The wrath of natural disasters on the face of the earth has been witnessed for millions of years. From the meteor that wiped out the dinosaur race, to the 2010 Haiti earthquake which took approximately 316,000 lives and displaced million (Live Science, 2018). Closer home in India, the 2001 earthquake hit multiple regions of Gujarat with an intensity of 7.6 to 7.9, affecting almost a million people and left over 18,000 dead (Lahiri, Sen, Rao and Jena, 2001). Could disaster mapping help in saving lives ?
Although natural disasters are inevitable, an investment in learning about disasters and how to cope up with it and can reap a good amount of benefits. Disaster management is a pillar of understanding and mitigating the effects of a disaster.
Disaster Management/ Preparedness
Disasters disrupt the lives of millions of people around the world every year and each disaster has long-term consequences, which need to be avoided or minimised. The features of disaster management include:
- Disaster management can diminish the fear and anxiety that follow an event of a disaster.
- Disaster management drills help individuals, families and communities understand their role and responsibilities in the event of a disaster.
- Evacuation and refuge process becomes easier if the people have had disaster management training.
- Disaster management can help people reduce the impact of disasters by making them learn how to flood-proof structures, elevate a home, guide people through a fire exit or tightening items which can loosen up and fall in the event of an earthquake.
- Apart from mitigation, disaster management can help in reducing the casualty count during a disaster.
- Large-scale disaster management drills might even help people avoid disasters entirely.
NRDMS and Disaster Mapping
To plan for and reduce the severe effects of disasters, Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS), under Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India is using space technology to carry out disaster mapping to help mitigate the adverse effects. The NRDMS centre in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal carried out disaster mapping of multiple districts in the state to be better equipped in the event of a disaster. The mapping uses spatial and non-spatial which can be joined to generate synoptic maps to understand the target area better. To conduct the mapping, the data collected were the locations of:
- Educational Institutions
- Gram Panchayats
- Police Stations
- Fire Stations
- Railway Line
- Government Offices
- Water Bodies
Some of the thematic maps are given below:
The NRDMS centre in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal created synoptic maps of several regions in the state, which include Kurseong, Bijanbari, Kharibari, Miriki, Sukhia, Darjeeling and Matigara. The above three maps are showcasing the mapping conducted in Darjeeling, Kharibari and Rangli Rangliot. As we can see from the maps, the locations of important buildings such as police stations, fire stations, hospitals and government offices have been marked, along with the road routes. These maps can come in handy in the event of a disaster to efficiently and effectively plan out evacuations, and help the people reach the final locations of shelters, where they can receive the required care.
Such mappings can provide government officials and policy-makers an insight into the scenarios that can occur in the event of a disaster and how they can deal with it. These maps can also be used to create disaster outreach centres, hospitals and other important institutions which can help during disasters, in areas which lack such establishments. Macro and micro level maps can also be created used for identifying vulnerability and threat condition.
NRDMS is constantly working towards employing ‘Geo-Spatial applications for Good and Transparent Governance’. Disaster Mapping is one of the several projects NRDMS has started to act as a decision support system for good governance in the country.