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United Nations Disaster risk reduction and National platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in correlation with Uttarakhand Glacier burst case

The following research paper tries to explain how disaster management and reduction ideologies and need has grown over the years and the need for the formation of proper rules, regulations and policies, not only at the international level but also at the national level. Each should formulate such policies for disaster risk reduction as might be suitable according to their geography and ecology. The importance of interdependence of various countries of the world in mitigating and reducing risks of disasters.

Furthermore, it also tries to explain the stand of India on disaster risk management and the formation of National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction explaining the stand of India in disaster management and risk reduction. It also substantiates, Prime Minister's 10 point agenda addressing disaster risk reduction and management. In conclusion, the recent Uttarakhand glacier burst case has been analyzed with incorporation of the viewpoints of environmentalists.

A habitat, a surrounding for various humans, animals and plants is the very source of living species on Earth. Living species can never be imagined to exist without Environment. It has been intact at its place since the very inception of life on planet Earth. If we try to closely inspect the importance of environment from a societal approach we would come across the most important aspects to it, which are, human growth and development.

The health/ wellbeing of the children, adults, flora and fauna depend on the environment they are staying in. all the developmental activities are always conducted on the face of environment. Big industries, buildings, houses, shopping complexes are all a part of societal as well a capital development of the country but there are always two sides to a coin.

On one hand environment is manifested as the most important asset which it is but on the contrary, this important asset is not given its due share of care, protection and management. The world is growing and the economies are booming but often the environment or the land on which it is growing is neglected and people have now started to only focus towards further advancements. Little do they realize that once the environment on which all these advancements are taking place lose its credibility because of over usage, numerous earthly systems would collapse and it would ultimately lead to expiration of all the living species.

The issues related to over usage or over construction on the surface of earth by cutting away and displacing the flora and fauna has since many years been the core subject matter of environmentalists. It would not be incorrect to say that this issue still remains neglected largely despite the fact that it is the need of the hour to address it. It is apparent that the thing or object or system which gives to the opportunity to grow also requires care.

For example: A human body helps a human in growing spiritually, mentally, physically but in return it requires its care and cannot be neglected because otherwise the whole system of the body would get disrupted; same is the case with environment. If humans are taking so much from it, if they are growing and developing on the face of environment then it necessary that due care and lookout is provided to it.

When humans continue to use the environmental resources without giving reasonable care and overly using up the resources and at the same time also causing harm to the environment, it results in a disaster/calamity. A disaster always at a large scale and if is of a great intensity leads to loss of life and humungous damage to the surrounding areas. A disaster can never be predicted. Despite the fact that disasters are natural and take place on their own, they mostly have human origins.

It is generally because of human actions that the earth behaves a certain way. Therefore, the only thing that the world can do on its part is avoid indulgence into such activities which might disturb the balance of the nature and environment. If human beings use the resources which are perishable as well as non perishable judiciously and sustainably then it might up to an extend help in maintaining balance on earth. Furthermore, it is very important to note that every forest patch or green area should not be converted into a capital generating area.

For example: there is a hill station which has a high altitude and has several species of flora and fauna have their habitat on those hills. If by the means of construction most of the flora and fauna are disrupted and removed for making buildings, factories etc. Moreover, these factories would also emit so many chemicals and wastes which would lead to rise in temperature in an area which is naturally cold as far as its climate is concerned. Under such circumstances it is quite evident that a disaster will take place and the Earth will try to restore itself to the shape it was in earlier.

As the present condition governs, already so many such things have taken place which have disrupted the balance on Earth like construction on mountains, conversion of large belts of forests into cities, disposal of wastes in the river bodies, emission of carbon monoxide, global warming and what not. All these factors have over the years contributed largely in the deteriorating health of planet Earth and its environment.

In such conditions it is obvious that we come across so many cases of natural calamities and disasters all around the globe. In order to tackle such problems, the national forum of United Nations and the various countries of the world finally felt the need to take appropriate steps to avoid more harm to the environment and ecology. It was after this enlightenment that various countries of the world decided on formulating proper rules related to environment protection which have on their personal end. In order to protect the environment and make sure that it works smoothly the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was formulated with its main objective as formulating such international accords which will help several countries of the world in formulating their respective environmental laws and collectively work for the benefit of the environment.

