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Natural Disasters on Earth Quake

English Essay on "Natural Disasters on Earth Quake"

The devastation caused in nine Indian Ocean countries by a tsunami triggered on December 26 by an. earthquake continues to boggle the mind. Sri Lanka and India were hit the hardest. Their shock and grief is all the greater because tsunamis - gigantic sea-waves caused by massive displacements due to earthquakes or volcanic eruptions or submarine slides are rare in South Asia, unlike the Pacific, which has witnessed nearly 800 of them in the past century.

Although Pakistan and Bangladesh were spared this tsunami’s fury, their citizens and governments should not be complacent. They too are vulnerable to similar disasters. On November 28, 1945, the West Coast of undivided India was hit by a tsunami, including the Karachi, Makran and Bombay areas. The waves reached a height of two metres in Bombay and 11 metres in Kutch. The Bay of Bengal too has seen tsunamis - in 1762,1881 and 141. The latest wave was unleashed by a great earthquake with a magnitu of 8.9 on the Richter scale. Its impact was bound to’ be horrifying. The extensive damage it wrought necessitates a high-powered relief effort and large-scale rehabilitation, it would be a shame if bureaucratic obstacles or lack of resources were allowed to come in the way of relief provision on the scale warranted by the calamity.

However, it would be an even greater disgrace if we South Asians fail to learn the right lessons from natural disasters, and thus subject ourselves to preventable loss of life and property. The first lesson is that it simply won’t do to claim that the catastrophic event was of exceptional dimensions and hence the damage could not have been mitigated. Officially India practised such self-deception at the time of the Orissa cyclone five years ago, calling it a “super-cyclone”. The term was subtly employed to insinuate that no damage-limitation methods could have worked. This is totally false.(9essay.com) Had simple, old-fashioned, low-technology cyclone shelters been built and properly maintained, they could have saved hundreds of lives. Cyclone shelters are rugged two- or three-storied concrete structures that can withstand 300 kmph winds and tidal waves. The world has witnessed many tsunamis with tides as high as 20 metres, 50 metres, or even higher. Alaska ‘in 1958 was hit by a 540 metre-high monster-higher than Taipei-1O1, the world’s tallest building! Similarly, India too suffered two major strikes-in 1881 and in 1941. The second was caused by an earthquake in the Andamans which was thought to have exceeded a magnitude of 8.5.

The latest earthquake was detected in time by the Pacific Tsunami Early Warning System, but there was no address in the Indian’ Ocean region to which the information could be communicated. This lacuna must be filled: All Indian Ocean states, including Pakistan, should join the 26-member System. A second lesson is that natural disasters are natural only in their causation. Their effects are socially determined and transmitted through mechanisms and arrangements which are the creation of societies and governments. Natural disasters are not socially neutral in their impact. Rather, they pick on the poor and the weak, rather than the privileged. Consider the following: The United States and Europe are prone to disasters like earthquakes. Yet, according to the environmental research group, Earth scan, earthquakes killing more than 10,000 people have not occurred in them, only in the Third World. Hurricanes and cyclones frequently hit the US. But the toil they claim is incomparably smaller than the havoc caused by similar events in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines.

The average natural disaster kills 63 people in Japan. But in Peru, the average toll is 2,900-46 times higher. Around the same time as Latur in india (1993), California (US) was hit by an earthquake which was 100 times more powerful. Only one person died in the US, while 11,000 people perished in Latur. When Hurricane Elena hit the US in 1985, only five people died. But when a cyclone slammed Bangladesh in 1991, half a million people were killed. The reason natural disasters hit the Third World poor so hard is not difficult to understand. It has nothing to do with the intrinsically deadlier nature of the calamity involved. Rather, poor people are socially and physically vulnerable-being forced to live in congested, overcrowded and unsafe conditions in dangerous areas. The typical medical and relief infrastructure in the Global South is hopelessly inadequate and usually crumbles first under the impact of a calamity. Above all, emergency relief provision is appallingly bad.

A third lesson is that governance has much bearing on how a society copes with natural disasters. If there is transparency in official decision-making, the toll tends to be low. This is especially the case where governments are responsive to people and where early warnings are sounded, and accurate advice and information is disseminated about the availability of rescue and relief services, emergency telephone numbers and addresses, etc. This d World societies are far more hierarchical and their rulers feel no obligation to disseminate information and advice to the underprovided They are also marked by poverty and paucity of radio receivers or telephone connectivity. Human life is wantonly lost. And the poor suffer the most.

A fourth lesson is that Third World societies are severely under-regulated for safety. Either they have no laws on zoning of residential, industrial and commercial activities. Or, such regulations are routinely violated. Third World people are forced to live in unsafe shanties because they cannot afford a legal title or to secure shelter. They therefore create a slum-using unsafe or flimsy materials, which give way when disaster strikes. Use of inflammable goods like plastic magnifies the potential damage. In most Indian Ocean societies, there are no laws against building structures close to the coastline. India’s Coastal Zone Regulations stipulate that no structure should be constructed within 500 metres of the high-tide line. But hotels, shops, prawn hatcheries, and private house-owners often flout this law. In recent years, growing commercialization has led to construction activity in seaside resorts right up to the high-tide watermark, leaving no safety margin whatever. These activities-all in pursuit of a fast buck from the tourist trade-are downright predatory. They destroy highly effective natural shields and buffers like mangroves, and create new risks and dangers. An integral part of any agenda to reduce risk, improve safety and deal rationally with natural calamities must oppose predatory interests. This agenda is itself inseparable from a larger programme to make governments more democratic-and more accountable. The December 26 tsunami was bad news. But more tsunamis could hit South Asia in future. So will other natural calamities. We must learn how to cope with them-by initializing the lessons just discussed.

Postscript: Midlives has declared a state of emergency after the tsunami flooded two-thirds of the capital, Male. This is a grim reminder of the impending danger from global warming for this region. Male is only about three feet above sea level. A four feet-high wave of water swept over it, submerging many of the 1,200 tiny coral islands that comprise the country.

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