In multiple-hazard prone J&K, key provisions of Disaster Mgmt Policy fail to get due attention

Land for EOCs in all districts yet to be formally acquired
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, July 14:  Notwithstanding the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has long history of disasters and continues to remain prone to multiple hazards, several key provisions of the State Disaster Management Policy have failed to receive due attention of the concerned departments and agencies. Moreover, there is dilly-dallying approach in ensuring capacity building of the key stakeholders.
Owing to unique geographical and climatic setting, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a number of natural disasters ranging from incidents of fires to destructive floods and catastrophic earthquakes. In the wake of recurring disasters, the State has always paid heavily in terms of loss of life and property.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the State Government formulated State Disaster Management Policy to adopt pro-active, comprehensive and multi-hazard approach towards disaster risk reduction and management. The policy has highlighted the need for effective and functional disaster management mechanism at State, Divisional and District levels for effective management of disaster situations.
No doubt, steps have been initiated by the Government towards giving practical shape to the policy but its several key provisions have yet not received due attention of the concerned departments, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
In the policy thrust has been laid on upgradation of existing Centre for Disaster Management at J&K Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (IMPA) to the level of State Institute of Disaster Management to fulfil the need of capacity building in the domain of disaster risk reduction. “This institute will function as a nodal technical, planning, analysis and training wing of the State Disaster Management Authority”, the policy read.
However, till date State level institute has not been established although it is supposed to play crucial role in capacity building, research, development of strategy for State-specific prevention and mitigation measures, carrying out hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment studies, sources informed.
“Moreover, Revenue Training Institutes at Srinagar and Jammu have not been provided appropriate technical and professional staff besides other functionaries, infrastructure and funds for providing training in disaster risk reduction as per the provisions of the policy”, sources  further said.
The policy also states that all the line departments at the State, Division and District levels shall be responsible for preparing Department Disaster Management Plans to lay required focus on linking the routine departmental activities with disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
Moreover, the policy lays emphasis on establishment of Disaster Management Cells in all the line departments and appointment of Nodal Officers for effective coordination and speedy decision making besides preparation of Standard Operating Procedures.
“However, majority of the departments have neither formulated Disaster Management Plans nor opened Disaster Management Cells thereby flouting the provisions of the policy”, sources said.
Contrary to the thrust of the policy on capacity building of key stakeholders for effective disaster management, Fire and Emergency Services Department is reeling under acute shortage of manpower and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) has yet not been provided two additional battalions as was agreed to at various forums, sources further said.
As far as Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs) are concerned, sources said, “while such a centre with all the required paraphernalia has been made operational at Srinagar recently, similar centre at Jammu has yet not come up although a building has been identified for the same”.
For permanent EOCs as envisaged in the State Disaster Management Policy, the land near IMPA at Sidhra in the outskirts of Jammu has been identified but is yet to be transferred to the Department of Disaster Management. Similarly, in majority of the districts the land for EOCs has been identified but not formally acquired till date, sources informed.
When contacted, Secretary to Government, Department of Disaster Management Talat Parvez said, “implementation of all the provisions of State Disaster Management Policy is a time consuming process and all out efforts are being made to ensure strict compliance to the policy”. He admitted that effective coordination between all the concerned departments is imperative for implementation of policy in letter and spirit.