Bharat Rakshak

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PostPosted: 02 Mar 2010 19:12 
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IMO this is a very lightly touched upon area in BR (although discussion threads are created whenever disaster strikes). I just want to expand the scope of this thread to include a few more topics:

1. Engineering Geology and the level of importance given to this field within desh
2. Discussion of dormant/semi dormant and active natural hazards which lie both inside India and on its periphery. For eg:

a. The seismic fault zones which lie in India

b. Plate tectonics: Esp the splitting of the Indo-Australian plate in recent times. Seafloor spreading off the west coast of Sumatra which is a major trouble spot. It is quite terrifying to note that despite all measures which have been taken by India post the Dec 26 tsunami, desh is just not prepared to take another hit of equal or higher magnitude.

c. Plate tectonics can also be extended to include theories of continental drift.

d. Studies and observations by Indian volcanologists and seismologists. IMHO another area where we lack compared to the sophisticated USGS. India does have active volcano in the form of Barren Island which has been known to have erupted pyroclastically (read Pompeii type eruption) in the past. An eruption of that scale today has the potential to put our newly established FORTAN and CAR-Nicobar facilties out of comission. Recent activity on that island has indicated that it is far from being a normal "mud volcano".

e. Sumatra island is home to a certain Lake Toba which is a supervolcano. There is the famous Toba Catastrophe Theory which is said to have deposited an ash layer of 15 cms over the entire Indian subcontinent, this despite the nominal distance being around a 1000 kms. The question which needs to be asked is whether we are anywhere near ready to carry out rescue operations if such an event takes place again or are we too busy in our quest for "roti, kapda aur makaan"? This event is also known to have created a bottleneck in human population and a repeat could leave Indic civilization buried under hot ash.

f. More recent (geologically) events are the 1815 Mt Tambora eruption resulting in the year without a summer. With India primarily being an agrarian economy, can we afford to take hits and end up in famine and/or starvation?

Honestly, it is kind of pointless to discuss situations which threaten the very existence of humanity and one over which we have little control over, however innovative and workable disaster management protocols can be brought up, I feel that the real test of a nation/civilization would be how well we could prevent/mitigate/cope with such events. As our economy grows, it is imperative that we also divert our thought processes toward these latent threats and bolster our defenses.


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PostPosted: 03 Mar 2010 22:27 
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Klaus Sir/Admin,
It is good to start a thread on Disaster management.
IMHO, the Head should be the Disaster Management In India rather India & Natural Disaster Management.
This thread should be dedicated toward the disaster management of any type/kind including terror (NBC) rather then natural only.
For rest of things, the ADMIN is here.


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PostPosted: 03 Mar 2010 22:34 
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Disaster profile of India
60%-prone to earthquakes
8% -cyclones
68% susceptibe to drought
40 million hectares is prone to floods
In decade 1990-2000, an average of about 4344 people lost their lives and abt 30 million people were affected by disaster every year. Other loss has been astronomical.


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PostPosted: 04 Mar 2010 12:30 
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Jamal K. Malik wrote:
Klaus Sir/Admin,
It is good to start a thread on Disaster management.
IMHO, the Head should be the Disaster Management In India rather India & Natural Disaster Management.
This thread should be dedicated toward the disaster management of any type/kind including terror (NBC) rather then natural only.
For rest of things, the ADMIN is here.


First things first, please do not address me as "Sir", I dont think I deserve the title yet.

With all due respect, terror (NBC) has got its own space in the Military & Strategic threads and does not warrant discussion here.

I might have messed up the title in a hurry the other day, Admins may consider what to name/rename it based on the objectives laid out in my previous post. Again, discussion of floods as NEWS ITEMS may not be required in this thread, rather discussions backed up with graphs/charts/tabular data would be preferred.

The emphasis is on earthquakes, seismic activity, plate tectonics, mud volcanoes, strato/super volcanic complexes and large igneous/basaltic provinces near desh and its peripheral regions (includes Indo-China, Indonesia, IOR and Central Asia).

Also, suggestions for improvement of the study of volcanology and seismology (given that these two are not exact sciences) are welcome, however hard data is required to back up any claims. For a start, this may be useful: California Supervolcano has Split Personality (err, there goes my first rule of thumb of not posting news items :roll: )

I believe that the real test of an emerging economy such as desh would be its ability to recover from such events in the future, lateral thinking is required to suggest solutions which may be unprecedented. As they say, "Desperate times call for desperate measures!" Bring it on!


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PostPosted: 05 Mar 2010 11:04 
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Disaster Management in India

1) First Reponse to disaster comes from the forces

2) RSS is one organizaton which has contributed positively during almost all natural calamities of india.

3) most of the post disaster measures/resettlements are due to NGOs and other charitable organizations.

4) State govts are least responsive. the babus delay the response and many times totally neglect human angle.

5) none of the NGOs/forces/RSS or govt agencies are equipped to provide immediate response. All the measures taken during disasters are Adhoc and incomplete

6) The efforts to improve the disaster management machinery is very negligible till today.

7) Food/ food packets distributed by govt during and aftermath of disaster actually aggravates health problem as these are prepared at far away places, the food generally is cold or of poor quality.

8) state govt medical aids provide during and post disasters are totally inadequate and unprofessional. (medical aids provided by forces are exceptionally good)

9) govts still have to rely on large corporates to provide manpower, tools, equipment and machinery during disasters.

Yours truly has worked as full time volunteer during Morbi flood, Kutch earthquake and during and after mumbai deluge. above is my personal observation.


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PostPosted: 07 Mar 2010 14:09 
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What can economic theory and research contribute to the disaster management theory? What can be learned from economics and management to mitigate the impact of disasters on humans and environment?

It is felt by many sociologists that this field is unlikely to overcome its marginal status without significant efforts to link the sociology of disasters with the related fields of risk and environmental sociology and more broadly, focus on core sociological concerns such as social inequality, diversity and social change. Disaster management makes a basic assumption that short term qualitative and quantitative system modifications are necessary and cooperation is necessary, hence this field is an extreme case of business adaptation. IOW, its about production functions and related to substitution processes between capital and work as well as between prevention and intervention measures. The difference from a classical production firm lies in the fact that the framework production goods and services can radically change and are everything but stable.

Disaster management has remained undiscovered on many fronts (including research) by the mainstream despite the fact that it affects many areas of economics due to its interdisciplinary character. Large units of society can respond to disasters in many ways: they can absorb the impacts with little or no premediated action and rely on improvisation or they can use planned and formally directed arrangements. As a result of this, disaster researchers can draw a variety of social activity types before, during and after the disaster.

Critiques on traditional ways of conceptualizing and explaining disasters based on natural sciences and rational calculations have led to a paradigm shift: the constructivism detached the positivism. In this context sociologists developed the socioeconomic and socio-cultural concept of vulnerability where they defined disasters in terms of their impact on a society in relation with human values. If the context includes no human values, the notion of disaster does not apply even if the event was external, no matter what magnitude. The socioeconomic concept of vulnerability bases primarily on system theory, decision-analysis as well as structure theory
— approaches and frameworks commonly used in economics also.
The most important change in sociology in the last decade has been a greater emphasis on both organizational and collective social behavior during the whole hazard cycle. This includes the acknowledgement of social solidarity and social conflict in disasters as well as the influence of gender, class and other dimensions of diversity. In that context researchers often used the theory of rational choice to explain social behaviour, Since the 1990s, realist and event-based perspectives have dominated the field of disaster theory. Contrary to sociologists, economists are much more involved in the area of crisis management than in disaster management.

Disaster management is a very rare research topic in business economics. A lot of publications exist with respect to crisis management, whereas most articles analyze business crisis. The reason for the asymmetry in economists' involvement in crisis management versus disaster management is probably because business units have to cope repeatedly with various levels of crises and have learned to deal with them. In contrast and fortunately, disasters (as defined earlier) rarely occur in business units, thus disaster management is not their core competence. In spite of these limitations, disaster management is not only a sociological problem for sociologists, but rather a genuine business economic problem.

Disaster management generally involves two phases: the prevention phase and the intervention phase. To analyze a good or a poor disaster management the authors concentrate on the preparedness of an organization and assume that high prevention leads to a high preparedness and to a good disaster management, whereas few or no prevention measures lead to a weak preparedness and a poor disaster management. Thus, a collective has the choice to invest either in prevention measures or finally pay for intervention. First of all, the government or management chooses those activities which are easy to implement and show the greatest impact to protect the people and the environment. After having chosen the most promising prevention measures, to find other ones will be increasingly difficult. If additional measures are taken, they involve much higher costs. The costs for prevention measures mainly involve costs for special buildings, technical instruments and salaries for professional intervention staff. Based on cost–benefit considerations, rational choice theory allows deriving the optimal bundle of possible prevention measures. At this point–the production equilibrium–the government gets the highest benefits to the lowest costs, which means that the difference between cost and benefits is as large as possible. The equilibrium reflects the most favourable extent of prevention activities in disaster management.

The prevention measures involve risk assessment, risk allocation, risk monitoring and the implementation of early warning systems as well as providing of shelters, evacuation plans and training of staff. The crucial point and the most difficult one is the appropriate assessment of risks. If the risk is not correctly assessed, the government will underestimate or overestimate the benefits from the prevention measures and the level of preparedness will not be adequate for the incident. If the government underestimates the risk, not enough measures are undertaken to protect the people and the environment.

The basic question is whether individuals or the public hand should be responsible for disaster prevention. If, for example, the collective or the public sector bears the entire risk in a region, the private sector intends to neglect the individual risks because of false incentives. This was the case in the last decades in many European countries when more and more houses were built in areas where earlier no one would have built due to safety reasons. If the allocation of risks is asymmetric– the public sector adopts all the risks while the private sector ignores them–the possible damages from an incident can be much higher than in case of a well balanced allocation of risks between the public and private sector. The marginal benefit curve shifts downwards because of the negligence of the individual risk and the underestimation of benefits from the individual prevention measures.

The business economics literature only casually looks at how to set incentives to guarantee an efficient allocation of the risks between the public and the private sector. This issue may be an interesting topic for further research.

Taking prevention measures into account, organization of the emergency is one of the first questions to consider. Should the central state take all the responsibilities and the power, or should the central state delegate responsibility and competences to regional or local authorities? Decentralization seems to lead to higher benefits than centralization, which can also be explained by the rational choice approach. A decentralized organization leads to higher benefits due to the fact that this entity is capable to react much faster than a clumsy central organization. More people and more land can be safe-guarded and a short response time reduces the losses. In that case the harm to the population and the environment will be less important and the benefits will increase.

Reducing potential damage in case of the entry of an event is the goal of disaster prevention. Thus, the desire for more or less security is subjective due to the fact that risks are differently perceived. As a result, the perception of a certain risk has a significant influence on the responses and willingness to undertake prevention. Risk perception itself depends on several factors such as the possibility of personal control, trust into the government capabilities to react in an appropriate way and the habituation to the source of the risk. The correct and systematic analysis of risks and its perception is a task, which should include natural sciences and engineering as well as psychology and political science. While natural sciences and engineering usually determine the objective risks with respect to mathematical and statistical data series, psychology and political science are responsible to evaluate the human aspect of risks.
In addition to risk analysis, early monitoring and warning systems exist, which both play an important role in minimizing losses. The implementation of such systems represents a classic investment problem: early warning systems typically cost a lot of money since a comprehensive monitoring system is very demanding. However, a
good early warning system with alert capabilities can greatly reduce losses in the case of earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados, for instance.
Since the correct anticipation of a systematic dysfunction (such as a protracted volcanic eruption) is very difficult, research– including economic research–is a big challenge. For example, identification of possible turning points or thresholds to successfully stabilize a system using the method of reconstructive logic. In that case, starting from the possible impact of a disaster and then going back to the event is the correct approach to define these thresholds. The crux of the matter is that always a defined remaining risk must be accepted for any given disaster otherwise preparedness costs would be immense. The publication of such values and the estimation of remaining risks are very difficult, since the risk aversion with respect to collective (involuntary) risks is much higher compared to that of individual (voluntary) risks.

* More in future posts*


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PostPosted: 07 Mar 2010 15:09 
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The disaster response comprises four phases: alert, rescue, and recovery, reconstruction and victim relief. This includes all services and assistance starting from self-protection and rescue measures during the disaster and until the reconstruction on site after the disaster. The decisive element in disaster response is the cooperation and correct action of those involved, such as the various organizations and government authorities, the disaster relief agencies and the volunteers. The better the disaster preparedness, the smaller the efforts needed to cope with a disaster. Disaster response, like prevention, takes place at various levels. Governmental and service organizations are active in international disaster response and have, in part, their own trained professional personnel as well as relief equipment and funding available for these purposes. During and immediately after a disaster, victims must first rely on their own resources for protecting their property, which requires the accession to appropriate knowledge and necessary information. Prevention measures and informational campaigns can assure that the population knows the meaning of a siren, the proper responses or the whereabouts of possible shelters. At the same time, the information communicated during or immediately after a disaster is essential. The media, among others, carry an important responsibility since they can transmit warnings, information and behavior, and can advise the involved population. Emergency organizations become active in a second step and begin with the necessary recovery and rescue. For excavations, evacuations and emergency help, they need the proper equipment and appropriate communication possibilities. Crises managers or operational commands are responsible for providing clearly structured leadership and the smooth coordination and cooperation of all involved organizations and institutions.

The extreme situation is not only a psychological exceptional situation for the victims who have to endure the helplessness, damage and loss, but also an enormous burden for the responsible people in the emergency organizations and the rescuers. Humanitarian and financial aid, the material and financial support and the psychological assistance for the victims, also belong to the disaster response phase. In some cases victims need medical care and they as well as the aid workers need the supply of food, water and shelters. Humanitarian aid starts with bottom level, one-on-one activities such as, for example, neighbourly assistance or help from family members or friends. The higher the level of aid, the more complex the structures needed for communication, logistics and mission organization. The longest and most capital-intensive phase in the disaster response process is reconstruction. Depending on the extent and type of catastrophe, the regions affected, and the reactions from outside, reconstruction takes place very slowly. The pace depends particularly on the level of insurance payment, government aid, international empathy, and money donations. At all levels of disaster management, experiences need processing, documentation, and examination to achieve effective preparation for future events and/or to respond more efficiently. Awareness of danger rapidly decreases after a disaster and gives way to a subjective (false) feeling of security. Initiating a sustainable learning process could avoid this development.