However, only formulating rules and regulations are never sufficient and it is important that there is a supervisory committee which makes sure that all the rules and regulations formed by the international agencies are implemented by the nations. UNEP is an agency with a very wide range of subject matters and deals with all sorts of problems and issues related to the environment. The United Nations environment programme was set up in the year 1972 in course the United Nations conference on Human environment which took place in Stockholm.

This was the first step towards protection of environment at an international level now the next thing line was the management of disasters which has already been mentioned is unpredictable. This unpredictability makes it even more important to substantiate such rules and regulations are in place; this would help the various nations of world in managing these calamities and disasters and minimize the desolation and depredation that it might cause.

Evolution Of Disaster Management

  1. The first ever world conference on natural disasters took place in the year 1994 in Yokohama (Japan). This conference was countersigned by the United Nations General Assembly. This conference's main agenda was to address the after effects of natural disasters and most importantly it put emphasize on being prepared before hand, taking preventive measures and mitigation. A total of 10 principles were adopted in its master plan and to make sure that all the member states followed these principles, a follow up process was also set up.

    Broadly stating, the following 10 principles were advanced under the convention's strategy:
    1. The easiest yet the most difficult way of avoiding or preventing disasters or natural calamities is protection of environment and using its resources judiciously and in a sustainable manner. In this way there will be no need to spend heavy amounts of capital in order to avoid protect the world from natural calamities
    2. Risk assessment was given utmost importance as it intended to help the member states in assessing the issues related to environment in that particular country and formulating such policies which would work as a shield against the forthcoming disasters, if any.
    3. A great emphasize was given on being prepared in advance and also prevent such activities because of which there is a possibility that a disaster might take place.
    4. In order to be prepared in advance it is important that all the countries, while formulating policies at all levels, inculcate such aspects which reduce the need for disaster relief.
    5. All the nations should work on building and developing their capacities so that they have enough techniques and mechanisms to mitigate, be prepared and reduce the disasters.
    6. Broadcasting information about to predicted risk of a calamity is an important facet in preventing and managing disasters. For his purpose, it is important for the countries to have appropriate technological knowhow so that the information can be spread to different parts of the country by using different methods like telecommunication etc.
    7. It is only when all the members at local, national, international level work with unity and as a federation that this preparedness and prevention would actually work otherwise no one would gain any benefit.
    8. In order to spread awareness about disasters and the way in which people can protect themselves in such circumstances, proper knowledge should be provided all over the country, especially in vulnerable parts.
    9. Technology plays the most crucial role in imparting knowledge and alertness in all the corners of the world. Therefore, such technology which can protect the people from any natural calamity by giving them a far sighted vision and predictability should be imparted to the whole world for free.
    10. A country's leadership has the responsibility of all citizens living in its premises and therefore it has to make sure that all the available resources of the country are efficiently used in favor of the public.
  2. The second world conference took place in the year 2005 in Kobe (Japan). This conference had its seating after Indian Ocean Tsunami which occurred less than a month ago from the date of the conference. It was attended by 4000 participants. It was after this plan world conference that the international early warning programme was finally adopted. Its main agenda was just like the first world conference, to reduce disasters by being prepared about it.

    It was of more importance because it was in the news at that time and Japan was chosen as the venue for the reason that it has had a history of disasters and the Great Hanshin Earthquake also made it an appropriate venue. This conference also addressed the importance of health case measures which need to be taken by the countries in the post disaster phase. Moreover, whenever the world would try to keep up with the technology and introduce new and better methods of disaster management, it is important for them to also be efficient because otherwise many nations would not be able to afford it and as a consequence would be left behind the other countries.

