Felicitates awardees of the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar
“After the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the world has recognised and appreciated the role of India's disaster management efforts”
“The way India has expanded the technology and human resources related to disaster management has served the country well”
“We have to develop models of housing or town planning at the local level. We need to encourage use of advanced technology in these sectors.”
“Recognition and Reform are the two main components for strengthening disaster management”
“You will get success only by following the mantra of Local Resilience by Local participation”
“Knowledge on aspects like age of the houses, drainage, resilience of our electricity and water infrastructure will help in taking proactive steps”
“Explore the use of AI, 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) to make the ambulance network future ready”
“Tradition and technology are our strength, and with this strength, we can prepare the best model related to disaster resilience not only for India but for the entire world”

First of all, I congratulate everyone associated with disaster resilience and disaster management, because the work is such that many a time you do a wonderful job of saving the lives of others even putting your own life at stake. Recently, the whole world has appreciated the efforts of the Indian team in Türkiye and Syria and this is a matter of immense pride for every Indian. The way India has increased its human resource and technological capacity related to relief and rescue, has helped in saving lives of many people during different kinds of disasters in the country as well. The system related to disaster management should be strengthened and encouraged; and an atmosphere of healthy competition should also be created across the country. Therefore, a special award has also been announced for this work. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar has been given to two institutions here today. The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority has been doing an excellent work during various disasters like cyclones and tsunamis. Similarly, Mizoram's Lunglei Fire Station worked tirelessly to douse the forest fire, save the entire area and prevent the fire from spreading. I congratulate all the friends working in these institutions.


The theme for this session is – “Building Local Resilience in a Changing Climate”. India's familiarity with this subject is quite old in a way because it has also been an integral part of our ancient traditions. Even today when we see our wells, stepwells, reservoirs, local architecture or ancient cities, this element is clearly visible. The system related to disaster management in India has always been local; the solutions have been local; the strategy has also been local. Now the houses in which the people of Kutch live in are called Bhunga. These are mud houses. We know that Kutch was the epicentre of the massive earthquake in the beginning of this century. But there was no impact of the earthquake on these Bhunga houses. Perhaps there were minor damages at one or two places, but that's it. Certainly, there are many lessons related to technology in it. Can't we evolve the models of housing or town planning at the local level according to the new technology? Whether it is local construction material or construction technology, it is the need of the hour to enrich it with today's technology. When we link the Future Technology with such examples of Local Resilience, only then we will be able to get better in the direction of disaster resilience.


The previous lifestyle was very simple and experience had taught us how to deal with disasters like excessive rains, floods, droughts. That's why naturally, the governments also linked our disaster relief with the agriculture department. Even when there were serious calamities like earthquakes, such calamities were dealt with local resources only. Now the world is getting smaller. New experiments are also being performed in construction techniques by learning from each other's experiences. But at the same time, the outbreak of disasters is also rising. In the olden days, a single Vaidyaraj (physician) used to treat everyone in the whole village and the whole village remained healthy. Now there are different doctors for each disease. Similarly, a dynamic system will have to be developed for disaster as well. For example, zoning can be done from the study of disaster of the last hundred years as to what will be the level of flood and accordingly the construction work may be undertaken. With time, these parameters should also be reviewed, whether it is materials or systems.


Recognition and reform are very important to strengthen disaster management. Recognition means to understand that where is the possibility of disaster and how it can happen in future? Reform means that we should develop such a system that reduces the possibility of a disaster. The best way to reduce the risk of disaster is to improve the system, make it more efficient as soon as possible and for this, long term thinking is needed instead of a shortcut approach. Now if we talk about cyclones, looking at India's situation at the time of cyclones, there was a time when hundreds of thousands of people used to die untimely when a cyclone used to hit India. We have seen this happening many times in the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal. But times have changed; strategies have changed; preparations have improved and India's ability to deal with cyclones too is enhanced. Now when a cyclone hits, there is a minimum loss of life and property. It is true that we cannot prevent natural calamities, but we can definitely make arrangements to minimize the damage caused by that calamity. And therefore, it is necessary that instead of being reactive, we should be proactive.


I would also like to mention, what the situation was in our country earlier in terms of being proactive and what is the situation now. After independence in India, 5 decades had passed, half a century had passed, but there was no law regarding disaster management. After the Kutch earthquake in 2001, Gujarat was the first state to enact the Gujarat State Disaster Management Act. On the basis of this Act, in the year 2005, the Central Government also enacted the Disaster Management Act. Only after this, the National Disaster Management Authority was formed in India.