Management from the beginning (emergency management) till the end (rescue and recovery) is a very important topic with respect to successful disaster coping. Whereas many principles from classic organization theory are available for managing businesses (from functional ones to institutional economics), no generally accepted management concepts exist in the area of disaster management. The particular challenge of a good emergency and rescue organization is to cope with human mistakes and external pressure. However, such buffer-prone and, in a certain sense also stress-resistant, organizational forms still need definition for different kinds of events: Whether hierarchical organizations–with how many levels–flat ones or networks whether as a project organization or based on a permanent and professional staff, each type of event and management is to be considered separately because of the absence of evidence-based research. The reason is that institutional frameworks and cultural influences are linked to each other, and in some cases cultural influences can override institutional framework conditions. For instance, to establish a disaster management in a bottom-up model in Japan is practically impossible even though in European countries a bottom-up model is one of the most potentially successful ones. The reason for this is that the Japanese and Europeans have completely different understandings of authority and correspondingly deal with authority figures in a very different way. While Europeans are used to handling decision-making under their own supervision, the Japanese have much more difficulty, particularly when supervision is not available and decision makers are not directly accessible. Logistic processes are also subsumed under disaster response and management However, a disaster management does not mean an orderly process which is successfully carried out via the well known supply chain management models but rather with goods delivered in an unspecified quality and quantity at any time. An example is a certain police commander in charge of fighting a fire on freight train carrying petrol at a train station in Central Europe who had to integrate 1000 volunteers into an orderly leadership and logistic process. A further example is the problem of donation money collected by the non-profit organizations etc., which gains an increasing importance in a world of growing globalization, especially through the worldwide media reporting. Since donations are a scarce resource, carefulness during dealing is important, which particularly refers to the need of the establishment of an efficient project management without any detour. Mega-events such as the tsunami in Southeast/South Asia mobilized over 20% more donors. As a consequence other works threaten to end up in the back of people's memories. These examples show some issues of the actual core business of disaster management and represent a rich pool of opportunities for business economic research.

Unfortunately, the topic of disaster management could increase regarding the importance of social and environmental dimensions over the next years. For this reason, business economists are wise to look into urgent research questions in this interdisciplinary area. This includes topics such as risk assessment, risk allocation and principal organization from an economic point of view as well as problem oriented prevention and relief strategies or business continuity planning from a management point of view, respectively. So, business continuity planning has to do with juxtaposing a regular and an extraordinary situation in the same company and smooth planning.

This is already a topic in many countries, for example in connection with the feared Avian Flu pandemic, banks and insurance companies already prepare for a possible epidemic just as hospitals and communities do. Another topic which consistently reappears in disaster management is the decision-making process. Decisions made under stress and fear provoke a loss of control and give rise to mistakes. They demand appropriate routines and organizational forms to improve their quality. The same is also true for getting along with the volunteer army which is usually immediately available in a disaster. Interactions between institutions and with the media, that is information for and communication with the population, are also decisive for responding to a disaster. Credibility, based on objectivity, fairness and consistency of the information is the basis for good communication with the victims and those potentially in danger. Public institutions–especially emergency organizations on different levels–can influence the communication process by building up credibility and reducing uncertainty. Since the transnational dimension of crises and disasters will increase, there must be a synchronization of communication at the domestic and international levels and cultural differences and sensitivities have to be considered. Monitoring of efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness in disaster response is a worthwhile research topic. Accountability has an increasingly important role in the course of monitoring the scarce public finances in various countries. Besides the argument of assuring that the financial resources are efficiently allocated, the need for accountability in terms of whether the desired goals and results are actually achieved in disaster management is highlighted by the enormous damages and suffering caused by disasters.

With respect to the increasing political and social relevance of disaster management, economics and especially business administration should show a great interest to develop models on how to cope successfully with a disaster. Even though the number of articles on the topic has considerably increased in the last years, most of the studies are designed as single cases and are not synthesized. Sometimes computer models and decision support systems are presented by dealing with one or different phases of disaster management such as risk analysis, monitoring, prevention, rescue and reconstruction. In most cases they are designed for one or two phases, and very rarely they support the four phases. This is especially true for natural hazards such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanism. Thus, while lots of single studies are available, the missing synthesis within a normative framework, inhibits evidence based management and benchmarking. The necessary data are often unavailable and most of the cases are handled with respect to plausibility and intuition. Each event seems idiosyncratic and the tendency to repeat inefficient patterns by governmental bodies is high. However, to ease the impact of a disaster and reduce the suffering of the affected population, efficient and effective disaster management is a necessary condition which takes institutional and cultural parameters into account. To make these management systems more efficient and effective, business economics could contribute substantially.


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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2010 02:45 
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India need to tame biggest rivers. We need to make strings of deep artificial lakes along Yamuna and Ganges. Artificial lakes with dimensions of 10*30 KM along river could take extra water during rainy season thus helping combat floods. During draught years could be used as water source. This is one single thing that has to done. Secondly govt has to bring pvt companies in buying and storing wheat and other grain. GOI is in big mess here. Ny blood boils when I go to Haryana and Punjab where wheat is left to rot out in rain in Govt ware houses. It is no secret that farmers add bucket of water to the wheat before selling it to govt............to increase wt. :evil:


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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2010 03:25 
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How about a central command to coordinate disaster relief.

Have that central command equipped with UAVs and airborne transports, command & control over emergency food stocks, medicines & temporary housing supplies, a number of civil engineers in partnership with a rapid response team of general contractors & worker companies, a large medical team, even sanitation...etc etc. with a mandate to respond to any natural disaster in any state within 3 to 4 hours.

That would be extremely useful in dealing with "the big one" which will eventually happen killing/displacing many people.


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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2010 03:45 
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I promoted Disaster information Management system after Tsunami.
http://www.unisdr.org/asiapacific/ap-in ... -areas.pdf

India should set up a Disaster information management research centre and network as one in this link http://disaster.nlm.nih.gov/


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PostPosted: 08 Mar 2010 16:46 
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Thank you for your articles and updates. Hopefully, these can be tagged and archived away for future references.

Disasters as a function of Complexity, Complexity Theory in Disaster Management.

A few standard definitions which would be used later to explain a few fundamental concepts are given. Complex Project Management and Disaster Management actually have quite a few parallels.

The Antagonism Principle: It states that there are two types of processes active in the formation of a landscape at any time: the endogenic (tectonic) and the exogenic (meteoric) processes. Generally, these two processes more or less balance each other so that a landscape represents the outcome of a steady state process in an open, complex, nonlinear system. If any external parameter is changed, the steady state is usually re-established by means of a corresponding change of the other parameters (process response theory). This change, even in a quasi-stationary state, may not be entirely continuous, but may occur in steps of various magnitudes. Thus, for ‘disasters’ to arise, it is not necessary that the system become completely unstable so that small random perturbations send it into complete chaos.

Haken’s Slaving principle states that in the neighbourhood of critical points, the behavior of a complex system is completely governed by few collective modes, the so called order parameters, which slave all the other modes. In effect, the slaving principle has been shown to be equivalent to the statement that for a temporary order to be established, the corresponding (strange) attractor must be of a dimension which is vastly smaller than the dimension of the entire phase space: this prevents the system from wandering all over the entire phase space (= complete chaos) and confines it to a small region thereof (= ‘relative’ order or ‘low dimensional chaos’. In fact, the very concept of ‘order’ (stationary state with non-maximum entropy) requires that of all the possible states of a system, only a few are permitted. Disasters are often represented by a stepwise recovery quasi-stationarity on the original fractal attractor owing to the attainment of stability limits in individual elements of the system. These steps represent a subset of the system attractor and are governed by a power law. In fact, a stationary landscape state does not correspond to dynamic equilibrium, but rather to self organized order at the edge of chaos, including recovery, in an open nonlinear complex system.

Geological ‘disasters’ are events in the evolution of landscape systems when the latter no longer follow a regular process response pattern but leave a quasi-stable stationary attractor state. For this, it is necessary to analyse first the conditions producing stable states. The characteristic observables in such quasi-stationary states, such as the distributions of heights in a landscape, of mass in a sand pile generally, are spatially and temporally scale invariant, i.e. fractal. In a power law sampling such as Monte Carlo simulation, the number of subsets of linear ‘size’ proportional to the exponential function of the fractal set of a certain dimension is equal to the probability of encountering an event of the same ‘size’. Nonlinear open complex systems develop quasi stationary states at the edge of chaos whose temporal signature is flicker noise and whose spatial signature is fractality with a dimension vastly lower than that of the phase space.

One can, first of all, look for conditions that are necessary for the spontaneous establishment of a quasi stationary, ordered state. Evidently, for a stationary state to develop, the death rate must be equal to the growth rate in the system, otherwise one has complete obliteration or an explosion of the system. Furthermore, all ‘evolutionary’ systems must be open and dissipative. Only in such systems do the laws of equilibrium thermodynamics not hold: the processes that occur in such systems are fundamentally irreversible and thus the thermodynamic theory of irreversible processes has to be applied: the usual form of the second law of thermodynamics does not apply. In open systems the entropy may well decrease during the approach to a steady state, i.e. its value at the non-equilibrium steady state (‘ordered’ or ‘self structured’ state) may well be smaller than at equilibrium. In linear theory, a theorem of minimum entropy production holds for stationary states. Any (small) perturbation in such a stationary state always regresses; the steady states near equilibrium are essentially uniform in space if permitted by the external constraints. The stability of these states implies that in a system obeying linear laws, the spontaneous emergence of order in the form of spatial or temporal patterns differing qualitatively from equilibrium like behavior (death), is ruled out. Moreover, any other type of order imposed on the system through the initial conditions is destroyed in the course of the evolution to the steady state. Thus, a necessary condition for the spontaneous development of order is that the relations between the elements of the system under consideration be nonlinear. The order at the edge of chaos has to be (quasi) stationary (at least for a while; – otherwise the ordered state cannot be ‘seen’) with regard to small changes in the initial conditions. Thus, it is seen that ordered states are the only ones that have duration: there is a ‘Darwinian selection’ of ordered states, much as the statically stable states are selected in a landscape according to Gerber’s selection principle. Evidently, the domain of stationarity is only a window in phase space: its size must be large enough so that it is possible to observe and recognize the corresponding state as (quasi) stationary. Everywhere in nonlinear systems, there are saturation effects: self similarity cannot reach from minus to plus infinity. Often, the assessment of the size of this self-similarity and saturation window is of fundamental importance in hazard assessment.


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PostPosted: 10 Mar 2010 07:01 
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The last few decades have seen a growing interest in the human dimension of disaster and people's behaviour in the face of volcanic hazards. These factors are both hazard-related and non-hazard related and includes risk perception, cultural beliefs and socio-economic constraints. Risk perception has grabbed the foremost attention of scientists interested in people's behaviour in facing volcanic hazards. Risk perception is the estimated probability people have that hazards will affect them. The method used usually first lists a number of factors that may affect risk perception and develop this into a human ecological model of human adjustment to natural hazards. First are the nature and features of the natural hazard involved including its magnitude, duration, frequency and temporal spacing. Second are the frequency and intensity of personal experience of past, similar, events. Finally, personality factors like fate control, different views of Nature and the tolerance of dissonance creating information are significant. These factors may be independent from the socio-economic environment.
The role of cultural factors in shaping people's behavior in the face of natural hazards has been emphasized by anthropologists. Cultural theorists emphasise that individual's decisions to face hazards of various origins are embedded in social and cultural values. Both anthropological and sociological perspectives assert that people's behaviour is disconnected from the sole threat posed by the hazard to which the individual is exposed. The danger is rather filtered by an individual's perception of the world, which varies according to social values, religious beliefs, community traditions and attachment to place. Risks are here ranked according to the value given to threatened assets by a particular society. Objective risks may therefore differ from perceived risks. A significant set of studies have highlighted the role of those cultural factors in the face of volcanic hazards mostly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. A couple of authors have reviewed the importance of religion whereas Blong in his 1982 article talks about the role played by the folk legends of Papua New Guinea. The weight of social and economic constraints has been emphasized by the proponents of a radical interpretation of disasters, which emerged in the 1970s. Proponents of this paradigm assert that people's behaviour in the face of natural hazards is often independent from natural hazards but constrained by social, economic and political forces beyond individuals' control. Disasters are viewed as the extension of everyday hardships wherein the victims are marginalized in three ways: geographically because they are forced to live in marginal hazard-prone areas, socially because they are poor and cannot protect themselves from natural hazards and politically because their voices are easily ignored. This perspective emphasizes people's vulnerability or their susceptibility to suffer damage should natural hazards occur. Vulnerability thus stresses the condition of a society, which makes it possible for a hazard to become a disaster. People's vulnerability in the face of natural hazards, which includes people's wellbeing and strength, their livelihood resistance, their ability and willingness to protect themselves, the societal protection and the social capital among others. Studies of people’s vulnerability in relation to social, economic and political constraints remain sparse.

A comparative study of regularly active volcanoes would enable an assessment of the role of hazard-related risk perception in contrast to hazard-disconnected cultural factors and socio-economic constraints. By first outlining the methodology and subsequently studying how people behave in relation to the threat, we can investigate the importance of risk perception, cultural beliefs and socio economic constraints. The aim would be to place the empirical results into a conceptual context.

joshvajohn,

I went through the article which you promoted post-tsunami, one important fact which was discernible was the response of each of the affected individuals could be measured to a certain extent by his/her standing/status within the society, things like gender play an important role in determining to what extent individuals suffer and cope with suffering. In general, women suffered more psychological damage than men (from databases of disasters and personal anecdotes of survivors of such events). To a great extent, the relief efforts have focused on this aspect by helping the affected recuperate and resume normal lives as soon as possible, the evidence of that is many women who are economically better off because they now own boats and learn how to fish in the shallow waters of the islands. They have also become mentally strengthened because they have learned swimming and carry out outdoor activities, something they were not used to before.


