NGOs in Disaster Management and Preparedness
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There are a number of NGOs in Mumbai, with a wide ranging scope of activities. In case of a disaster they are able to quickly assemble their volunteer manpower for independent and government supportive relief work. NGOs have the potential to play a vital role in disaster management. They have the flexibility to react quickly at a local level and are often the first organised group to reach the disaster site. In addition, due to their essentially localized scope of operation they have the ability to outreach to far-flung and under privileged sections of society.
Significant Background Information
The purpose of NGOs is not to supplant the governmental relief agencies but to act as a coordinating mechanism between the government apparatus and the affected populace. There was however felt, during the monsoon floods of June 2005, a lack of an advised and coherent approach in the way these organizations operated. Consequently the government has undertaken to initiate steps to better coordinate the working of NGOs vis-à-vis disaster management. An NGO named Karmayog, which is basically a cost-free portal, was set up to provide an easy means of data and communication exchange between the MCGM, NGOs and among NGOs themselves.
Aniruddha Institute of Disaster Management is a major Non Governmental Organization (NGO) in Mumbai in terms of trained volunteer manpower it can call up. The Aniruddha Institute of Disaster Management (AIDM) is dedicated to the study and training of volunteer workers in Disaster Management, since its inception in 2002. AIDM is a purely voluntary, non profit organization found and run by the Aniruddha Trust, it’s run as a part of the Trust’s community service.
AIDM has its central command centre located at Dadar (central Mumbai). It is largely self funded, though it’s open to accepting donations. Each of the city’s 24 wards is treated as a zone which is further divided into local micro-zones. Each micro-zone has its own team of volunteers which are activated as soon as news of a disaster is received at the zone’s sub-control centre. The micro zones are marked in such a way that communication between the volunteers is possible even if phone lines are disabled. AIDM claims to have 35,000 volunteers and 73 centres spread across Mumbai. Typically these centres interface with the Ward Officer and at any time 10 volunteers are in contact with the ward office. Another 100 volunteers are on stand by for emergency assignment. Each center is equipped with a number of rescue kits having basic-first aid and rescue equipment. AIDM helps the city administration by providing trained manpower which is severely lacking in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
Training of volunteer relief workers by AIDM:
AIDM provides a free week-long introductory course on disaster mitigation covering natural disasters (floods, earthquake and cyclones), nuclear, biological and chemical disasters, and man made disasters (fires, terrorist attacks). Hands-on training wherein first aid and basic rescue skills such as lifting of injured persons and transferring to an ambulance is imparted. The AIDM also contributes to the academic study of disasters; it has brought out a ‘Textbook of Disaster Management’ (edited by Dr. J. Shah and Mr A. Tembe of AIDM) which is a compilation of opinions of a large number of experts on various theoretical and practical aspects of disaster management.
Coordination of NGOs with City Administration:
A lack of proper coordination between the city administration in the 2005 floods was felt. There was a lack of awareness among people and city officials about the measures to be taken in such a situation. Also, the BMC was not able to quickly initiate its own disaster response mechanism and coordinate with other government bodies and NGOs. In the immediate aftermath of the floods an umbrella organization of NGOs, the NGO Council, was set up with the Karmayog portal acting as a real-time interface between the Municipal Authorities and NGOs in the field. Though hardly a year has passed since its inception the Karmayog channel has worked well to convey to the authorities potentially hazardous civic problems observed by NGOs leading to their early redressal.
Disaster Mitigation efforts of AIDM in 2005 Floods
At the time of the monsoon floods of July 2005, AIDM was the only organized NGO which could muster a large group of volunteers trained in disaster mitigation, basic rescue operations and providing elementary on-site first-aid to victims. Consequently AIDM played a vital role in immediate relief and rehabilitation of people, of Maharashtra and particularly Mumbai, affected by floods. Its volunteers, spread across the city helped the people independently as well as in coordination with the local administration in various kinds of activities ranging from active rescue work to packaging and supplying of relief materials.
For instance, a landslide occurred in Sakinaka area during the July 2005 floods, wherein about 200 people were feared dead. AIDM sent around 100 volunteers to the site immediately; and even before the arrival of city administration the volunteers with the help of local citizens managed to take out about 70 bodies and a few survivors. At Kalina, AIDM volunteers provided food with a boat purchased by them to areas which were isolated and provided manpower to the administration for food packaging. At other places they aided the administration in traffic management, crowd control and other crucial activities.
Relevance to Megacities
The severity of floods in Mumbai was due to a combination of record rainfall as well as the simultaneous occurrence of high tides. High tides did not allow the rainwater to drain away to the sea, as is normally expected, and the consequence was an unprecedented flooding of India’s most densely populated metro. In such a case large areas maybe cut off creating food and drinking water shortages. Also there is a strong chance of a rapidly spreading epidemic just as water levels subside. The problems facing each locality are unique, furthermore certain segments of people (especially those belonging to low income groups) may be unable to provide for themselves.
Although Mumbai is not prone to destructive earthquakes, the problems faced by governmental relief agencies are similar in case of most major disasters. In light of this NGOs have an advantage: their localized area of operations permits them to have a greater reach in society and adopt a more customized approach to disaster management. In addition they maybe used to effectively advise and channelise the government efforts, besides being able to provide accurate and quick feedback to the government. Community awareness of disaster mitigation measures is another role the NGOs are particularly suited for. The experience of Mumbai has demonstrated that in a disaster affecting several areas of a large city, it is necessary to have a coordinating mechanism among NGOs and the government.
1. http://www.karmayog.org/ -- website of Karmayog. 2. http://www.karmayog.com/ngocouncil/ngocouncil.htm-- the website of the NGO Council. 3. http://www.karmayog.com/ngocouncil/moumcgm.htm -- MoU between the MCGM and the NGO council.