    The most important outcome of the 2005 Kobe world conference was the Hyogo conference for action.
    Looking at the loopholes in managing disasters at that time this conference for action bestowed a total of 5 priorities namely:
    1. Disaster risk reduction should be made a priority.
    2. Improving the system of early warning and risk factors
    3. Making safety a culture
    4. Reducing risk factors in key sectors
    5. Nourish preparedness for response to disasters
  3. Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction (2015-2030). The conference took place, like the other world conferences in Japan. It was validated by the United Nations General assembly. Just like the Hyogo framework for action its objectives also revolved around strengthening the preparedness and risk management.

United Nations Office For Disaster Management

UNDRR is incorporated under the United Nations secretariat. It was formulated in 1999 with the objective of making sure that the international strategy of disaster management is implemented. Its headquarters are situated in Geneva and has a total of 5 offices under its authority namely:
  1. Arab states
  2. Asia pacific region
  3. Latin America and Caribbean
  4. Africa region
  5. Europe
The Sendai framework is the guiding light of UNDRR and ambition is reduction of disasters and risks which might cause a chaos. It would not be incorrect to say that all the world conferences which took place in the history of international environmental law have in some or the other way incorporates elements of them in UNDRR's mandate. The most prominent of which are the Sendai and the Hyogo convention. The vision and strategy of UNDRR, like all the other conventions revolves around good governance and law making.

It also believes that the leadership has to be so solid and competent in a nation that no matter what calamity might strike the country in the near future; it is able to overcome and tackle it with appropriate strategies. It is also correct that to implement such rules and for tacking the situation of a disaster it is important for the country to have appropriate technology. Moreover, it is not feasible for a country to single handedly tackle all the forthcoming problems. There might be instances in which it is not even seen by the metrological department that some calamity is going to take place. In such cases, interdependence and togetherness of the various member states of the world comes into existence.

It might as well happen that a country is not rich enough to afford a said technology or does not have a technical knowhow then as well strong international relations usually help and such technology can be provided to that country. All these are nothing else but the visionary points of UNDRR. Despite the fact that these international goals are very important, yet, they are not sufficient. The reason being that at the national level also problems related to risk of natural disasters or management of disasters have to be addressed and the authorities have to substantiate appropriate policies.

As mentioned earlier, it is not practically possible to know well in advance about a calamity or a disaster but measure can surely be taken in order to foresee and be ready to face any such calamity. This is one of the mandates of UNDRR and for it to meet its vision and propaganda it is very important to initiate such mechanisms which can help in monitoring. Such monitoring by competent authorities and that too regularly can help in analyzing even the small changes in the environment which can be an alarm for a future threat.

This knowledge and proficiency would help in formulating better policies with better precision and at a wider end become the cornerstone of UNDRR's strategies and objectives. Usage of resources sustainably or efficiently while strategizing disaster risk management goes without saying. It is important for all the member states to implement these policies combined with the landmark PARIS AGREEMENT which focuses on reducing the intense changes in climatic conditions.

Tsunami, Cyclones, Cloud bursts and several other disasters show that it is the weather which acts as a catalyst to these disasters. UNDRR, as discussed earlier mandates that proper mechanisms should be installed and proper monitoring is required. Nothing can prove to me more accurate that the meteorological department. The international meteorological department keeps an eye on changing weather conditions and the threat that it might bring along with it. For example: whenever it is going to rain in a particular area, the people of that are or for that matter of fact the whole country gets to know it beforehand. This is nothing but prior information which is one of the strategies of UNDRR.

Now, because a warning has been generated and the people of that area are well versed with the situation, they have the time to prepare for it and this preparation would help in avoiding risks from disasters which are predictable.

In this way, the IMD stands as one of the most important departments which gives a far sightedness and better planning time to the countries. Warning systems only work when sufficient time is provided to the people to vacate or make such arrangements which help them in fighting the disasters. For instance, whenever there is a flood predicted to hit the low lying southern areas of India, those areas are vacated beforehand.

The reasons for this are:
  1. The calamity or the disaster has already been predicted and
  2. these low lying areas often face such situations annually and every year or after a year or two, such a floods are expected to take place.
Therefore, it makes it easier for the authorities to predict and take appropriate actions to vacate the place which is expected to bear the consequences of the disaster or such measures are taken which can minimize the effect of the disaster in that area.