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PostPosted: 10 Mar 2010 20:50 
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Klaus
I agree with your comments. How to go about it? any concrete suggestions?
joshva


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 13:44 
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A survey could be a subjective attempt at studying the perception of risk and the behaviour in the face of volcanic threats. A few surveys were carried out in the island of Java which are home to Mt Merapi, Sumbing, Sindoro and Dieng Caldera. All of these surveys were designed to aid understanding of the factors underpinning the statements of awareness and perception (for e.g. the locals definition of a volcano, volcanic risk, knowledge of eruptive past, causes, reactions in case of eruptive crisis etc). Some items give info on demography and socio economic context in which the locals were living.

The results of the survey show very poor awareness of the locals in the region (where Mt Simboro and Mt Sumbing are located). 17 out of every 20 people surveyed did not know that there existed a volcanological observatory about 15 kms away nor were they able to locate it. The oral tradition and collective memory of the village dwellers has vanished over a period of 52 years mostly because the phreatic eruptions that occur within the crater are too small to be perceived by the villagers, visual obstruction has mitigated the risk perception of the villagers.

Risk perception has also been an area of concern as the oral tradition (tradition passed down centuries in the form of stories, legends, folk-tales and other forms of expressions such as paintings, murals, folk-dance) may be soon disappearing as there are very few people who carry out these activities in the present generation. This can be attributed to a sense of irrelevance attributed to oral tradition by the current generation.

Of the people who had some awareness, most of the surveyed said that they would take refuge in the nearest towns 52 kms away. However, according to the Directorate of Volcanology both of these towns lie within the delineated hazard zone and hence not safe. Hazard knowledge and risk perception in the local communities are closely linked to the Javanese cultural context. 70% of the people who were interviewed considered Sumbing and Sindoro as ordinary mountains, not as volcanoes, and therefore would not expect any volcanic activity. However, surprisingly, 60% of all people thought that both volcanoes were active. Such discrepancy indicates that people, aware of the volcanic activity, do not always use the term volcano to describe an active volcano. Conversely, when primary school pupils were asked to draw a volcano, 30% of them drew a simple mountain without any activity. Indeed, in the Javanese mental representation of the environment, a mountain (gunung) is often considered as a volcano (gunung api or mountain of fire).

As well as cultural beliefs related to the volcanoes, the survey emphasized the role of non-hazard related socio-economic factors in shaping people's behaviour in case of an ongoing eruption. For example, the physical status may play an important role. Interviews with key informants emphasised that women usually have lower hazard knowledge than men. Spending most of their time in the house or in the village—while men are working on the
tobacco fields—women have a limited knowledge of the surrounding environment. None of them has ever climbed a volcano. Despite their low hazard knowledge, women report that they would probably evacuate more rapidly than men in case of a volcanic crisis, because the latter will stay longer to look after their house or livestock. Remaining in their hazard-prone villages would make male respondents highly vulnerable to an imminent eruption. The answers of the interviewed people underlined that livelihoods will play a key role in case of an evacuation order. In Kwadungan Gunung village, for example, farmers formed 97% of the population. For poor people, food security will be more important than being exposed to a hypothetical volcanic hazard.
Since the early 1990s, many poor farmers have seen their income increasing with the upslope expansion of tobacco fields, (expansion of ∼600 ha/yr) for at least three reasons:
1 almost all the lowland land suitable for agriculture is already used;
2 the demand for the region's well regarded tobacco is still high;
3 the quality of volcanic soils is still good for tobacco even at more than 1500 m.
In the case of the Sumbing or Sindoro volcanoes, both hazard related factors (low risk perception) and non-hazard-related factors (dependency on hazard-prone livelihoods and gender inequalities are of serious concern in the event of resuming volcanic activity.

* Note: The attempt here is to construct some parellels between Indonesian/Javanese society and our people in Andaman and Nicobar islands, close to Sumatra and Barren Islands. Locals in these islands are subsistence farmers and their world view is similar to that of the Adivasis in the mainland. A holistic approach is needed to work with them. *


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 14:08 
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To Brihaspati ji, joshvajohn ji or other senior BRFites who have come across, interacted or worked with the indigenous people/ Adivasis within India and in Andamans, please share your experiences with us here. Also, please suggest methods in which the larger community can get the lessons of disaster management/mitigation to these usually isolated communities. From cyclones in Orissa to tsunami near Andaman Islands, it is these people who are at risk of being adversely affected.

In your anecdotes please feel free to bring out any particular nuances, mannerisms and behaviors that you found to be offbeat.

Thank you for your cooperation.


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 14:21 
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Note: A similar database could be developed by private initiative to map the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in particular and the Bhuj/Greater Kutch region as a whole. The lessons learnt from the 2001 earthquake should not be allowed to go waste. AFAIK, there exists a database developed by the Government but it may be rudimentary only.

About HAZUS

Population growth and urban expansion in mega-cities increase vulnerability to disasters in developing countries. In order to establish efficient earthquake disaster mitigation planning, earthquake loss estimation is indispensable. In particular, building damage estimation is important for loss estimation since the damaged buildings result in great economic loss and casualties. In order to carry out building damage estimation, it is necessary to evaluate following three points
a.Estimating the ground motions due to a scenario earthquake by modelling the source and the underground structure in the area of interest.
b.Evaluating the damage ratio based on the seismic performance of the local buildings.
c.Computing the damage distribution and the number of damaged buildings by multiplying the damage ratio by the building inventory.

Therefore, it is important to gather the data for underground structure, vulnerability of buildings and building inventory. This study is mainly focused on the evaluation of the building performance for the damage estimation in a developing country. One of the standardized tools for earthquake loss estimation is HAZUS.
In HAZUS, the seismic performance of typical buildings in the US database is given. The seismic performance of buildings, however, should be region-specific because of the different design level and construction quality in each region. Therefore, it is not appropriate to apply the building performance in HAZUS to other regions. For developing countries, simple tools for loss estimation have been proposed in RADIUS and GESI, however the estimation carried out by these two methods would not be too reliable because the tools were developed for highly simplified loss simplification. Building damage estimation due to scenario earthquakes in Manila has been conducted based on HAZUS, GESI and vulnerability functions constructed from observed damage data of the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The vulnerability functions, however, were developed only for low-rise buildings in the Philippines. It is necessary to examine the seismic performance of mid-rise and high-rise buildings for more reliable damage estimation in urban areas.

The capacity spectrum method is a simplified procedure to estimate the non-linear building response from the capacity of a building and the demand of ground motion on the building. In the method, the seismic performance of buildings can be incorporated rationally. For obtaining the capacity of the buildings, it is a valid way to integrate experts’ judgments when the available experimental and actual damage data to evaluate the building performance is limited.
The expertise of local structural engineers in Manila was used to develop seismic capacity curves of the buildings for more reliable building damage estimation. The derived capacity curves are validated by comparing with result of pushover analysis for typical buildings. Building damage due to a scenario earthquake is computed by multiplying damage ratio estimated from the capacity curve and simulated ground motion by building inventory. The estimated damage distribution is compared with that by the capacity curves of HAZUS to examine the effects of the region-specific building performance on the damage estimation.

Since the Luzon Island including Metro Manila is located between the Eurasian Plate to the west and the Philippine Sea Plate to the east, the seismic and volcanic activities are high. After the Spanish Empire colonized the Philippines in the 15th century, description or accounts of earthquakes have been maintained in various letters and chronicles. The historical earthquake data in Manila, as well as the instrumentally derived earthquake data gathered in the 20th century, have been compiled in great detail. In the greater Manila area, there are two major active faults. One is the West valley fault located between the central plateau and the Marikina valley, and another is the East valley fault situated between the Marikina valley and the Sierra Madre range. Trench-excavation survey at the northern end of the West valley fault suggests the recurrence of hundreds rather than thousands of years. Besides, these faults have high potential to produce a damaging earthquake with magnitude of 6-7.
Disaster mitigation planning to the earthquakes triggered by these faults seems as urgent issue for the Manila metropolitan area.

Building damage estimation

After setting parameters for a fault model of a scenario earthquake in Manila, ground motions at surface are computed using hybrid simulation technique and soil response analysis based on the underground structure model.

First, the buildings are classified into several categories. Capacity curve for each category is developed by integrating the expert’s opinions. The non-linear response of the building is estimated from the capacity curve and demand curve converted from the ground motion spectrum. Damage state for each building category is determined by the building response and fragility curves.
Finally, combining the damage state of each building category and building inventory data, the distribution of the building damage is computed.

Typical Scenario Modeling

The West valley fault is selected as the source of a scenario earthquake because the fault is closer to the central part of Manila. The ground motions due to the West valley fault are simulated using the fault model and the underground structure model. After determining the fault length from the geo-morphology in and around the fault, the other fault parameters such as the fault width, the seismic moment, the area of asperities and the average slip are estimated based on the recipe for predicting strong ground motions. Two asperities are located in the fault and the rupture starts from northern bottom of the fault. The ground motions on the engineering bedrock with the shear-wave velocity of about 400 m/s are computed by the hybrid simulation technique. The simulation technique consists of the stochastic green function for ground motion with short period (<-1 sec) and the 3-D finite difference method for ground motion with long period (->1 sec).
The ground motions at the surface are computed by the soil response analysis with the SHAKE program. The surface soils in Metro Manila are broadly classified into three types: clay, sand and gravel. The dynamic soil properties proposed are applied in the computation illustrates the relationships between the shear modulus ratio, damping factor and shear strain for each soil type used in the analysis.

*HAZUS has been developed out of the same technology that pioneered the use of GPS to measure minor seismic shifts in Asia Minor and Latin America in mid-1980's. GoI/private players could develop better technology based on GLONASS or similar EU's satellite navigation tech*


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 16:56 
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Disaster management is a multi-stage process that starts with pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness that focus on long-term measures for reducing or eliminating risk, and extends to post- disaster response, recovery and re-construction. Investment in infrastructure systems plays an essential role in mitigation activities as it entails the need to strengthen the links of a network to enhance their survivability. The strengthening of all links to targeted safety levels may require unacceptable or even unaffordable expenditures; hence, a subset of the links should be selected. Most decision-makers approach this problem by prioritizing the links using a weighted combination of several factors without explicit linkage to the expected network performance. Instead, an optimization problem that captures how investments would alter the performance of the post-disaster network can be posed to provide a system level analysis. Then the objective is to maximize expected network performance along the needs of the response agencies, subject to a budget restriction.

Investment problems in the case of highway networks affected by earthquakes with the objectives of maximising the post-disaster connectivity and minimising the traversing costs between multiple origin and destination nodes can be proposed and studied. The links are subject to random failures, which are assumed to be independent in the earthquake context due to the following reasons. In highway networks, investment decisions for earthquake related response planning imply the seismic retrofit of the bridges, which tend to be the weakest structural components and require several weeks to months or years to restore if they fail. Links without bridges can be made functional relatively quickly (in a few hours) even if they have some damage; link failure is hence typically associated with bridge failure under earthquakes. Bridges in the highway network tend to be structurally heterogeneous due to their type, design, age, load and maintenance levels. Further, geotechnical conditions can vary from one location to another, affecting a bridge’s response based on soil characteristics and related elements. Hence bridges may have differential impacts under an earthquake; thereby link failures need not be dependent.

Decision maker (GoI) could obtain prior knowledge and make a database of the probabilities of link failure (which can be found out usually through a detailed structural analysis). The survival probability of a link is increased to a targeted level by investing in the seismic retrofit of bridges on that link, consequently a link will be either functional or non-functional after the earthquake, resulting in a network realization of surviving links. Associated with each link is also a traversal cost based on incapacitated traffic conditions. Since the focus of the planning problem is ensuring connectivity for the first responders in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, daily traffic patterns are no longer relevant. GoI could seek to allocate a budget to a subset of links for investment so as to minimise the expected value of the weighted sum of the traversal costs between the origin and destination nodes (O-D nodes), across post-disaster surviving network realizations. The traversal cost under a realization is the least path cost among the surviving paths. If no path exists between an O–D pair in a network realization, the associated traversal cost is a fixed penalty cost. The weight of an O–D pair represents the importance of connecting it for post-disaster response. The problem can be modelled as a two-stage stochastic program and an approximate solution approach can be accordingly proposed.

The problem is modelled as a two-stage stochastic program in which the investment decisions in the first stage alter the survival probabilities of the corresponding links. This method is a tried and tested one in Anatolia wherein numerical experiments on real-world data related to strengthening urban highway systems/networks against earthquake risk illustrated the tractability of the method and provided practical insights for decision-makers.


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 18:02 
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^^^ Continuation of above post

The focus here is on allocating a budget among links of a road network in order to strengthen it and enhance its resilience against disasters. The SOP involves first reviewing previous work on link improvement plans for disaster preparedness. Next, investment problems to increase capacity of networks with random demand are discussed. These problems differ from each other in two aspects:

1.We increase the probability of having link functionality by investment rather than adding new capacity;
2.The goal is to provide access for first responders in the aftermath of a disaster and thus demand and capacity may not be taken into consideration.

There exists a considerable amount of work on assessing network reliability and functional performance for road networks. Such studies are useful in providing a basis to measure benefits of investment to links, but most of them focus on link capacity degradation in day-to-day incidents and demand variability. However, for the disaster situation, connectivity of short routes becomes the critical issue.
Most studies on developing link improvement plans for disaster response, both in practice and in the literature, focus primarily on factors specific to a link such as its physical condition, characteristics, and the cost to upgrade it to withstand disasters of specific severities. The links are then prioritized with respect to a score that incorporates these factors. Earlier authors reviewed approaches for prioritizing bridges for seismic retrofitting. Some of these methods were implemented in the USA, Japan, and New Zealand. Decision makers also have to recognize that strengthening the link has implications beyond its own survivability; efficient upgrades of lifelines can never be stressed enough. For a given magnitude and location of an earthquake, they determine which links will fail and which ones will survive based on a distance threshold and calculate the probability that the network is functional, Then, they incrementally invest in critical components to increase the system reliability above a target value as a heuristic approach.

