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Land use planning key to disaster mitigation

| | in Bhubaneswar

The International Day for Disaster Reduction was started in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction.

Held on every October 13, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.

“Home Safe Home” is the slogan for International Day for Disaster Reduction in 2017.

Odisha has been reeling under contrasting extreme weather conditions.

The Odisha Super Cyclone of 1999 killed 8,913 people and caused huge damage to the infrastructure of the State. In that cyclone, 14 districts got affected. More than 10 million people were affected by the cyclone.  Approximately 2, 75,000 homes were destroyed, and 18, 43,047 hectares of cropped area was heavily damaged. This has disturbed the eco-system leading to increasing frequency and increasing scale of floods and droughts. Besides, the impact of cyclone Phailin that struck Odisha on October12, 2013 was felt across

17 districts of the State. The 1999 Super Cyclone affected places like Bhubaneswar and Nayagarh, which were never traditionally cyclone-prone.

In terms of cyclone occurrence, six districts (Baleswar, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Puri) stretching over a 480 km coastline have been categorized as a high risk zone according to the

Vulnerability Atlas of India. Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) reports that the total area (i.e. 100 per cent) of Baleswar and Kendrapada districts is prone to wind velocity (50 and 55 m/s) due to the cyclonic storms, and 46.3 per cent area in Baleswar and 35.5 per cent in Kendrapada are flood-prone.

Vulnerability of the population living along the coastline is further exacerbated by the lack of safe shelter, effective early warning systems and insufficient community awareness on how to prepare for disasters.

About 70 per cent of the total cultivated areas in the State are prone

to drought. These areas lack not only irrigation facilities but also receive scanty rainfall. In some areas, rainfall, though plenty, is erratic. In the year 1998 the State of Odisha faced an unprecedented heat wave situation, as a result of which 2,042 persons lost their lives.

Bhubaneswar city is highly vulnerable to urban flooding, moderate earthquake and cyclone hazards. Bhubaneswar has been selected as one of the eight cities in India for implementing the Climate Risk Management Project on a pilot basis under the framework of the Urban Disaster Risk Reduction project of GOI-UNDP. The ongoing Government of India (GOI)-UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction Programme aims to strengthen the capacities of Government, communities and institutional structures by undertaking DRR activities at various levels and develop preparedness for recovery.

Hazard mapping and analysis helps in identifying areas that are prone to various hazards – both in terms of intensity and in terms of probability. This also facilitates the city in taking appropriate site-specific short, medium, and long-term mitigation measures, which include both structural and non-structural measures. It would also help the city administration to mainstream Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities in the city development process.

The India Disaster Response Network is a nation-wide electronic inventory of specialist and essential resources for disaster response. Internet based tools are also gaining popularity in disaster risk management efforts. The primary focus is to enable the decision makers to get details of readily available and updated information about equipment and human resources required to combat any emergency situation.

Preparatory work (data collection, research and analysis of available documentation), formulation of the risk-sensitive land use plan, advocacy campaigns,  drafting of zoning ordinance,  formulating and implementing building codes for a particular region based on the region’s vulnerability are determined at the local level where the disaster has the greatest impact. After collection of data and information, data processing and analysis is required.

 Within this process planners can work with communities and technical staff to identify risks in the planning area, and evaluate the severity of these.  Risk management can take place within the plan formulation phase of the planning process.

Based on the risk assessment and evaluation, specific risk management measures can be identified and incorporated in the plan. These measures can include land use zoning based on flood maps or other risks, provisions based on expected rainfall or storm activity and designation of protected areas such as wetlands and mangroves which can greatly reduces floods and storm surges. In this way, the stages of the disaster risk management process are systematically included in the land use planning development.

Mainstreaming disaster risk management into development planning can lower the impact of disasters on property and lives. A land-use  planning (LUP) is an essential planning tool for successful and systematic DRR. There is a need to regulate the location of land uses and activities for DRR. Land use plans provide policy makers and planners with a tool whereby both exposure and vulnerability of assets and communities can be reduced.

For the current land use planning practice in Odisha, a systematic, purposeful incorporation of DRR into land use planning is required. Such effort will allow planners to identify hazards and areas of high risk, and to identify and implement measures to reduce that risk. Besides the elements required for land use planning must be given importance. These include regulation of population densities and locations, location of buildings at risk and preparation of hazard maps.

Municipalities and development authorities need to ensure good coordination of activities between all key agencies involved in development projects and plan implementation. More importantly, building codes, zoning measures and urban planning techniques, for example, are difficult to enforce when people occupy land illegally. Therefore, illegal encroachment of land should be restricted.

The hazard maps are overlain on the boundary map of the planning unit to determine what areas are affected. Maps for each administrative unit at appropriate scales shall include topographic or base maps, boundary maps, hazard maps and land use classification maps etc. The building codes of the city need to be reviewed in light of the hazards in the region. There should be a mechanism in the city to monitor the adherence to building codes and land use norms to reduce the impact of natural disasters.

(Dr Praharaj teaches in Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar)

 
 
 
 
 

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