Disasters are warning from God not to take nature for granted
India is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Given the size, location, topography, and high population density of the country – disasters are like dynamites ready to blow up anytime.
Natural calamities like earthquakes, cyclones, floods, landslides, and droughts are an almost regular affair. About 60% of the landmass in India is prone to earthquakes; 40 million hectares is prone to floods; 8% of the total area is prone to cyclones and 68% of the area is susceptible to drought.
India ranked third in the list of countries most affected by natural disasters in the past 20 years, after Puerto Rico and Myanmar as per the Global Risk Index 2021, published by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), which takes into account the number of deaths, economic losses from natural disasters like earthquakes, storms, floods, heat waves etc.
Earthquakes: According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), India is one of the most seismically active regions in the world, with several large earthquakes occurring in the past decade. As much as 59% of India’s land mass is prone to earthquakes of different intensities Earthquakes are a routine natural hazard in India, particularly in the Himalayan region. The Gujarat earthquake in 2001 killed over 20,000 people.
India experiences a significant number of earthquakes each year, as it is located in a seismically active region. According to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS) in India, the country experiences around 20,000 earthquakes each year, or about 55 earthquakes per day, as compared to the global average of 5,00,000 per year and an average of 1,370 earthquakes per day. Many of these are relatively small and do not cause significant damage or loss of life. Globally, the number of earthquakes per year is estimated to be around. However, most of these earthquakes are small and do not cause significant damage or loss of life. It is worth noting that the number of earthquakes is not the only factor that determines the risk and impact of earthquakes in a particular region. Other factors, such as the magnitude of earthquakes, the depth of the earthquake’s epicentre, the population density in the affected area, and the quality of infrastructure and building codes, can also play a significant role in determining the severity of earthquake impacts.
Drought – One of the first major disasters India faced in recorded history was a severe famine called Great Famine or Madras famine in 1896-1897. Initially, it started off as a drought, followed up by monsoon failure the next year which worsened the situation even further. As a result of the massive crop failure, around 5.5 million people in Madras (now Tamil Nadu), Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka starved to death. Many of them were forced to sell off whatever valuables they possessed – land, jewellers, livestock and other such possessions to buy food and survive. The famine also cast its spell on the local economy and many farmers were unable to recover from the loss for a long-time to come because of the damage to their crops. It was a turning point in history and highlighted the need for disaster management.
Storms: India is vulnerable to a range of storms, including tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, and dust storms. The frequency of storms in India is higher than in many other parts of the world, particularly in coastal regions. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), India is one of the countries most affected by storms in the world. In terms of the number of storms, India ranks among the top five countries in the world.
Floods: India is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world and experiences a high number of floods which affect the lives of millions of people each year. The frequency and severity of floods in India are higher than in many other parts of the world, particularly during monsoons. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2022, India is the world’s seventh-most flood-affected country. In recent years, the number and severity of floods in India have increased, and climate change is expected to exacerbate this trend even more.
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India also experiences a higher frequency of floods than the global average. For example, a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) found that India accounts for almost a quarter of all global flood-related deaths, despite having just 2.4% of the world’s land area. The frequency and severity of floods in India are likely to increase in the future due to climate change the report suggested.
Heat waves: India is particularly vulnerable to heat waves, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months. The frequency and severity of heat waves in India are higher than in many other parts of the world.
Many Indian cities are prone to disasters due to their geographical location, topography, and climate. These include:
Mumbai – is prone to flooding and landslides during the monsoon season, as well as to earthquakes due to its location on the west coast of India.
Delhi – is vulnerable to earthquakes and heat waves, as well as to air pollution
Chennai – is prone to floods and cyclones, particularly during the monsoon season, and water scarcity during drought.
Kolkata- vulnerable to flooding and landslides during monsoons, as well as cyclones and storms, being close to the Bay of Bengal
Guwahati – is prone to flooding and landslides during monsoons as well as to earthquakes due to its location in a seismically active region.
Bengaluru – is vulnerable to earthquakes, as well as flooding and water scarcity due to irregular rainfall
Ahmedabad -is prone to earthquakes, heat waves, and industrial accidents as a major industrial hub.
India is also prone to human-made disasters like industrial mishaps, road accidents, gas leaks and terrorism which leave behind many people dead or injured besides the adverse effect on the national economy.
List of major disasters in the past 10 years:
Cyclone Amphan (2020) – the strongest cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in over a decade which caused extensive damage to infrastructure and homes in West Bengal and Odisha. The cyclone left behind at least 98 people dead and damaged $13 billion worth of property.
Kerala floods (2018) – one of the worst floods in the history of Kerala, it affected over 5.4 million people and led to 483 deaths.
Uttarakhand flash floods (2013) – caused by heavy rainfall and landslides resulted in 5,700 deaths and displaced thousands of people
The Vizag gas leak (2020) – in a chemical plant in Andhra Pradesh affected thousands of people in the area
Elphinstone Road station stampede (2017) –highlighted the need for better crowd control and management
Chennai floods (2015) – resulted in 500 deaths, damaged infrastructure, disrupted transportation and communication systems
Assam floods (2019): caused by heavy rainfall affected over 4.4 million people and resulted in 159 deaths besides damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and wildlife Disasters provide an opportunity to learn and improve upon past mistakes to prepare for a bright future ahead.