In recent years, formulations that use a systems perspective to address one or more objectives (such as response time, network accessibility, path redundancy) are being proposed. Researchers have formulated the multi-commodity maximal covering network design problem to identify critical routes for earthquake response in a deterministic setting. They use a continuous time Markov chain with failure and repair rates for each link, such that the rates can be changed with investment. They also consider how network users react to failure of links along a route and the waiting time cost of the users until the link is repaired. However, they assume that only one link fails at a time, which makes their approach non-applicable to a disaster situation such as earthquakes, where many links may fail simultaneously.

Outside the disaster context, several studies exist on investing in the links of a stochastic network to improve its performance. Previous studies include the problem of transporting commodities from their source nodes to their demand nodes in a network with random link capacities. The objective is to identify an investment policy to add link capacities to minimize the expected total cost. The total cost is defined as the sum of the investment expenditure used to increase the capacities and the minimum transport cost after the realization of the updated capacities. A two-stage stochastic program is formulated and a solution procedure based on a cutting plane technique that exploits network structure is proposed. Also, studies on the problem of investing in the links of a network with random link capacities have been made. Again, a two-stage stochastic linear program is formulated to maximize the expected maximum flow from a source node to a sink node. Bounds for the second stage program are generated. A variant of this problem with the objective of maximising the linear combination of the expected maximum flow between two nodes and the negative of the investment cost was also carried out in Turkey after the 1999 quakes in and near Istanbul.

Studies on investing in a stochastic network, such as those discussed above, have primarily focused on the changes in the link capacities due to disruptions. The link capacities are considered to change with respect to a probability distribution. They use binary states as either functional or non-functional (1 for functional and 0 otherwise). Other than capacity reductions, the effect of disruptions in the network can be explained by increases in travel times. By contrast, the more disaster mitigation oriented approach focuses on ensuring connectivity and fast response time for first responders following a disaster. Network reliability and functional performance are inter- related objectives that characterize the vulnerability of networks subject to random link failures.

A comprehensive discussion on network reliability problems that are commonly characterized in terms of connectivity through non-failed links have been made in earthquake engineering symposiums held in Japan. Perform ability measures, such as overall or maximum delay, total travel time between O–D pairs, and average throughput, aim to measure the network performance when the network remains connected after component failures. They are typically tailored to the specific application domain.

The performance of a transportation network can be defined as the network’s ability to transport passengers from their origins to their destinations in a reasonable amount of time. For road networks, various connectivity, travel time and capacity reliability definitions have been proposed to assess network performance. In connectivity reliability, under independent, probabilistic and binary mode of operation (functional or not), the probability of connectedness of an O–D pair is measured. This also constitutes part of the system performance measure along with travel time in the surviving network.

A number of journal papers have addressed the stochastic degradation of link capacity due to day-to-day traffic incidents rather than a disaster situation. These articles focus on travel time variability considering travelers’ route choice behavior and traffic equilibrium. Since work in this area remains out of the disaster context (and hence would be OT here), the aim is not to reduce the vulnerability of a network to enhance its performance. Similarly, past studies in network reliability have not shown how to make link investment decisions to increase reliability. In this study, reliability and performance has been incorporated in a single framework and can be enhanced through investment decisions. This model and solution approach can be used by local and central government agencies to aid investment decisions to upgrade a highway network for disaster response.

In India, the presence of a large rail network (sometimes side by side) introduces an interesting alternative as well as another stochastic variable within the complex nodal network, the amount of coupling/decoupling between highway and rail networks could potentially signal the amount of work which needs to be done to get a viable assessment with regard to preparedness and pre-disaster investment decisions.


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PostPosted: 15 Mar 2010 22:20 
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India ill-equipped to respond to Haiti-style disaster
http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/busine ... 46747.html

'Modify hospitals to make them disaster resistant'
http://sify.com/news/modify-hospitals-t ... hgjac.html


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PostPosted: 17 Mar 2010 17:02 
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Western New Britain (a province of Papua New Guinea) provides the essential environmental background for understanding human responses to circa 40,000 years of volcanic activity. Lithology, grain size, and mineralogy of the tephras, interpreted for the first time, elucidate the varying volcanic provenance, especially of the Pleistocene beds, and the environmental conditions which former inhabitants experienced.
This volcanic bed sequence provides an important long-term record of how humans coped with volcanic adversity in Papua New Guinea. The stratigraphic record contains abundant evidence for human settlement during the intervals between volcanic eruptions. Following plinian and subplinian eruptions, people abandoned the region for significant periods of time. In some cases, these cataclysmic events caused major cultural disasters characterised by local population extinction and loss of some significant types of cultural behaviour. Despite the punctuated record of settlement and changes in material culture, over the long-term, human populations found effective ways to maintain themselves within an active volcanic environment. Key responses included persistence of mobile and flexible settlement patterns, planned and staged uses of raw materials, social exchange, and increasing levels of landscape management.

Collaborative research amongst geologists, physicists, palaeobotanists and archaeologists has been integrated to give a detailed analysis on the stratigraphical records, micro-fossile, geo-morphology and ancient artefacts. These provide an intriguing history of interaction between volcanic hazards and cultural responses. Despite the damaging impacts of volcanic eruptions, human societies have persisted in the region with remarkably few changes.

The human history is characterised by local disappearances of populations as a consequence of volcanic activity, occasionally followed later by the introduction of new forms of cultural behaviour. Alongside this punctuated record, however, there is also evidence for long-term, gradual change, particularly in population levels and subsistence patterns. The role of detailed stratigraphical studies of volcanic sequences in the assessment of how volcanic disasters have shaped human history can be explored in this context. The major contributions of the lithological and mineralogical studies were to provide the essential environmental background and foundation necessary for addressing questions about the sources and nature of the volcanic hazards and for assessing their varying impacts on resources important for the maintenance of cultural groups.

This area in West New Britain province of Papua New Guinea is said to be unique because volcanic activity during the Pleistocene and Holocene has created a remarkable archaeological record consisting of multiple cultural horizons buried under volcanic tephras which blanket the central part of New Britain. These well preserved contexts span the entire circa. 40,000 years of human settlement in insular Papua New Guinea. In other regions the archaeological record is largely restricted either to rock shelters dominated by deposits dating to the first human colonisation during the Pleistocene, or to particular coastal settings where taphonomic conditions (For the unitiated, taphonomy is the study of decaying organisms over a period of time and the process of fossilization and specific conditions necessary for fossilization) are favourable for the preservation of palaeolithic pottery. Consequently, most areas are characterised by patchy sequences, and the archaeological record of the early and mid-Holocene in most of island Papua New Guinea is very poorly known.

In addition to the opportunity to track human behaviour through time, archaeological research in the Willaumez Peninsula has also taken advantage of the regional tephrostratigraphy to study human behaviour at the scale of whole landscapes rather than single points or sites as in most archaeological research. The relative chronology provided by the tephrostratigraphy has been supplemented with a quite a few radiocarbon dates.

The method which has been used to analyse and interpret past human behaviour is spatial analysis of the archaeological and plant microfossil data recovered from the many test pits. One of the major questions posed by this ongoing research is to what extent the volcanic history that preserved this unique archaeological record was also responsible for shaping the history of human behaviour in the region.

Geological studies have been an integral part of the ongoing archaeological research in the region. Collaborative work has built up a tephrochronological sequence for the Holocene period that forms the basis for reconstructing the later prehistory in this region. There is a site called FABM (Kupona Na Dari in the local dialect), this locale provides an excellent site of late Pleistocene eruption activity in the cover beds in the wall of a quarry. This site has been deemed important because it preserves some of the earliest evidence for human colonization of the Bismarck chain archipelago. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of the beds indicates that the sequence extends back to about 40,000 y.a or older.

Whilst the macroscopic stratigraphic record provides an indication of the variable environmental conditions at a site, it does not provide details of provenance. For interpreting the nature of risk that the Pleistocene eruptions posed for human settlement in the wider region, it would be useful to knowthe source of the tephras at FABM. To this end a detailed mineralogical analysis of FABM was undertaken. Attribution of provenance is based on
1.grain shape (to separate material with a volcanic source fromthatwith a sedimentary origin)
2. mineralogy (for grains with a volcanic source).

Within the spectrum of average volcanic rocks there is a gradual change in mineralogy from one of olivine-clinopyroxene-orthopyroxene-Fe oxide-calcic plagioclase, for basic compositions, to one of quartz-orthopyroxene-biotite-Fe oxides plagioclase, for acidic compositions. Applying this generalisation, the various mineral associations down the FABM profile are used to infer styles of volcanism. The effect that a particular event might have at a specific site is further influenced by weather conditions and distance from the source of the event, but an estimate of the significance of these factors can be gained from the thicknesses of individual beds.

In general it is difficult to attribute particular variables to a specific type of eruption, however there is some generalisation and in the following interpretation, there is some association of the measured variables with specified styles of volcanism.
In summary, most of the section at FABM represents a long period of tephra accretion where dustings of volcanic ash were added to the landscape, with minimal impact on the forest cover. This was punctuated by at least two coarser beds representing regional plinian eruptions and three subplinian events that accumulated in a short time period and may have had significant impact on the vegetation cover.

Human Responses

The study of human responses to ancient volcanic activity in West new Britain is a subject of ongoing research. One of the difficulties of interpreting the results of the archaeological and environmental analyses is the paucity of comparable data from nearby regions, with much less complete archaeological records. This makes it hard to track the movements of refugees following major volcanic events, and to distinguish to what extent changes in behaviour observed in the study region are solely the product of response to volcanic disasters or are due to processes taking place across the wider region as a whole. Another problem in trying to discriminate between areas directly impacted and other regions is that archaeological evidence, primarily in the form of obsidian (a form of natural glass produced in high pressure eruptions) tools derived from outcrops in West New Britain, shows that social networks extended across large regions. This means that a human disaster in one region could have had effects over a much larger area than was directly affected by volcanic activity: e.g. through refugee populations; breakdown of trading relationships; or resulting challenges to cosmology. At this stage we can only confidently reconstruct the history of impacts within the study region itself.

Given the evidence for the staged production of multi-purpose, transportable stone tools and the presence of obsidian artefacts derived from outcrops located in several different directions from the site, FABM is thought to represent a base camp from which groups ranged over relatively long distances It seems that the first colonisers to the region had arrived with a subsistence pattern and flexible stone technology that provided an effective means for coping with volcanic hazards. By sustaining high levels of mobility, groups were able to range over large areas and move in and out of dangerous or non-productive areas. This pattern, which continued until at least the mid-Holocene period, seems to be different from subsistence strategies adopted in Pleistocene New Ireland, where the emphasis was on movement between localised resources until 20,000 yr Before Present years. Whether the New Britain and New Ireland patterns were due to different environments encountered by the early colonisers (dynamic, volcanic versus stable), or because the populations derived from a different source, requires further research.

It is quite significant that the social changes associated with stemmed tools took place during the very low level of volcanic activity represented by the tephra accretion at FABM, where they might have been intensive use of the location for agriculture or housing. The evidence for cultural change at this time, despite the continuing volcanic activity, suggests a number of interrelated possibilities which are difficult to unravel on the basis of data from this single site.
Firstly, while volcanic activity was present during the Pleistocene, there may have been little room for innovation, but when the incidence of disasters abated, changes in social organisation took place. Secondly, population growth within the wider region may have reduced possible places for refuge during volcanic activity, and therefore led to a more intense use of resources and consequent emphasis on social differences as expressed by the stemmed tools. Thirdly, human groups may have learned how to adjust to the presence of low amounts of volcanic ash and therefore grown and thrived despite ongoing volcanic activity. Clearly, more archaeological research is required to discriminate among these and other plausible scenarios for the introduction of stemmed tools.

Within the Holocene relatively high levels of mobility continued and were supported by a flexible stone tool kit, although the degree of mobility decreased, reflecting a gradual shift in the intensity of landscape management and a higher dependence on cultivation. Variations in mobility are inferred on the basis of the way stone resources were acquired, manufactured and curated. Changes in use of landscape have been monitored through the study of microscopic charcoal and plant microfossils. Whether these trends represent adaptation to the frequent devastation caused by the tephra falls over the very long-term, and/or are related to changes in subsistence and population levels in the wider region, are questions being pursued in ongoing research.

The replacement of the society that made and used stemmed tools by one in which ceramics played an important role suggests that early Holocene eruption was correlated with, if not the cause for, cultural extinction or at least a significant social change. Following this eruption, we observe very little alteration in the stone tool assemblages up until the end of prehistory. After the large plinian eruptions ceased following the 12,000 BP mark, there was detectable loss of volcanic impacts through apparent rise in population, a change to larger and more clustered settlements, a major increase in the intensity of cultivation, and a reduction in mobility.

In summary, Pleistocene populations adopted appropriate ways to cope with relatively frequent volcanic disasters through mobile patterns of subsistence and settlement, but after the hazards decreased significantly, a new form of society developed. A correlation between the scale of the volcanic event and human responses is also present in the Holocene archaeological record. Although mobility and flexibility continued to be important aspects of how people responded to volcanic disasters, the sequential events led to the replacement of a social pattern that had developed during a long period of volcanic quiescence. This change was only short-lived, perhaps because of the renewal of volcanic events shortly afterwards. When Witori Volcano went into relative quiescence, marked changes in population levels, intensity of cultivation and settlement took place.

The study highlights the importance of cross-disciplinary work in the study of volcanic hazards and human impacts. Although modern societies may not respond to volcanic activity in identical ways to ancient groups, the historical information derived from the study of long sequences containing archaeological data provides a useful perspective. It is very clear that the cultural history of the Willaumez Peninsula was punctuated by relatively frequent disasters. In the face of these, people developed highly flexible strategies of land use and social exchange which enabled them to survive through finding refuge and then to re-colonise following the most severe events and even to persist during lesser volcanic activity.


