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Enough choppers for U'khand rescue ops: Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia

Enough choppers for U'khand rescue ops: Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia

Uttarakhand rescue efforts: does the govt need to do much more?

As the death toll mounts and thousands remain missing and stranded, the Armed Forces are engaged in a day-and-night relief and rescue effort. More than 40 choppers have been pressed into service and thousands of jawans and air warriors are battling extreme odds to evacuate the stranded. What more can the government do? Air Marshal (retd) PS Ahluwalia, former AOC-In-Chief of Southern and Western Air Command, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. What more can the government do in Uttarakhand to rescue people? Asked by: Rohan

A. The government needs to ensure that maximum effort goes towards recovering people from the higher heights to lower areas. The government needs to provide immediate medical aid to those who need it most. Lines of communication through satellite or VHF links as also mobile telephony to keep contact with their near and dear ones. The government must ensure that enough food packets and medical supplies are positioned.

Q. Why is Uttarakhand so prone to natural disasters? Asked by: sri

A. Uttarakhand happens to be in a very sensitive eco system. In that removal of forestry causes a disturbance in the soil leading to soil erosion and land slides. It has also very narrow valleys with rivers flowing through them at very high speeds. Therefore if anything is constructed in the path of the water it is liable to be washed away. Uttarakhand is also in the earth quake zone.

Q. What initiatives should be taken for present and future occurrence for such disaster? and what pre-monsoon activities should have been conducted to over come such disaster? Asked by: Jyoti

A. Natural disasters can happen any time in the disaster prone areas. It is therefore crucial that all activities related to weather should be constantly monitored. The activity to study water levels, extent of rain falls, soil erosion must be constantly assessed. This process could be done through satellite surveillance also through other monitoring systems. A simple process of understanding the pattern of water flow and correlating the extent of rain fall would give early warning to prepare for such contingency.

Q. Food, shelter, medicine, logistics - different agencies handle. Is there an efficient co ordination happening? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. In such cases where hundreds of thousands of people are effected and need immediate help, it is necessary for all agencies to coordinate their activities. All agencies i.e. paramilitary forces, arm forces, district administration, NDRF personnel have been working together. Yes, there may be some amount of communication problems but all efforts are being made to resolve these.

Q. Why always govt starts digging well only after fire occurs? All natural disasters are the outcome of man's destructive activities especially deforestation? Why govt do nothing when more and more hydroelectric power plants r built by vanishing massive forests? Why the govt doesn't take any action on those builders who builds buildings illegally at endangered areas and put lives of 1000s of innocent pilgrims under jeopardy? Govt must always should think upon to take precautionary measures to face and prevent any natural disaster in my opinion.. Is it better to restrict yatras in winter season? Asked by: Vinod K R

A. There is undoubtedly a failure in the system when disasters occur and take us by surprise. The first principal of disaster management is to anticipate disaster so that action can be taken to minimalize the effect. The government has in place various disaster management organization. There is a national disaster management agency which coordinates with the state government down to the district level. All guidelines and directives are in place, however the execution leaves much to be desired. It is obvious to note that we are more reactive rather than being active. The government both centre and state must respect nature to avoid these occurances. The eco system in the Himalyas is very fragile and must be treated with caution. In that Hydropower Stations, Roads, Habitations, Contruction must be carefully monitered and environmental norms must be followed.

Q. North. NE,West south Eastern coast - have seen disasters in cyclical manner. Why the other states do not rush their personnel with expertise on Disaster Mgmt to affected part of our own country? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The terrain could be a major hindrance in relief operations. It is not always numbers can be increased to provide help. At this point in time maximum relief is being provided by all agencies. Increasing resources will not be productive. All states are willing to cooperate however the air force army and other paramilitary forces are providing relief with full force. As and when more help is required in terms of resources, these will be inducted post-haste.

Q. Couldn't the chief minister of every state send the helicopters to rescue the people? The process will get faster. Asked by: satakshi patel

A. The Air force has inducted maximum numbers of helicopters and these are sufficient at this point in time. In case more are required the State government will be requested to provide the same.

Q. Prevention better than cure - applicable to natural catastrophes also. will there be a look into this? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Your statement is correct. In future warnings would have to be addressed immediately to avoid dangerous situations. There are enough policies and directives in place, it is only the execution that is lacking. I am sure the inadequacies would be addressed in the future.

Q. Centre orders and offers small financial assistance. Are the state Governments equipped to handle the situation. NDRF is without a regular head. Why the apathy from the GOI? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Disaster Management is a State subject and primarily the responsibility is of the state. However, there is a central disaster management agency which is suppose to provide guidance, resources financial help etc. Therefore, it is essential that both the State and centre work closely to respond adequately in time and space to mitigate the difficulties of effected people

Q. What can be the prevention measures in order to provide permanent protection to the people of Uttarkhand from these disasters? Asked by: Mandar

A. 1. Respect the fragile ecosystem of the Himalyas. 2. Monitor carefully the warnings that eminate before such disasters and commence relief operations. In that remove people from vulnerable areas. 3. Provide food and shelter to needy people. 4. Strengthen the disaster management teams at all levels. 5. Store rations, medicines etc 6. Ensure communication are always available when required. 7. Create awareness amongst the people on how to survive in difficult situations. 8. Prepare standard operating proceedures to coordinate activities between various relief agencies.

Q. How do you justify helicopters falling short of fuel? Asked by: nikl

A. The helicopters are made to operate from small unmaned helipads which are prepared only for relief operations. So it is obvious that do not have storage facility. However, the air force has ensured that the fuel has been bridged from various sources. Some helicopters are made to carry only fuel and also fuel from local army and paramilitary units as also Indian oil. There may be shortage at some forward and isolated helipads. This is more of an exception than a rule.

Q. Do we feel shy to get international assistance in such situation. Is there a political or security angle which prohibits such assistance to be sought? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. There is no security or political issues that can prevent relief or assistance in such cases. If the government - State & Central can not handle the situation only than one needs to ask for International assistance. At present the government has all resources to meet this crises. The only hindrance is handling the weather.