Before the advent of computers and internet, it was unquestionably difficult to predict such disasters and this was the reason that earlier calamities caused a huge havoc to the country it hit. After the advent of internet news circulation has become easy and the range of people has also increased. Metaphorically, news these days travel with the speed of light and therefore disaster management and risk reducing management has picked up its pace and it comparatively easier now.

India And Disaster Risk Reduction

It was the need of the hour, addressing which, most of the countries including India has taken an initiative and a thorough approach towards reducing disaster risk. India is a country which faces floods and other calamities from top to bottom i.e. J&K to Kanyakumari. From 1970-2009 Indian has been hit by a total of 371 Natural disasters because of which more than 1.5 lakh people lost their lives and more than 1.5 billion were affected. Out of all the disasters, water based disasters like tsunamis are the most frequently experienced. Other than that, Earthquakes, cyclones, landslides, droughts are also experienced in India.

These disasters have a long lasting impact. It would be accurate to say that India, despite of being capable enough has faced certain severe disasters with thousands and thousands of people dying or getting displaced, not only this, but economically as well, with damages caused by floods being the costliest of all disasters, hits the hardest. This is mentioned in the 2019 publication of an article by Devi Prasad Dash and Yashobanta Parida titled The Indian Growth and Development Review.

The economic aspect to natural disasters is very vast as it straight away affects the fiscal aspects of the country. The budget of the country, rather than being provided for development of the country has to be allocated for damages caused by the calamities or disasters. Moreover, the crops grown in the areas hit by flood also get destroyed and the hard work of farmers also goes in vain. All these factors are enough to support the statement that India is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world as far as disasters are concerned and requirement of the hour that such policies and systems are set up which help in reducing and mitigating the social as well as economic damages that disasters cause.

GFDRR or Global Facility for Disaster Reduction is a globally acclaimed initiative which helps developing countries in mitigating natural disasters and work toward making them less vulnerable to natural disasters. It helps developing countries in understanding disaster risk better and building proper investment techniques to reduce the ill effects of disasters. In this way the non abundance of funds will not stand as a hindrance and the present funds available with the country can be appropriately utilized.

National Platform For Disaster Risk Reduction

On 26 February 2013, the government of India formulated the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (NPDRR). It is multipartite body. This body does not do any work at the root cause of disaster management or does not participate in introducing disaster management techniques; rather, this body has a supervisory function of keeping a tab and reviewing various already existing national policies on disaster management. In addition to its supervisory functions, the body also acts as an adviser of the multipartite body. Answerability is something which works best in bringing transformation in the system. This was the main idea behind making of NPDRR, this advisory body would bring about answerability and as a result better policies for disaster risk management will be initiated.

The third meeting of DRR has been proposed with the theme of �mainstream disaster risk reduction'. It shall have the following objectives:
  1. Disaster risk reduction and development- the government shall focus on forming such developmental goals which will give a greater emphasis on reducing the risk of a disaster as a consequence of such development.
  2. The unity of three important posts- SDGs, SFDRR and COP21.
  3. Better governance for disaster management and risk reduction in order to build elasticity.
  4. Strategizing and planning between various states on Prime Minister's Agenda 10 related to disaster risk reduction and management.

PM Agenda 10

Prime minister Narendra Modi have due attention to India's biggest loophole which is Disaster risk management and proposed 10 agenda points in order to reduce risk from disasters and also management of disasters:
  1. All the sectors (development) are bound to follow all the principles for disaster risk management and reduction.
  2. In case of a disaster, the coverage will not be provided on the basis of status. All households, ranging from poor to multi nationals shall be provided disaster coverage.
  3. Greater women participation should be encouraged in disaster risk management.
  4. Technology, being an important aspect to disaster risk reduction has to be kept in consideration and such new technology shall be anchored which would prove to be an asset for disaster risk reduction agenda.
  5. International and national interdependence plays a crucial role in being more vigilant towards the upcoming problems. Therefore, such investment shall be made which would increase global understanding.
  6. New institutes dealing exclusively with disaster management shall be initiated.
  7. Increased role of social media in awareness of disasters and their management shall be encouraged.
  8. States and other local bodies shall be made competent enough to work for disaster risk reduction at their level as well.
  9. Proper studies shall be conducted after a disaster so that there will be a scope for learning and filing in the loopholes.
  10. Bring about solidarity in the international world