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PostPosted: 19 Mar 2010 03:13 
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There are very few active faults on Indian soil, apart from the main Himalayan fault-lines. The Bhuj or Latur quakes were more a result of activation of dormant or paleo faults.

(1) Scenario simulation : is there any comprehensive modelling effort involving geologists, sociologists, economic geographers, hydrologists to run thousands of runs to see "what is most likely" to happen when variosu factors combine ?

(2) Then there is the problem of formulating a response strategy based on those simulations. Sometimes, strengthening links by investing may not be sufficient to save life and property.

I will illustrate this with some personal experiences. In the 1978 floods in the east, I was too young to be allowed as part of the relief teams that my parents were involved with. I was taken only after the waters had gone completely.

(a) People of the area, mostly tribals and some caste/OBC farming communities were more or less unpreapared. There was little information of actionable value coming from the admin in proper time. As it turned out the floods happened because waters were released "abruptly" to save the "dams". So it seems that projections about immediate future water levels, and projections based on accurate and up-to-date info about land use patterns and topology are absent. Even the admin perhaps have no way of knowing how the water levels over a whole area including the dam, channel and catchment systems and flows are going to evolve over time over say a week.

(b) The traditional building techniques were good to withstand slow moving but rising waters. The houses were usually built on long experience on high or specially advantageous ground that were known to the natives. The houses of two storeys were made of earth that had been prepared in a special way : this was carefully chosen earth, mixed with finely broken burnt pottery shells, finely chopped straw, certain local fibres like jute, "shon", konga - which are naturally stable in water for long times, and natural wood resins were mixed together and allowed to set and mature for some time before being used to build up the walls and foundations. Most of these old houses actually had withstood the flood waters.

Also old-timers usually stocked up on grain, dry red chilli, lentils/gram, and cooking oil, tamarind, molasses, dried root ginger, etc. at the beginning of the rainy seasons. These were usually hung from rope hangers from the ceiling [even pumpkins lasted a long time this way]. Also stocked were straw, and broken grain for the animals. The area produced sugarcane so they also had these huge metal cane-juice boiling "karadhi"s. These actually floated on water and were used to ferry people [difficult to paddle unless you are experienced].

Palm trees [ the "taal" black-fruit bearing one] were normally planted and cherished throughout the region. The advantage of this tree is that it is quite tall and very robust to floods and rapid or strong water flows. It produces a large number of fruits just along the rainy season and are also very nutritious. People could survive on this fruit even if the grain fields were submerged or stocks washed away - since the fruits appear on the top of the palm out of reach of flood waters.

Added later : the trunk of the taal tree can be used to build excellent canoes! The practce is going out of knowledge because most of the taal trees are cut down or not replanted when they die!


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2010 16:15 
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The literature on people’s response to natural hazards tends to be split into two paradigms: The first argues that the choice of adjustment depends on how people perceive rare and extreme natural phenomena and the associated risk. The second considers that people's behaviour in the face of natural hazards is constrained by social, economic and political forces beyond their control. It could be stated that, in order to understand people's behaviour in the face of disaster threats, risk perception has to be balanced with non-hazard related factors and structural constraints. A questionnaire based study (along with additional interviews with key informants) in Central Philippines has shown that a high perception of risk does not stop people from choosing to forms of living that put them at high threat from lahars. Furthermore, an insufficient opportunity for making a livelihood in resettlement centres and strong attachment to native villages push people back to the banks of lahar channels. Everyday hazards of poverty and the threat to cultural heritage weighed heavier than this seasonal natural hazard. In other words, in a context of economic and social hardship, risk perception of volcanic hazards is necessarily balanced with other risk perceptions. It is never argued that risk perception is unimportant for understanding people's adjustment to volcanic environments but rather stresses the need for placing it in its larger and daily contexts which are independent of natural hazards.

It has been very common to argue that individuals choose to adjust or not to the threat of natural phenomena, or hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, which are rare, in time, and extreme, in magnitude. The choice of adjustment basically depends on how people perceive rare and extreme threats and the associated risks for themselves. An individual or a society with a low perception of risk, it is argued, is likely to adjust poorly to the threat. On the other hand, people with a high risk perception are likely to behave in a positive way in the face of natural threats. Risk perception is different from the simple knowledge that a hazard exists in the environment and instead refers to the possibility people give that a hazard will affect them. A society-based classification of adaptations and adjustments to natural hazards, (depending on people's perception of nature’s threat) distinguishes unconscious biological and cultural adaptations from incidental or purposeful adjustments. It contrasts traditional societies, with an alleged poor capability of facing natural hazards, with industrial Western societies whose adjustment is more effective albeit still not perfect. The perception-adjustment paradigm also spread to the institutions (e.g. national governments, international organizations, consultant agencies) in charge of managing volcanic hazards and disasters. In the face of volcanic threats and inadequate behavioural response, structural and technical solutions (e.g. sabo dams and dikes to control lahars, electronic devices to closely monitor the activity of the volcano, hazard mapping) are preferred along with evacuation plans and information campaigns to raise people's perception of hazardous phenomena. The influence and recommendations emanating from the perception-adjustment paradigm were evident at the advent of the 1990s International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR). The United Nations at this time pushed for an increased financial, technological and experience transfer from industrialized countries, where it was argued volcanic eruptions do not cause much damage, to developing states, where volcanoes wreak havoc.

Most critiques of the above perception-adjustment paradigm challenge the argument that people have a range of choices to adjust to the threat of a natural hazard. Drawing on the cases of the economically developing world, scholars argue that people's behaviour in the face of natural hazards is constrained by social, economic and political forces beyond their control. Political neglect, social marginalization and difficulty in accessing resources compel powerless individuals to live in hazard-prone areas without appropriate physical and social protection. This perspective emphasizes people's vulnerability or their susceptibility to suffer from damage should natural hazards occur. A set of indicators reflect the vulnerability of disaster victims. Victims of natural hazards are frequently disproportionally drawn from marginal social groups such as women, children, elderly and the disabled. Vulnerable people are also those with limited or precarious incomes (low wages, informal jobs, lack of savings) that reduce their ability to protect themselves in the face of natural hazards (location of home, type of housing, knowledge of protection measures). Vulnerability also results from inadequate social protection (health insurance, health services, construction rules, prevention measures, etc.) and limited social capital (solidarity networks). It is thus crucial to consider both people's vulnerability and its root causes which lie in their daily and unique local contexts. Natural hazards are then viewed as a highlighter or amplifier of daily hardship and everyday emergencies rather than an extreme and rare phenomenon. Recommendations on how to mitigate people's vulnerability in the face of natural hazards are fundamentally social, political and economic in nature, e.g. poverty reduction, fair access to land and resources, better societal protection through government investments in social services. Specific risk management measures are viewed through community-based disaster risk management which underlines people's participation in hazard, vulnerability and risk assessment. Such activities have been championed during the 1994 International Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Yokohama, Japan, by the United Nations which marked a change in international disaster management policies.

Risk perception and people’s adjustment in the face of hazard threats.

In case of the 1991 Mt Pinatubo eruption, the main difficulty was allowing the affected area to be rehabilitated while preventing further loss of life in lahars. Two conflicting strategies were offered to the authorities:
1.to relocate all the threatened populations or
2.to undertake structural measures to protect the villages exposed to lahars.

The perception of personal risk was higher in town B, than in the rest of the study area. 84% of those surveyed in town B had a high to very high perception of the risks from lahars and a possible eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. These interviewees felt that their homes could be affected by further events (eruption and lahars) or at least lahars. Furthermore, more than 90% of the surveyed population predicted that the lahars would return in the following rainy season. This prediction was even higher in the resettlement centres visited where 96% of the inhabitants of town B considered that lahars would return in the next rainy season. Risk perception correlated highly with previous experiences of lahars since all interviewees had been affected at least once by this phenomenon and one third of the respondents had been hit seven times or more. However, risk perception did not increase with the number of times someone had experienced a lahar. 92% of those affected one to three times had a high to very high risk perception versus 89% for those affected seven times or more. Beyond the first experience, the recurrence of lahars does not seem to significantly influence risk perception.

Despite the high level of threat they face, their realistic perception of this and their belief that lahars would return during the next rainy seasons, the people of Town B chose to remain in their village and face the lahar threat. Others chose, on mass, to come back from relocation centres despite the fact that they felt the lingering lahar threat as well. In 1990, the population of the Town B proper reached 16,143 people. In facing the threat of lahars, the people of Town B displayed a wide range of adjustments of a technical and non technical nature. The most frequent technical adjustment (53% of those surveyed) was to raise houses onto concrete posts. Such precautions had already withstood several rainy seasons and appear to be a safe form of protection from lahars in contrast to sandbags, widely used in some areas. Indeed, while sandbags can be effective in combating floods, their effectiveness against lahars are questionable at best, it is frequently argued that sandbags may actually increase the destructive power of lahars. 31% of the population of Town B also regularly relocated at the eve of the rainy season. Interestingly, the primary reason (31% of answers) quoted by those who did not take any preventive measure was financial.

Of greater concern was that, in the event of a lahar warning, only 65% of people interviewed in Town B would have evacuated their home or their village. Moreover, some of them would evacuate to areas that could be affected by lahars or floods. In addition to the evacuation areas, which often corresponded to evacuation centres already visited during previous evacuations, the environs of these destinations and the zones that would have to be crossed to reach them could also be dangerous.

As with risk perception, behaviour in the face of the threat of lahars tended to be defined to a large extent by an individual's previous experiences. The percentage of the population displaying effective behaviour, when confronting the threat of lahars (seasonal relocation, safe place of evacuation, efficient protection measures), increased with the number of evacuations already experienced. Many individuals indicated that the evacuation centre where they have previously been evacuated to as their intended destination should they be required to evacuate again.

The experience of such crises – which also enhances risk perception – could under such circumstances increase the interest that populations take in ensuring the physical protection of their homes. These persons would thus work out effective measures to allay such concerns (raised houses, creation of a second floor to be used as a shelter in times of crisis).

It seems that the most widespread source of information was the television and radio which were used by respectively 69% and 75% of those surveyed. 38% of the people of Town B, in contrast, relied on local authorities for this information while 22% used newspapers. It is important to note that most of the “serious” national newspapers reporting on lahars were written in English, and thus, was much less accessible than the tabloids published in Tagalog. Finally, it seems that word of mouth was a widespread means of communication of lahar information (19% of the population). Other sources of information were more marginal.

While not directly asked about in the survey, religious and cultural beliefs cannot be avoided in a search for the factors shaping risk perception and people's behaviour in the face of volcanic threats. It is noted that the successive onslaughts of lahars in this particular province led political leaders, religious representatives and disaster victims to join in a common claim that God was punishing them. It is further argued that in the face of those ‘uncontrollable’ forces of Nature, Filipinos resort to a wide array of coping mechanisms rooted in cultural beliefs such as their traditional “active calculation of the odds”, sense of ‘communalness’ and burden bearing mechanisms. Also noticed is an intensification of religious practices among people of Town B following the burial of their town probably in order to both mentally and socially cope with the tragedy and to ward off further events by appeasing deities.

Risk perception in context.

The dichotomy between a high level of risk perception among the inhabitants of Town B and their determination to remain in or return to lahar-prone areas is startling. What pushed people to stay on the banks of the river despite evident seasonal danger and compelled them to develop unique strategies to protect themselves from the threat of lahar, is clear when one studies the struggle for access to resources, poverty, political strategies and cultural heritage inherent in the daily routines of life. Difficulties in accessing resources in the resettlement centres were intensified by the political policies of the local and national governments. The Mt. Pinatubo resettlement program was top-down in nature and few decisions trickled down to the victims. The lack of involvement of the victims at the different stages of the resettlement process meant that they had a limited control over livelihood opportunities, especially the poorest that had no access to capital. The Philippine government focused primarily on infrastructure development to accompany its resettlement plan. Livelihoods and social services were only second priority. Despite the lack of livelihoods available, displaced victims had to pay the government back, over a period of 25 years, for the house they got in the resettlement centres. They were also charged for water and other services like garbage collection, whereas in their native village in Town B, they were not. During the 1990s, the successive mayors of Town B took advantage of this situation by encouraging their citizens to keep strong links with their native town by continuing to register in their former voting precincts. This aspect was very obvious immediately before the election periods since the registrations on the electoral list determines the amount of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), which constitutes a significant part of the town budget. The difficulty of accessing resources in the resettlement centres and the political strategies of the local and national government acted as ‘push factors’, explaining why the people of Town B choose to face lahar hazards rather than live a safe life in the relocation sites. These push factors were accentuated by historical and cultural factors that also pulled people back to Town B. Daily livelihoods in resettlement centres were not enough to secure their family needs and pay for their house and other amenities. These ‘push’ factors were accentuated by the cultural attachment to Town B which pulled people back to their native town. In this case, the threat to an individual's identity through a loss of cultural heritage combined with everyday poverty weighed heavier than the seasonal volcanic hazard. Perception of risk related to poverty and the loss of cultural heritage was actually higher than perception of risk linked to volcanic hazards. In other words, risk perception of returning despite lahar threat was lower than the risk perception of not returning because of menace to livelihoods and cultural heritage. Interestingly, risk perception associated with other recurrent natural hazards such as floods and tropical cyclones stood lower than volcanic risk perception in the mind of the people of Town B (respectively 72% and 78% of those surveyed thought that these hazards may affect their life). In a context of economic and social hardship, risk perception of volcanic hazards is necessarily being balanced with other risk perceptions (livelihoods, quality of life, community and place attachment, etc.). In the case of Town B, what turned out to be the most critical factor behind people's choice to face the lahars was overall risk perception, not just lahar risk perception but also the perceived threat to cultural heritage (or to livelihoods).
Lowland landless farmers of the Mayon province are increasingly migrating to the flanks of Mt. Mayon to escape servile relationships under powerful landlords to whom they have to give up 50 or 75% of their harvest. These farmers prefer to squat on government owned land and risk an occasional eruption to a daily life. The income potential offered by tourism activities, vacant agricultural lands and small-scale scoria quarry easily overcomes the threat of a volcanic eruption in the minds of these people.