We need to strengthen Disaster Management Governance in our local bodies, Urban Local Bodies. It is not enough for the Urban Local Bodies to react only when a disaster strikes. We have to institutionalize the planning. We have to review the local planning. We need to make new guidelines for the construction of buildings and for new infrastructure projects keeping in mind the disaster management. In a way, overhauling of the entire system is needed. For this we need to work at two levels. Firstly, the experts related to disaster management here should pay maximum attention to public participation. We all can see how India is achieving major goals with local participation. Therefore, when it comes to disaster management, that is not possible without public participation. You can achieve success only by following the mantra of 'Local Resilience by Local participation'. It should be a continuous process to make citizens aware of the dangers associated with earthquakes, cyclones, fires and other disasters. It is necessary to continuously create awareness on all these subjects related to the right rules, regulations and duties. We need to provide relief and rescue training to our young friends, Yuva Mandal, Sakhi Mandal and other groups at the village, neighbourhood and local levels. How can we use the power of Aapda Mitra, NCC-NSS, ex-servicemen by creating a data bank and also we need to make arrangements for swift communication. Arrangement for necessary equipment for first response in community centres, and training to operate them is also very significant. And as per my experience, sometimes the data bank also works so well. In Gujarat, there is a river in Kheda district which used to flood once in 5-7 years. Once there were floods five times in a year, but at that time a lot of initiatives had already been taken to manage this disaster. So mobile phones were available in every village. But at that time there was no system of messaging in any local language. So we used to send messages by writing Gujarati in Roman script itself, to the people of the village stating - “there is a possibility of floods after these many hours”. And I clearly remember that even after 5 floods, not even a single animal had died, let alone a human being. No person or animal died because information was communicated on time. Hence how do we use these systems? If rescue and relief work start in time, we can reduce the loss of life. Second, using technology, we must develop a system of real time registration and monitoring of every household and every street. Which house is it? How old is it? Which street is it? What is the condition of the drainage? What is the resilience of our infrastructure like electricity, water? I was in a meeting a few days ago and the topic of my meeting was 'heat wave'. Last time we witnessed two fire outbreaks in hospitals which was very painful. Patients were helpless. Now looking closely at the system of the whole hospital once, we can probably prevent a major accident. I believe that the more accurate information we have about the arrangements there, the better proactive steps we can take.


Nowadays we can see that the incidents of fire outbreak in dense urban areas have increased a lot. When the heat rises, sometimes a huge fire breaks out in a hospital, in a factory, in a hotel or in a multi-storeyed residential building. To deal with this, we have to work very systematically, whether it is human resource development, technology, resources, or system. We have to work with a coordinated 'whole of the government' approach. In densely populated areas, where it is difficult to reach even by car, it becomes a huge challenge to reach there to extinguish the fire. We have to find a solution to this. In order to extinguish the fire in high rise buildings, we have to continuously enhance the skills of our fellow fire fighters. We also need to ensure that there are enough resources to extinguish these industrial fires.


In the midst of these disaster management efforts, it is also very important to keep modernizing the skills and equipment at the local level. For example, nowadays there are many such equipment which convert forest waste into biofuel. Can we involve our women's self-help groups and give them such equipment? They can collect forest waste, process it, make things out of it so that there is no fire in the forest and decrease the possibilities of forest fire. And this will not only increase their income but also the incidents of fire in the forests will reduce. Institutions like industry and hospitals, where there are more hazards like fire and gas leaks, can create a force of specialist people by partnering with the government. We also have to expand our ambulance network and make it future ready. A roadmap should also be prepared after a comprehensive discussion on how we can make it more responsive and effective with technologies like 5G, AI and IoT. How can we make the most out of drone technology in relief and rescue operations? Can we focus on such gadgets, which can alert us about the disaster or can give location information in case of anyone being buried under debris and about the person's position? We must focus on this kind of innovation. There are such social organizations in many countries of the world, which are creating new systems with the help of technology. We should also study them and adopt the best practices there.


India today tries to respond quickly to the disasters around the world and also takes initiative for resilience infrastructure. Today more than 100 countries of the world have joined the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure formed under the leadership of India. Tradition and technology are our strength. With this strength, we can prepare the best model related to disaster resilience not only for India but for the whole world. I am sure that this discussion will be full of suggestions and solutions; many new things will come up for us. I am confident that actionable points will emerge in this two-day summit. I feel that the time is right to make this kind of preparation before the monsoon season. Thereafter, we should carry forward this system in the states, then metro cities and towns. If we start this practice, maybe even before the monsoon we can sensitize the whole system; and wherever needed we can fulfil the requirements and be prepared to prevent losses. I wish you the very best for this summit!

Thank you

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