Uttarakhad Glacier Burts Case

Glaciers are made up of fallen snow which over a period of time transforms into hard mass of ice. These glaciers flow like a very slow water body; these glaciers are so massive in size and weight around 100-200 thousand tons. The burst of a glacier is a rather very rare phenomenon but was witnessed in the latest Uttarakhand glacier burst case.

The phenomenon/disaster took place in the Tapovan area of Chamoli district. Chamoli district lies in the Garwal division of Uttarakhand and is also infamous for a number of pilgrimage sites including Hem kund sahib, Badrinath temple. This region has been always been well known since the early ages because it was the birth place of the revolutionary Chipko movement. This region is surrounded by various mountain ranges which are separated from one another by valleys.

The eastern Chamoli district is known for higher mountain ranges with Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India after Kanchenjunga. This clearly proves that the altitude of this region ranges from 800 meters to 8000 meters above the sea level. The southern part of this district consists of low altitude mountains formed usually of sedimentary rocks.

Contrary to the southern mountains, northern mountain ranges if Chamoli district contains glaciers which makes it an important source of water for the low lying areas of the state. In order to make sure that the water travels from higher altitude to lower altitude faster using gravitational potential energy governments end up constructing big hydro projects. Water is a necessity and an integral source of life which makes it all the way more important to reach people in time.

The precise geographical terminology from glacier burst is Glacier Lake Outburst Flooding (GLOF). Whenever a glacier bursts, it bursts in a glacier lake and because of chunks of ice falling in the lake and water travelling from higher altitude to lower, the speed of the flood increases. Obviously, if a lot of water from the glaciers rolls down in the river, it will lead to a disaster and cause wide ranging disruptions. In this case, a part of the Nandadevi glacier broke off.; the river which flooded is known by the name of �Dhauliganga River'. The two hydro power projects which fell in the way of the flood are Rishiganga power project and Tapovan Vishnu gad and were washed away by the floods.

With the number of effected people rising day by day, it estimated that more than 150 people are still missing with more than 26 deaths. It is speculated that the reason behind this glacier burst could be climate change and global warming which are two very important parts of environmental law. These types of disasters can never be predicted and therefore it is apparent that it is going to cause chaos in the area and lives of the people will be put at stake. In order to deal with it, it is the obligation of the government to initiate management of the disaster by formulating special groups of forces.

This is exactly what is happening in Uttarakhand. The Indo- Tibetan border police personnel have been given directions by the authorities to carry on rescue operations in Raini village where water bodies were flooded and destroyed the whole area. In order to tackle this case it is imperative that the government immediately drafts such policies for prevention of future risk in the area.

Environmentalists are of the view that this disaster is a manmade disaster and is not an act of God. Mountains are meant to have a cold climate because they are on a higher altitude. Repeated constructions of various projects causes the ecology of mountains to get disrupted because as more and more plants and projects will be set up, the heat in the area would increase and this would cause a climate change in the area for obvious reasons.

In order to reduce such disasters from taking place and cause havoc and un necessary plight to the whole nation, the ecology of the mountains should be left alone. The government should draft such policies and laws related to the environment of higher altitudes which restricts too much development in the area which upsets the whole system and finally results in a disaster.

References And Sources
  9. Class notes
  10. The Hindu
I, hereby declare that the dissertation entitled �United Nations Disaster risk reduction and National platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in correlation with Uttarakhand Glacier burst case� is an original work submitted by me and has not been submitted in any university for any degree or diploma.

Written by: Ashna Sharma
, BA LLB (H), Course: Environmental Law, Semester- 08, Batch- 2017-2022 - Amity Law School, Noida

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