Volcanic risk perception cannot be fully understood and addressed if taken out of this wider context of economic constraints and cultural milieu. Firstly, as shown in the case of Town B, history and culture are of importance to understanding the present situation and the relationships people nurture with their land. The larger political-economic framework is also of critical importance. People's access to livelihoods goes beyond the specific availability or unavailability of those livelihoods but encompasses the capability or entitlement to use available resources. It reflects class relationships and the larger distribution of economic wealth, social opportunities and political power within the society. The ability to recover livelihoods and avoid falling into poverty varied by social class and was greatly helped by higher education. The present case further shows that the lack of available economic resources was the major constraint on the adoption of preventive measures.

A full understanding of the weight and impact of those structural constraints is critical to effective volcanic risk management. Overlooking these may lead people to distrust official risk reduction policies as evident in the partial disdain for the resettlement program felt by the people of Town B. To avoid such misunderstanding between decision makers and people living on volcanoes, a sustainable livelihoods approach for volcanic disaster risk reduction is required. The Town B case study illustrates that living in volcanic hazard-prone areas is possible as long as adequate preventive measures are considered by the community. However, for those measures to be culturally and economically acceptable, the crucial importance of community involvement needs to be championed. Sociology experts emphasize that “the most successful outcomes are seen with broad support and action from local residents, rather than relying only on external specialists, professionals, or interventions”. Nevertheless, external guidance often provides helpful resources as in the case of Town B, where people benefited from technical assistance to raise their houses on concrete posts.

Developing vulnerability analysis for volcanic regions involves conflating conventional hazard analysis with the study of those aspects of the wider physical environment, culture, and society, which either exacerbate or diminish its susceptibility to losses and potential for recovery. Volcanic activity may interact with the physical environment, but the key to understanding vulnerability is to recognize that there are aspects of risk which are independent of a region being volcanic and relate to dynamic changes in population, history, culture, and politics. An eruption may be the trigger, but it is often not the underlying cause of disaster.

The current discourse on volcanic risk management still often focuses solely on hazard prevention and mitigation and ignores risk emerging out of the fabric of society. This leads to volcanic risk being dislocated from daily life and thus to underlying structural constraints such as the difficulty of accessing resources, historical and cultural heritage and political economy being ignored. The dominant discourse on volcanic risk management usually limits its focus to treating the symptoms, which are definitely important, but often disregards the root sources of harm. There is however enough evidence to suggest that efficient volcanic risk mitigation goes far beyond the sole, still essential, prevention of “rare” and “extreme” hazards and requires poverty alleviation, fair access to resources and adapted social and societal protection. Those are part of the larger development policies and do not refer to disaster management programs disconnected from their social and politico-economic context.


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PostPosted: 23 Mar 2010 18:54 
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Could a natural disaster be perceived as an agent of change?

Events like volcanic eruptions challenge equilibrium models of nature. Villagers living on Mt Merapi have developed a system of religious belief, and a system of agro-ecological practices, that ‘domesticates’ the volcanic hazard. The villagers view eruptions as agents of change, often change for the good. The Indonesian government, on the other hand, technologizes and exoticizes the volcanic hazard, and conceptually and materially separates it from the realm of civil society. The state focuses its attention exclusively on intermittent moments of heightened volcanic activity, whereas the villagers focus their attention on the much longer interim periods when there is little or no such activity. This particular case shows that not just the perception of risk, but the very concept of risk itself can vary. The cultural production of such concepts co-evolves with natural patterns of perturbation.

The 1755 Lisbon quake caused a seemingly random devastation of the earthquake was seen as the greatest challenge to the reason and order of the enlightenment – and towards belief in a divinely ordered and harmonious world – since the fall of the Roman Empire.

As an ode to this event, George Perkins Marsh wrote: “Nature, left undisturbed, so fashions her territory as to give it almost unchanging permanence of form, outline, and proportion, except when shattered by geologic convulsions; and in these comparatively rare cases of derangement, she sets herself at once to repair the superficial damage, and to restore, as nearly as practicable, the former aspect of her dominion.”

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are the defining challenges to the permanence of Nature. As examples of how such cases of “derangement” are “repaired”, Marsh presented accounts of the gradual re-vegetation of Mts. Aetna and Vesuvius following eruptions. He writes, “The eruptive matter of volcanoes, forbidding as is its aspect, does not refuse nutriment to the woods.” Marsh's “Man and Nature” was a pioneering effort to demonstrate that the aggregation, over time, of the simple, everyday practices of human existence can profoundly change the physical geography of the earth.

Marsh's example of constructing lava-diverting ditches reflects an essentially equilibrium-based view of stasis and disturbance. The equilibrium model assumed stasis in both society and environment, and anything that disrupted this was problematized. The general shift in science toward a non-equilibrium model has been associated with a seismic shift in the approach to the study of natural disasters.

A generation ago, the study of natural hazards and disasters focused on natural impact, human response, and prospects for mitigation — but did not problematize any of the key concepts involved, even in cross-cultural contexts. Hazard research has been framed by concepts and assumptions which carry a historically specific view of nature, society and man and hence, by extension, of the relations between them. In particular, a community's capacity to cope with hazards is embedded in and thus a function of its relations of production; and if the latter are weakened, then so is the former.
These hazards are “redefined by the transformation in the social relations of production”. Since the early 20th century, an alternate approach has developed which emphasizes political– economic study of the concept of disaster itself, this field has also stimulated a sub-field of anthropological or ethnographic study of responses to natural hazard. A prominent theme in much of this literature is the difference in the way that natural hazards and disasters are perceived by the proximate communities versus central governments. This field has not contributed as much as might be expected to the vast literature on indigenous knowledge as exceptions, which perhaps reflects the abiding tendency to view disaster and disaster response as outside the parameters of the everyday construction and deployment of knowledge.

The local communities on the volcano have developed a system for living on its slopes and conceptualizing its hazards, which is based on naturalizing, familiarizing, and ‘domesticating’ the threat from the volcano. The state, in contrast, technologizes and thereby exoticizes this threat. Whereas the villagers see eruptions as routinized catalysts for productive change; the state sees them as episodic threats to well-being.

The ‘culture’ of hazard.

There is a marked difference between the local communities on Merapi on the one hand and on the other hand the Indonesian government, in how they situate volcanic hazard with respect to everyday life: whereas the local communities incorporate this hazard into everyday life (thus ‘domesticating’ it), the government firmly separates the two.

The villagers of Turgo have folk legends, it is their belief that there is another world within the crater of Merapi, which they characterize as parallel to their own, and which they believe to be inhabited by baureksa “spirits”. In many respects ‘life’ in Merapi's crater is thought to resemble the everyday life of the Javanese. For example, the Turgo villagers, in whose own lives animal husbandry looms large, believe that the volcano's spirits keep both horses and pigs (the latter being the wild pigs that are abundant on Merapi's slopes). The villagers believe that the spirits graze their pigs in the villagers' own fields and that they graze their horses on the highest grasslands of Merapi. These grasslands are said to belong to the spirits, their grasses are said to be reserved for the spirits' livestock, and they are proscribed for human use. The villagers say that the spirits actively manage these grasslands (the highest and thus most often affected by volcanic activity), citing as proof the fact that they are rejuvenated by every eruption. Major eruptions of Merapi are seen as manifestations of the mundane, day-to-day activities of the spirit palace. The villagers believe that house construction and cleaning is scheduled in the Merapi palace during the first moon of the Islamic calendar, the dirt and waste produced by these activities is ejected as (what the villagers perceive to be) lahar, ash, and gas clouds.

Just as volcanic activity is expressed in an idiom of everyday activity, so too is personal hazard, Turgo villagers express the threat of volcanic hazard as a feeling of getting lost, being confused, and being ‘invited’ to go away to the world within Merapi. The villagers say that those who try to lead them away while in this state of loss and confusion are wewe, female spirits who appear to them as relatives or close friends. The feeling of going off with the wewe is said to be like “the feeling of going home to one's own village — whereas in fact you are going continually upwards [toward the crater, and the home of the wewe].” Two stories told by the villagers of Turgo about people who got ‘lost’ on the volcano are as follows:

(1) “This is a story of someone who went to the market to buy rice cakes, the seller did not speak; when he returned to the village, the rice cakes turned out to be flat rocks.”
(2) “Someone wanted to buy seed rice, got lost, and it turned out that what he bought was thorns.”

These stories and associated beliefs simultaneously emphasize both the familiarity and the ‘otherness’ of the volcano.

The domestication of volcanic hazards on Merapi is important because of the material, economic adaptation to the volcanic environment that it helps to sustain. The key to this adaptation is grass to feed cattle. Turgo, along with other highland communities, never fit the stereotype of a Javanese village surrounded by proximate intensively managed, irrigated rice terraces. Up until the beginning of the twentieth century, Turgo's inhabitants cultivated maize and tubers in forest swiddens and grazed cattle on open rangelands. Cattle, now no longer free-grazing but stall-fed, were critically important to this system of agriculture, chiefly for their production of manure, which maintained the fertility of the annually cropped fields. The Turgo villagers in fact explicitly state that their ancestors replaced the function of the former swidden forest fallow with manure. Husbandry of the stall-fed cattle, in turn, depended on the exploitation (especially during the dry season, when grass resources in the vicinity of the village become inadequate) of the grasslands located up-slope, in the area that was officially closed off as state forest. Gathering these grasses is labour intensive: the grasslands are a 60–90 min walk from the village; it takes another hour or so to cut the grasses and then another hour to carry a 55–60 kg bundle of cut grass back to the village. These labour costs restrict this activity to times when there is no intensive work in the cultivated fields by the village.

Given the way that the Turgo villagers have adapted the very basis of their agricultural economy to the volcanic environment, given the way that they not only naturalize but utilize volcanic perturbation, they could be said to have a ‘culture’ of volcanic hazard. In some societies, natural hazards occur with such historical frequency that the constant threat of them has been integrated into the schema of both daily life and attitude to form what can be called ‘cultures of disaster’.” An example of such a culture is the reliance of Bangladeshi farmers upon the “normal” annual flooding of the country's rivers.

The government views the volcanic hazard as something beyond the normal social order of things, as something to be kept separate from society. This is graphically reflected in its central policy tool for dealing with the villagers living on Merapi, namely resettlement. Governmental re-settlement efforts spike upwards after every major eruption. For example, an eruption in May 1961, which destroyed 109 homes and killed five people, was followed by the transmigration of 1905 villagers. In 1978, in the wake of a smaller eruption of hot gases and ash, the government tried but failed to resettle the villagers of Turgo and settled with officially “erasing” the village from government maps. The eruption in November 1994, with a death toll exceeding anything experienced on Merapi since 1930, led to a resurgence of government efforts to remove people from Merapi's slopes — but with limited success.

The Merapi villagers display remarkable unanimity in their opposition to resettlement. In the aftermath of the 1994 eruption, 7962 households in villages lying in the danger zone were interviewed and less than 1% expressed any interest in transmigrating. Many villagers saw the government resettlement program as just another sort of hazard, and they preferred the hazard that they knew to the one that they didn't, according to one villager interviewed, “If you have to die because of the hazards from Merapi, it is the same as dying from giving up to the state”. As an alternative to transmigration, the people of Turgo were offered the option of moving into a newly-built resettlement hamlet called Sidomoro, located about 10 km down the mountain from their existing village.
The houses in Sidomoro, built with public donations, were relatively well-built, and those who settled there received considerable state aid (whereas no aid was given to villagers who returned to Turgo). However, although some villagers initially opted to move into Sidomoro, most returned to Turgo starting a month after the 1994 eruption.

Neither of these classificatory schemes, neither the spatial one nor the temporal one, relate to the local system of knowledge in the communities on the volcano — which is remarkable, given the ancient and rich tradition on Java of folk observation of volcanic activity. The government's schemes amount to an effort to technologize, exoticize, and thereby appropriate, knowledge of the volcano. The Volcanology Service's ongoing effort to assert its authority over the volcano is reflected in its periodic press briefings (drawing data from its monitoring stations on Merapi's slopes), an example of which follows:

“Yesterday, there were no volcanic earthquakes, low frequency earthquakes, or earth tremors. There were only two multi-phase earthquakes and 88 discharges of lava.”

These briefings not only emphasize the government's understanding of, and thus to some extent authority over, the volcano, but their use of scientific language emphasizes the exclusivity of this authority in representing the activity of the volcano to the public. Because government and local communities view the relationship of volcanic activity to everyday life differently, they also view differently the implications of such activity for social change.

Merapi's eruptions have historically proved to be sources of change, sometimes for ill and sometimes for good. For example, the November 1994 eruption led to the emergence of a radically different agricultural economy, with a shift in balance between subsistence-oriented and market-oriented activities. Whereas the villagers of Turgo had previously cultivated annual food crops for their own consumption, now they concentrate on the production of products for market sale. These include fodder grasses, fruit, volcanic sands (for the urban construction industry), fuel-wood and, of most importance, milk and meat from dairy cattle. The market proceeds from these products are used to buy rice which has replaced maize as their staple food grain. After the 1994 eruption, as before, fodder remains the key to the agricultural economy of Mt. Merapi; but whereas fodder grasses were formerly at best semi-managed, now one-half of the annual grass production of Turgo actually comes from planted and cultivated grasses.

