Among the man made disasters, probably the most devastating (after wars) are industrial disasters.
  • These disasters may be caused by chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical or other process failures in an industrial plant due to accident or negligence,
  • But they also cause widespread damage within and/or outside the plant
  • worst example = Methyl Iso-cynate gas leak in 1984 from the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal (known as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy) which has
  • so far claimed more than 20,000 lives and injured several lakh persons


The sustainable hazards mitigation approach has six central components, including:

  1. Maintaining and enhancing environmental quality: as a fundamental element of the sustainable development concept, hazard mitigation efforts should be linked to efforts to reduce environmental degradation.
  2. Maintaining and enhancing people’s quality of life: exploration of the impacts of structure and agency in increasing individual, household and community access to various resources to increase their quality of life.
  3. Foster local resiliency to and responsibility for disasters: particularly during the recovery period where political pressure to increase safety and build community coping capacity is high.
  4. Recognize that sustainable, vital local economies are essential.
  5. Identify and ensure inter- and intra-generational equality: leading to fair and equal distribution of resources and hazards across the population, including different regions, genders, ethnic groups and cultures.
  6. Adopt a consensus-building approach, beginning at the local scale through the process of local participation.


  • New National action plan for floods forecasting. (till now we are using program from 1953).
  • separate disaster management plan for hill states– against cloudbursts and floods.
  • When water level recedes flood areas- diseases spreads. Need floating clinics, and dispose man and animal carcasses soon.
  • SC says Army was doing “commendable” work but current rescue operations were too inadequate for such a huge disaster.
  • Uttarakhand state government created an mobile APP with digital mapping of Rudraprayag district. It’ll help pilgrims get weather updates and emergency contact on mobile phones. All state governments need to do similar.