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Disaster management

D.P.Rao
Director, National Remote Sensing Agency,
(Department of Space, Govt. of India),
Balanagar, Hyderabad - 500 037
director@nrsa.gov.in


Abstract
With the tropical climate and unstable landforms, coupled with high population density, poverty, illiteracy and lack of adequate infrastructure, India is one of the most vulnerable developing countries to suffer very often from various natural disasters, namely drought, flood, cyclone, earth quake, landslide, forest fire, hail storm, locust, volcanic eruption, etc. Which strike causing a devastating impact on human life, economy and environment. Though it is almost impossible to fully recoup the damage caused by the disasters, it is possible to (i) minimize the potential risks by developing early warning strategies (ii) prepare and implement developmental plans to provide resilience to such disasters (iii) mobilize resources including communication and telemedicinal services, and (iv) to help in rehabilitation and post-disaster reconstruction. Space technology plays a crucial role in efficient mitigation of disasters. While communication satellites help in disaster warning, relief mobilization and tele-medicinal support, earth observation satellites provide required database for pre-disaster preparedness programmes, disaster response, monitoring activities and post-disaster damage assessment, and reconstruction, and rehabilitation. The article describes the role of space technology in evolving a suitable strategy for disaster preparedness and operational framework for their monitoring, assessment and mitigation, identifies gap areas and recommends appropriate strategies for disaster mitigation vis--vis likely developments in space and ground segments.

Introduction
Various disasters like earthquake, landslides, volcanic eruptions, fires, flood and cyclones are natural hazards that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of habitat and property each year. The rapid growth of the world's population and its increased concentration often in hazardous environment has escalated both the frequency and severity of natural disasters. With the tropical climate and unstable land forms, coupled with deforestation, unplanned growth proliferation non-engineered constructions which make the disaster-prone areas mere vulnerable, tardy communication, poor or no budgetary allocation for disaster prevention, developing countries suffer more or less chronically by natural disasters. Asia tops the list of casualties due to natural disaster. Among various natural hazards, earthquakes, landslides, floods and cyclones are the major disasters adversely affecting very large areas and population in the Indian sub-continent. These natural disasters are of (i) geophysical origin such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, land slides and (ii) climatic origin such as drought, flood, cyclone, locust, forest fire. Though it may not be feasible to control nature and to stop the development of natural phenomena but the efforts could be made to avoid disasters and alleviate their effects on human lives, infrastructure and property. Rising frequency, amplitude and number of natural disasters and attendant problem coupled with loss of human lives prompted the General Assembly of the United Nations to proclaim 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) through a resolution 44/236 of December 22, 1989 to focus on all issues related to natural disaster reduction. In spite of IDNDR, there had been a string of major disaster throughout the decade. Nevertheless, by establishing the rich disaster management related traditions and by spreading public awareness the IDNDR provided required stimulus for disaster reduction. It is almost impossible to prevent the occurrence of natural disasters and their damages. However it is possible to reduce the impact of disasters by adopting suitable disaster mitigation strategies. The disaster mitigation works mainly address the following: (i) minimise the potential risks by developing disaster early warning strategies, (ii) prepare and implement developmental plans to provide resilience to such disasters, (iii) mobilise resources including communication and tele-medicinal services and (iv) to help in rehabilitation and post-disaster reduction. Disaster management on the other hand involves: (i) pre-disaster planning, preparedness, monitoring including relief management capability. (ii) prediction and early warning. (iii) damage assessment and relief management. Disaster reduction is a systematic work which involves with different regions, different professions and different scientific fields, and has become an important measure for human, society and nature sustainable development.

Role of Space Technology
Space systems from their vantage position have unambiguously demonstrated their capability in providing vital information and services for disaster management ( Fig.1).The Earth Observation satellites provide comprehensive, synoptic and multi temporal coverage of large areas in real time and at frequent intervals and 'thus' - have become valuable for continuous monitoring of atmospheric as well as surface parameters related to natural disasters(Table-1). Geo-stationary satellites provide continuous and synoptic observations over large areas on weather including cyclone-monitoring. Polar orbiting satellites have the advantage of providing much higher resolution imageries, even though at low temporal frequency, which could be used for detailed monitoring, damage assessment and long-term relief management. The vast capabilities of communication satellites are available for timely dissemination of early warning and real-time coordination of relief operations. The advent of Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) and Ultra Small Aperture Terminals (USAT) and phased - array antennae have enhanced the capability further by offering low cost, viable technological solutions towards management and mitigation of disasters. Satellite communication capabilities-fixed and mobile are vital for effective communication, especially in data collection, distress alerting, position location and co-ordinating relief operations in the field. In addition, Search and Rescue satellites provide capabilities such as position determination facilities onboard which could be useful in a variety of land, sea and air distress situations.

Table 1. Applications of space remote sensing in disaster management

Disaster Prevention Preparedness (Warning) Relief
Earthquakes Mapping geological lineaments land use Geodynamic measurements ofstrain accumulation Locate stricken areas, mapdamage
Volcanic eruptions Topographi and land use maps Detection/measurement of gaseous emissions Mapping lava flows, ashfalls and lahars,map damage
Landslides Topographic and land use maps Rainfall,slope stability Mapping slide area
Flash floods Land use maps Local rainfall measurements Map flood damage
Major floods Flood plain maps; land use maps Regional rainfall;evapotranspiration Map extent of floods
Storm surge Land use and land cover maps Sea state;ocean surface wind velocities Map extent of damage
Hurricanes   Synoptic weather forecasts Map extent of damage
Tornadoes   Nowcasts; local weather Local weather observations Map amount, extent of damage
Drought   Long ranged climate models Monitoring vegetative biomass;


Normal -Operational or needs very little research
Underlined-Research and development required
Bold -Requires improved observation capability
Italics-Requires improved spatial or temporal resolution

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