These changes in the agro-ecology of Turgo have dramatically improved the villagers' livelihoods. Since the eruption, Turgo has become the foremost producer of milk in its district. The average Turgo villager now has an annual income equal to or (in the case of those who also sell a lot of fruit and fuelwood in addition to milk) greater than the national average. The increasing household income is reflected in improvements in housing “masonry houses” have grown from just over 20% in 1987 to almost 50% at present. In addition, houses are being improved with glass windows, plaster walls, flooring, and electricity. Another measure of improved livelihoods is higher levels of schooling. Many educated children look for work outside Turgo and send back money to invest in cattle. The growth in prosperity also is reflected in the development of non-farm economic activities like food stalls and employment in commercial transport and mountain/ tourism guides. The villagers of Turgo themselves summarize these changes by saying that the 1994 eruption ushered in what they call the “untroubled age”.

Post-eruption environments (e.g., of Krakatau) were long favoured by scientists for studies of ecological succession, based on the perception that volcanic eruptions created a blank slate and so whatever came next was created from “whole cloth”. The villagers on Merapi also see eruptions as important agents of change. They commonly talk about the changes brought about by eruptions, in particular changes in flora and fauna on the mountain. In village oral histories on Merapi, specific, dated eruptions play the same role that is played in the histories of other Indonesian communities by political succession (e.g. WW II, the Soekarno era, the communist putsch, the rise and fall of Soeharto, etc.). Because of the way that eruptions may jumble existing ecological and social relations, they can bring about “clean breaks” with the past, which create new opportunities and makes major innovations in socio-ecological relations possible, as was the case following the 1994 eruption. Such changes are dependent not only on the eruption, however, but also on what is happening at the same time in the wider world, which included, in the case of the 1994 eruption, the decline of the Soeharto regime (he was forced from office in 1998) and the regional monetary crisis (of 1997–1998). It might be more accurate, therefore, to call volcanic eruptions not agents of change, but ‘catalysts’ of change. It could be said that eruptions, rather than causing such changes, act as catalysts, altering the rate at which adjustments in social and political institutions occur. By accelerating rates of change, eruptions may challenge socio-ecological systems to the point that they undergo radical change (analogous to “flipping” of an ecosystem from one state to another as a result of a major disturbance). The association of volcanic eruptions with radical social change has traditionally been threatening to state rulers in the region. In Java and, indeed, throughout Southeast Asia perturbations in the natural realm have long been interpreted as presaging perturbations in the social/political realm.

Continued state sensitivity to natural perturbations, even in the modern era, is reflected in the magnitude of investment by the government of Indonesia in volcanic research and monitoring which is not commensurate with the modest toll in life and property due to volcanic activity, compared with, for example, malnutrition and infant mortality, or even other natural perturbations like fire and flood. This incommensurability reflects the fact that volcanic activity is symbolically loaded in a way that other natural perturbations are not, and death and destruction due to volcanic activity are ‘privileged’ in a way that other deaths are not (including those, for example, in the transmigration sites to which evacuees are sent. Evidence of state investment of symbolic capital in the activity of Merapi and in its ability to understand and control it consists in the amount of high-level political attention that the 1994 eruption garnered (which, again, greatly exceeded that for equal numbers of casualties from other, more mundane causes of death). This attention included early and close involvement in aid efforts by then-president Soeharto himself, including a visit to the evacuee camps. Sensitivity on this issue was also reflected, in the aftermath of the eruption, in the public debate as to whether or not the government Volcanology Service had provided adequate warning of the eruption. State anxiety about the eruption was validated in the popular mind by the fact that Indonesia was subsequently shaken by financial, political, and environmental crises, culminating in the collapse of Soeharto's three-decade-long reign.

The stance taken toward the forces of nature in Turgo is much more in line with collaboration than resistance. Exceptions to this stance are rare, one example being a query to a social worker from the headman of Turgo following the 1994 eruption of Merapi. He had seen “bunkers” in television coverage of the first Gulf War and he wanted to know whether something of that sort could be erected in Turgo to better enable them to withstand future eruptions. For the most part, such a “bunker mentality” does not characterize the stance of the Turgo villagers toward Merapi, with which, to the contrary, they are intimately engaged on a daily basis on both spiritual and material (agro-ecological) terms. This engagement is, moreover, not static but continually evolving. A distinguishing feature of community versus state gaze toward Merapi is the extent to which it focuses on periods of hazard versus periods of non-hazard. The attention of the state is highly intermittent and tied to hazard events. Immediately following (and often also leading up to) major eruptions of Merapi, there is a spike in state interest and intervention. This is when state pressure to resettle or transmigrate villagers is most intense, rather quickly receding in the months following. This is almost the inverse of the pattern of community attention.

Villagers take their chances with the occasional serious eruption, and in the worst cases they can evacuate their communities for a few days; but it is the period between eruptions that consumes their attention. Their daily agro-ecological practices (and attendant evasion of state regulations) are most responsible for enabling the villagers to adapt to Merapi's environment. In contrast, between eruptions the villagers almost disappear from state view. In the case of Turgo, which was officially erased from government maps following the 1978 eruption, the people are quite literally, officially invisible during these interim periods. The exclusive state focus on eruptions as the events most determining of the identity and welfare of these villagers produces inappropriate and unworkable policies. This is so, in part, because these policies are premised on an idealized and unattainable equilibrium. There is a perceptual, cognitive dimension to the concept of risk on Merapi volcano. Attention to this dimension has often been missing from political ecological studies.

The ‘normal’ state of nature on Java is to be recovering from the last disaster, not equilibrium and repose. (Isnt this the case in flood-prone Bihar and Assam, cyclone prone Orissa and tsunami-prone Andamans?) Thus, Merapi's eruptions, and the demand for a response by both state and local communities, are not anomalous for the country. Of greatest interest is the way that such natural perturbations and their cultural construction have historically developed in tandem. According to a leading researcher, “The assimilation and transmutation of Hindu–Buddhist concepts produced a heightened sensitivity among the Javanese to stability and tranquillity and the disruptive effects of change. It also resulted in a time sense that was based on a belief in the repeated and cyclic creation, decline, and destruction of the universe.”

This is the natural and cultural genesis of the view of volcanic eruptions as agents of change, opportunistically embraced by proximate villagers, feared and controlled by the state.

Conclusion

The device of investing hazard with personality, of anthropomorphizing the event, can be seen as an important means of maintaining cultural resilience in a society that experiences frequent disasters caused by natural hazards. It is a form of resilience because it represents an attempt by people to come to terms and deal with such phenomena by reducing ‘the awesome and incomprehensible to something prosaic and simplistic’ and so permits its incorporation within the structure of people's everyday cultural construction of reality. There is still a tendency to underestimate the extent to which disasters are also perceptual phenomena, occurrences that take place and shape in people's minds. The focus on people's physical, social, economic and political vulnerabilities and their comparable capacities or coping practices obscures just how much these are likewise cerebral events that influence behaviour.

This analysis has some obvious implications for disaster management policy in Indonesia and beyond. In particular, it suggests that policy-makers need to be more attentive to the role of perturbation and change in the social life of communities, how this affects risk perception and management, and how state views of risk are themselves inevitably socially constructed and thus contingent in value and efficacy.


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PostPosted: 26 Mar 2010 14:24 
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brihaspati wrote:
Added later : the trunk of the taal tree can be used to build excellent canoes! The practce is going out of knowledge because most of the taal trees are cut down or not replanted when they die!


This is an example of endangered intangible culture, due to the supposed "modernisation". Also, contact with urban environments and their practices seem to make villagers take to the easy urban lifestyle and disregard their traditional practices.


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PostPosted: 26 Mar 2010 17:51 
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The "taal" trunk traditional canoe - has "kayak" like advantages. It can actually travel over very shallow waters, over thick weed encrustations or water plant colonies. The long narrow shape is excellent to use in tangled vegetation, light forests, where water has risen up. Just like the "natural" water cooler, many of these technologies are really sustainable. Important is perhaps communication networks. Placing isolated or remote communities into a national grid of information exchange. Medical intervention whenever necessary. These two can be used by communities as an input to tackle many other aspects of disasters or preparation to manage them.

I once asked a group of young students, whether they could light a fire without using any of the modern aids available. Without matches, lighters, etc. Not one in the group of 50 could do anything. These are basic skills we are losing. What natural plants etc can be used as food, which part, what are poisonous, medicinal plants to be used in emergencies, lighting fire with naturally available material, making emergency shelters, navigation without technical aids, hunting or trapping or fishing, making rafts or floatation devices with what is available, - these are essential skills in any emergencies or disaster situation. How many of our populations still have opportunities to train for this?


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PostPosted: 27 Mar 2010 14:03 
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brihaspati you made a very good point. This is an area where Indian government should focus both on volunterism and training. Those days when I was at school in India we had Bharat scouts and NSS which provided some kind of training regarding the first aid training for any disaster. Now education being book oriented students and young people do not have time for such extracurricular training (may be i am out of touch with schools). I think it is essential to provide training to high school children to engage in such training and also encourage volunteer acts during those time of disaster.


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PostPosted: 29 Mar 2010 06:55 
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^^^ In light of the above posts, can it be implied that Indian society must impart/bring back knowledge from the barter system and the hunter-gatherer type of subsistence in order to effectively rebuild the regions affected post-disaster?

I mean, it would be the most optimal course of action to teach the current and future generation to "live off the land" in case they are stuck in the disaster zone and help is a few days/weeks away. Even after the first waves of help have arrived, it would take a few months to a few years to effectively rebuild the disaster zone. Hence, "living off the land" could actually be thought of as an alternative lifestyle.

In this context, we could actually learn a lot from the Sentinelese and Jarawa people.

However, there are a few roadblocks. Firstly, how do we generate interest in the current and future generations toward geography and earth sciences. Field trips could be an exciting way to learn and get your hands dirty by front-end observation of rocks such as flint, feldspar and various types of soil samples. The knowledge of which types of soil support what types of agri produce as well as properties of soil such as water retention, permeability and its suitability for construction can be imparted in the school or vocational level itself. As Brihaspati ji has pointed out, shaping of flint tools and gathering tinder are the preliminary steps toward making a basic fire. Also, the basic implements to quickly assemble a pump drill should also be imparted.

Of course, the skill set to survive within the disaster zone is vast and not limited to craftsmanship (wood and metal work), cooking, hunting, fishing, climbing trees and posts to gather fruits and nuts, moulding clay, sand and gravel to make a primitive mortar, pottery, sculpting, basics of navigation and the expert ability to convert items or objects to suit one's purpose. It requires a lot of resourcefulness and tact which surely does not come from a classroom environment.

Secondly, with the current trends in lieu of mass produce over craftsmanship, how do we prove that (during times of disaster), less is actually more and that improvisation trumps banality.

Which is where I come to my question: In the age where mass manufacturing seems to be the mantra over craftsmanship, is modern India's agrarian economy ill-equipped to deal with anything that is thrown at it? We are living in an age where a car-driver is unable to replace a flat tyre and has to run to the garage instead, our mobile phones rule our lives, very few are able to put together the components to make a motor, youth are so obsessed with careers in IT that it is next to impossible to generate interest in them for geography and earth sciences.


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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2010 20:25 
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The internet: The new face of disaster reporting

Created by British developer Ken Banks, Frontline SMS was used in Haiti to help speed aid to people who needed it
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... -editorial


Lessons from the 2004 Asian Tsunami
By Conrad Sauve, Canwest News ServiceDecember 26, 2009
http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Lesson ... story.html


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PostPosted: 13 Apr 2010 03:05 
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Vulnerable India
Apr 12, 2010, 06.24am IST
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home ... 786133.cms

Radioactive Exposure Case Prompts Disaster Management System to Take Measures
http://topnews.us/content/216271-radioa ... e-measures


Note:
All the possible disaster areas should be identified. All the people nearby these potential disaster areas should be notified. It is also possible how to make people conscious of escaping from disasters. Pre-disaster information and preparation of people are very important as well.


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PostPosted: 15 Apr 2010 03:20 
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Death toll rising in India as cyclone destroys thousands of mud homes
April 14, 2010 10:52 EDT

CALCUTTA, India (AP) -- Disaster officials in India say there was no warning issued by forecasters before a cyclone struck overnight in a northeastern region. The storm's winds topped 100 miles per hour and demolished thousands of mud homes across two states. The death toll has been climbing. Officials say at least 89 people have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands left homeless.


http://www.weartv.com/template/inews_wi ... .com.shtml

Storm rips before alarm rings
Radar too far, response too slow

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100415/j ... 341464.jsp



comments: Why people were not warned? Westbengal govt does not take these people seriously! Do they not have any warning and disaster prepareness in this part of WestBengal? Why not set it up an early warning system about these cyclones? Nowadays cyclones can easily be reported ahead. Possibly these people do not have any other places to go except to wait for their fate?


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PostPosted: 19 Jun 2010 02:09 
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For A Few Pieces Of Silver
http://www.tehelka.com/story_main45.asp ... rstory.asp

SC: Why not raise Bhopal payout?
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/indi ... 061292.cms


Does Anyone Care About Bhopal's Real Victims?
India's government, the bureaucracy and activists are all to blame for the lack of adequate compensation.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... TTopBucket


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PostPosted: 19 Jun 2010 03:18 
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Politicians are most interested in keeping their jobs, so the compensation route is always easiest for them, since they're not paying for it out of their own pockets.


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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2010 20:42 
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Below article is authored by the editor of Risk Management Monitor. It talks about the complete scene in Haiti and talks about earthquake preparedness in the USA:

Quote:
The horror in Haiti was tragic, but unfortunately all too reminiscent of past images from a decade with one unthinkable disaster after another. In a storybook world, this earthquake would be the final event in a 10-year stretch of bad fate, but it is more likely that we have simply entered a new era where rampant development and population growth means that losses will be increasingly frequent. As we forge ahead, we can either learn from the past or blindly hope the future will get brighter on its own. But hope alone is not an option. Only through better disaster planning and catastrophe response will we be able to mitigate the damage dished out by Mother Nature.

The January earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince was not only the worst natural disaster in Haiti's tortured history but the worst natural disaster in Western Hemisphere history. While the final death toll will never be known, tens of thousands were crushed instantly by falling metal and concrete, and estimates from the Haitian government have eclipsed 200,000 dead.
Not only did the magnitude 7.0 quake strike the most impoverished and vulnerable nation in the hemisphere, but in flattening Haiti's capital city, it effectively extinguished any hope that the nation's government would be able to do anything to prevent many survivors of the initial destruction from needlessly dying in the hours to come. The presidential palace collapsed, leaving the president, Rene Preval, homeless and unsure where even he himself would sleep. Countless other public officials were less fortunate still, dying beneath rubble, and those who did survive had little to no way to initiate adequate rescue efforts. The necessary infrastructure, equipment and communications capabilities were nonexistent.
For its part, the international community banded together quickly and compassionately. The outpouring of donations, benevolence of volunteers, and call to action by global leaders was truly heart warming. But unfortunately, "quickly" is a relative term after a catastrophe, and while the coordination of recovery teams was noble, it was not fast enough. In these situations, it rarely is. As impressive as it may be from a logistical standpoint to get a team of trained rescue workers in-country just 24 to 36 hours after the disaster, too many people died well before then.
Those experienced with major post-disaster environments know the sombre reality: if a person is not saved within the first 48 hours, they probably never will be. Thankfully, this is only a general rule and miracle tales reflecting the endurance of the human spirit reached the news to provide small silver linings amid tragedy. From Port-au-Prince, CNN's Anderson Cooper and others were able to recount many stories of survivors being pulled from the wreckage up to a week -- and one man, even 27 days -- after the city was demolished. We heard of those who survived inside a market because they lay in close enough proximity to water and food to survive the ordeal until they were rescued.
None of this reflects the fates for most of those trapped under concrete, however. In the overwhelming majority of cases, help never came. For tens of thousands, the end came painfully and alone, turning collapsed buildings into tombs.
But now, the immediacy of the initial -- and largely unsuccessful -- rescue efforts and disaster response in Haiti has waned, and the focus has rightly begun to turn to long-term relief, recovery and reconstruction. The United Nations, the U.S. military, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and scores of other organizations are now collectively carrying out the difficult tasks of finding adequate water supplies, nutrition, medical care and shelter for the wounded, psychologically scarred, orphaned and homeless.
Figuring out a way to get survivors and other displaced Haitians out of tents and into solid structures comes next and will be an incredibly long and arduous task -- but one that absolutely must be well underway before hurricane season arrives to again imperil a population vulnerable to weather and disease. And due to rampant deforestation, hurricanes are not the only threat. Any heavy rain could cause catastrophic landslides as debris flows down Haiti's barren, mountainous landscape.

Then, of course, comes the long-term process of rebuilding a city, an economy and a government. For Haiti, recovery probably seems impossible right now, but it is achievable. And as many have said, the nation may now have the opportunity to create what has eluded it ever since 1803 when its people fought for, and won, their freedom from France to become the first independent Latin American nation: a flourishing society.
But for the rest of the world, this unfathomable tragedy -- especially so soon after major disasters in Southeast Asia, China, Burma and even in the developed world in New Orleans -- offers an opportunity to seriously re-evaluate catastrophe preparedness and response.

Thinking About the Unthinkable
The mismanagement and collective failure of all the bureaucracies that responded after Hurricane Katrina to save the helpless, dying citizens of New Orleans was an unforgivable violation of public trust. But it was more than just a failure to respond. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in addition to many experts throughout Louisiana and New Orleans, had been aware of structural problems in the city's levees since the 1980s. Beyond concerns surrounding substandard flood walls, many credible agencies had warned -- for decades -- that the barrier islands and wetlands that had historically mitigated storm surge in the Mississippi Delta region had been disappearing since the 1930s, leaving the entire city more susceptible to rapid sea rise than ever before.
Such warnings did not exist solely in unread academic reports or engineering studies; both the local newspaper, the Times Picayune, and the Houston Chronicle had published stories that foretold the future damage, and experts had communicated the potentially dire repercussions of inaction to nearly all levels of government, from the local parishes to the Washington Beltway.
As we learned in August 2005, the levees were never properly fortified and no formalized, post-breach response was properly enacted. And, of course, the theoretical fail-safe, FEMA, failed. Colossally.
Haiti and New Orleans alone should be enough to prompt an outcry for better disaster preparedness management, both globally and in the United States. But the past decade has given us so many other wake-up calls: 9/11, the Bam earthquake in Iran, the Southeast Asian tsunami, the Sichuan earthquake, the typhoon in Burma. And these are only the tragedies in which the devastation was truly unthinkable.
But at what point do these unthinkable tragedies cease to be unthinkable? At what point do we admit to ourselves as a global society that such tragic events will inevitably continue to happen? At what point do we say to ourselves, we should have seen this coming?
In places like Haiti, Burma, Sumatra and rural China, there is obviously a ceiling on what more could have been done to save lives. Building codes are nearly nonexistent, infrastructure repairs go largely neglected and the local governments are simply not capable, both in terms of resources or prioritization of public need, to plan for an event that may occur on a one-in-one-hundred-year time line -- if ever. Providing basic nutrition, health care, development and employment to raise the general standard of living sadly remain much more urgent endeavours in many areas of the world.
Still, there are certainly things that the global community can do to recognize that these types of large-scale disasters will occur, and the response to the Haitian earthquake illustrates how the questions of command and jurisdiction detract from the on-ground operations.

The UN, which has maintained a near-constant deployment of peacekeeping personnel on the ground in Haiti since 1993, were the first responders. Though its operations building collapsed in the quake, killing many, some of those who survived were able to supply initial damage assessments and help the quick-arriving UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team begin rescue efforts. By January 14, less than 48 hours after the initial quake, this global crack squad of disaster experts were joined by UN personnel from the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, with officials from the Red Cross and other nongovernmental agencies also arriving to assist with health care, water/food distribution and other efforts. Soon after, a major influx of UN peacekeepers landed in-country, providing much-needed security and transport capabilities. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), a regional natural disaster response team as part of the CARICOM Caribbean community of states, also sent more than 300 people to help in various ways.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense's Southern Command, which operates out of Miami, immediately flew planes over the island to help with damage assessments, and within 24 hours of the earthquake, at least 30 soldiers joined the 60 troops permanently stationed in Haiti. The Coast Guard arrived soon after and thousands of troops were later deployed, with the U.S. military taking control of the airport and managing all air traffic shipments into Haiti. Military personnel also met with State Department officials and discussed operations with the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), an independent agency in Washington funded by the State Department, which sought advice from countless experts in its network, both in the private sector and in agencies including FEMA.
This arrival of thousands of qualified people from an alphabet soup of organizations goes to show that poor mobilization was not what led to so many reports of organizational in-fighting, mismanaged aid distribution, ineffective security and supply planes being turned away from the airport. The boots were on the ground as quickly as could be expected. The confusion and frustration centred around who should be running the show.
While the U.S. military clearly has the resources, manpower and distribution expertise for large-scale operations that the State Department lacks, some have suggested that disaster response should not ultimately be run by those wearing camouflage. Just because the military can do it, does that mean it should be taking charge over what should logically be a civilian-led operation in another country run by the State Department? Perhaps even USAID or FEMA should have ultimate authority given their expertise in the field. Given its proximity and familiarity, the United States seems a natural fit for commanding disaster response in Haiti, but where does the UN factor into the chain of command in future, more distant disasters?
These are all questions that should be answered before the disaster occurs. Whoever gets there first should of course take charge and do all they can, and even the best planning might quickly turn to ad-hoc, disjointed action if communication proves impossible, but some expectation of overriding jurisdiction should be clearly in place. The decisions that the coordinating organization must make often revolve around questions such as whether to prioritize distributing water or medicine, so there are no easy choices. But when you are trying to beat the clock to save lives, a bad decision might be better than indecision.

Preparedness Starts at Home
Even with better coordination, the concept of efficient global disaster planning is likely a pipe dream. The scope and challenges are just too great. Groups like UNDAC for the global community and CDEMA in the Caribbean have been evolving and may eventually become de facto international or regional versions of FEMA, but the opportunity for real, immediate progress lies in the developed world and, specifically, in the United States.
The country faces catastrophic threats from coast to coast, many of which have the potential to become "mega-disasters" with $100 billion losses and thousands of deaths. New Orleans remains ill-prepared for the next major storm. People believe Katrina was a worst-case scenario. Hopefully it was. But Katrina did not even hit New Orleans directly, and stronger hurricanes on a straight collision course with the city are possible, particularly if sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf continue to rise.
Houston, too, faces extreme windstorm risk. Hurricane Ike provided another near-miss and even the damages seen there were considerable. If a powerful storm actually hits Houston, or even Galveston, head on, the economic losses will be considerable, and the loss of life, if evacuations are not properly headed, may also prove tragic.
Those living in the Northeast remain largely unaware that a category 3 hurricane will inevitably beat the odds and batter coastlines from New Jersey to New Hampshire. A storm of that strength raced up the Eastern Seaboard at record speeds in 1938, and a similar rogue hurricane is overdue.
Miami is the softest target for windstorms. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 actually sidestepped South Beach, where one-third of the people failed to evacuate, and was still the most expensive pre-Katrina hurricane in U.S. history. Losses of more than $100 billion are estimated if the same winds hit today given the uptick in development, both inland and coastal, over the past two decades.
We are all keenly aware of the inevitable "Big One" that will hit California. Yet somehow, retrofitting buildings in earthquake country is still seen by many as a nuisance to be pushed back as far as possible, just as levee fortification in some below-sea-level communities remains underfunded and delayed, despite a commendable statewide call to action to bolster many of these vital defenses.
A potentially worse seismic threat dwells in obscurity in the Midwest. In 1812, an estimated magnitude 7.0 quake in the area reportedly struck with such force that it rang church bells in Boston and made the Mississippi River run backwards. Two hundred years ago, the affected populations in Memphis and St. Louis were tiny compared to the four million-plus who now live in the two cities' greater metro regions. Add in the fact that the New Madrid Seismic Zone also runs through six other states, and that the building standards, earthquake preparedness and citizen awareness are all well below the levels present on the West Coast, and this is arguably the most dangerous disaster threat facing the nation.
None of these are mythical scenarios that may or may not occur. The exact date of their arrival cannot be predicted, but, in time, we know they almost certainly will happen. Every morning that we awake to find out that we are still safe is a dodged bullet. It is hard to believe that complacency has set in after a decade that included both September 11 and Katrina, but many areas of the nation remain dangerously underprepared.
Given the recession, people might wonder where the funding for improved preparedness will come from. Rebuilding levees, retrofitting buildings, launching public awareness campaigns, conducting tabletop modeling exercises and creating evacuation plans are not free. But historically, money has always been abundant for homeland defense if needed. Terrorism and asymmetric warfare are grave dangers that also deserve public financial backing, but in a post-Cold War world, there are few threats to local populations and economies on the U.S. mainland greater than these natural disasters.
Thousands of lives may be in the balance, and as we have seen in both New Orleans and Lower Manhattan, catastrophes are just as possible domestically as they are abroad. The longer we go without taking the necessary steps to increase preparedness, the sooner we will have to stop calling these natural disasters and start calling them man-made catastrophes.

Jared Wade is editor of Risk Management.


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PostPosted: 08 Aug 2010 05:37 
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I think India should consider setting up a "disaster response team".

For example.

Primary disaster stage:
10 Herculas trype of transport aircratfs.
3 Ultra heeavy transport aircraft, which can carry earth moving equipment, so that it is possible to make a temporary landing strips /roads.
20 field hospitals
25 teams of search and rescue (for earth quakes)
100 000 solar battery charges for mobile phones.
250 mobile cellular phone stations, with power backup
250 000 water purification units.


Relief packedge.
25 million rations of ready coocked meals in a box/bag (with a small heater element).
1 million waterproof warm overhals.
250 000 tents

10 000 trained soldiers ready to be moved in within 12 hours of disaster.


Secondry disaster stage:
Infrastructure equipment to restore regular food supply and basic infrastructure.
Food to be rapidly available.

Third stage
Rapid infusion of funds to rebuild the local infrastructure and other gov activity, so that money is infused into the local economy.
Allow gold as collateral towards small bank loans.
Offer small interest free loans, against collateral.


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PostPosted: 16 Aug 2010 02:31 
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Miracle child survives flood

http://ca.yahoo.com/_ylt=AmRfNNA0WziHf6 ... l=21404284


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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2010 04:37 
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India Develops Advanced Aerostat System For Surveillance
http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v5/ne ... ?id=553360

National Disaster Information System in India
Jamais Cascio, 16 Feb 06
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004113.html



THere is a need for Disaster information policy in India. This policy should enhance the correct information received from different networking from around the world at the right time and make it available to the public at the right time. For this a management and distribution of such disaster and postdisaster information are very much needed in a country like India. I hope there is a large scale drill and training not only related to the terror events but also related to natural disasters too.


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PostPosted: 01 Mar 2011 17:48 
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Solar flare may affect India: NASA
http://english.samaylive.com/lifestyle/ ... -nasa.html

I am not sure whether someone is following up this news and the impact in case it makes and any action to be taken and so on to make sure whether this is a concrete observation.


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PostPosted: 13 Mar 2011 03:36 
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Japan tsunami: India ill-equipped for similar disasters
http://www.indiatoday.intoday.in/site/S ... ities.html


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PostPosted: 13 Mar 2011 16:25 
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Bhai log first of all very timely thread. Thread should mainly focus on saving lives and then saving property. I have executed my right to information by sending email to GSDMA (gujarat state disaster management authority) asking for more information available to public domain.

Though I have got good information from their website especially about earth quake and buildings I have still asked them to supply me with instructions about building quake resistant building. More importantly I have asked if they provide any training in DM to any person from public.

BTW, GSDMA has pretty good info on their website (www.gsdma.org) and I am hoping for their reply. Fellow BRFites can atleast email national disaster management team or DM authorities in their states.


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PostPosted: 14 Mar 2011 02:39 
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Joined: 09 Nov 2006 03:27
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Time to learn
http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNe ... sID=279852

Tap India's Space Tech To Solve Natural Disasters, Says Samy
http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsg ... ?id=568678


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