A disaster can be described as the occurrence of a natural event that disrupts the normal functioning of a community ushering it into immense economic and financial losses. In most cases, disasters lead to the destruction of property and means of production which renders a society helpless. Disaster mitigation refers to the measures that are taken to alleviate the impact of a disaster on the society. In other words, disaster mitigation is the management of disaster occurrence, and it attempts to stabilize the society and make it self-sustainable again. Disasters can also be viewed as poorly managed risks. A combination of hazards and vulnerabilities makes a nation to be prone to the occurrence of disasters. There has been a trend of increased frequency and intensity of disaster across the world. These disasters have destroyed economies and caused massive losses among the victims. One of the main disasters that caused significant loss of lives and property is the South Asia flood disaster which occurred in 2017 (Paton & Johnston, 2017). The South Asian floods which were believed to have been caused by the monsoon winds rain that left a significant percentage of the people in these regions homeless, whereby most of the children were forced to drop out from school. Various mitigation strategies including both structural and non-structural approaches were applied in an attempt to attain normalcy in the regions.
The South Asian floods which had adverse effects on the city of Mumbai were brought by heavy monsoon rains that went on for two consecutive days. These were the worst floods to be witnessed in this region, and they caught the society unprepared. The floods led to the collapse of one of the significant buildings in Mumbai as well as other small constructions in the region and had a death toll of more than 1200 people (Shanmugasundaram et al., 2017). The floods affected more than 40 million people whereby most of them were left homeless in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and the surrounding regions. The floods also led to the damaging of about 18,000 schools which meant that about 1.8 children were to be out of school until the implementation of proper mitigation. The effects of the flood were so severe that it was feared that some children could be permanently out of school as some of the school were destroyed and could not be easily restored. There was an urgent need for proper mitigation of the disaster in the shortest time possible as there was the risk of the spread of water-borne diseases due to poor sanitation. Besides that, there were a lot of homeless people who needed shelter and food (Paton & Johnston, 2017). Both structural and non-structural mitigation strategies were applied to alleviate the impact of the disaster and prevent the occurrence of such disasters in future.
The management of emergencies involves mitigation procedures which can either be structural or a non-structural. Structural Mitigation refers to the physical changes that are implemented to protect or prevent the occurrence of such disasters in future. In general structural mitigation can be described as the action taken by people to enhance better preservation and protection of their lives and property (Shanmugasundaram et al., 2017). Non-structural mitigation in disasters refers to the things that people can do at a personal level to reduce the impact of the disaster. These actions are neither structural nor physical but are aimed at protecting these people from the effects of the disaster. Both of these disaster mitigation strategies are quite important as they play a significant role in protecting lives of the people who are caught up in these disasters.
In the case of South Asia floods structural and non –structural mitigation approaches were used. To begin with, the region has never experienced floods of such magnitudes in the past, and therefore the people were less educated on how to enhance their safety and increase their chances of survival when floods occur (Paton & Johnston, 2017). Some of the structural mitigation approaches implemented after the floods were to restructure the drainage system so that they could sustain the drainage of large volumes of water without flooding. Secondly, the floods in the city of Mumbai and Bangladesh were caused by lack of proper channels to drain all the water from these cities. Besides that, the rivers neighboring these cities had broken their banks and could take no more water (Shanmugasundaram et al., 2017). The structural mitigation process involved structuring of the rivers in increasing their water carriage volumes and construction of dams to hold some of the excess water from the cities. There was massive destruction of property whereby more than 1,800 schools were destroyed, and many other buildings collapsed. The authorities in Mumbai assessed the constructions within the city to establish their ability to withstand floods and recommendations for modification of the building structures given. Constructions made on areas that are more likely to flood were demolished and proper waterways constructed for easy draining of the flood water.
The non –structural mitigation strategies applied to alleviate the effects of these floods to create more resilient communities included moving people to higher grounds, educating them on how to survive floods and asking for support in the provision of necessities to the affected families. It was the first time that the region had been hit by floods and it was, therefore, necessary that the people are educated on survival tactics during a flood. Besides that, it was quite important for them to be equipped with safety gadgets that would increase their chances of survival if another flood occurred. The IFRC and red cross organization for India and Bangladesh worked in conjunction in appealing for material support from the international world to cater for the basic needs for the over 200,000 victims of the floods(Paton & Johnston, 2017). The flood victims were vulnerable needed immediate supply of clean consumption water, food, health services, and shelter. The people residing along the river basins were moved to areas that are less likely to be affected by floods. This intervention was meant to protect them from being swept away by the overflowing rivers.
Other elements of non- structural mitigation such as flood insurance was introduced in the south Asian region whereby people were urged to have the property insured against floods so that they can be compensated appropriately if a similar disaster occurred in future. Initially, the people of South Asia did not anticipate the occurrence of floods and therefore saw no need of insuring their property against floods (Paton & Johnston, 2017). Families were also advised to have family emergency plans which would be helpful when there is an occurrence of disasters. The last factor of non-structural mitigation was training, discussion, and planning which enriched the people with appropriate knowledge on how to survive disasters such as floods (Shanmugasundaram et al., 2017). Besides that, the discussion and training created awareness and mental preparedness among the people in the region. Generally, the disaster mitigation process in this region took structural and non –structural approaches in order to create more resilient communities after the occurrence of the floods.
South Asia has in the recent past faced increased occurrence of natural disasters with the most recent being the South Asian floods which occurred in September 2017 leading to massive loss of lives and destruction of property. The unexpected heavy monsoon rains caught the communities unprepared which is believed to be one of the reasons that led to increased death toll and casualties. Structural and non-structural mitigation strategies were implemented to stabilize the communities and prevent the occurrence of a similar disaster in the future. The floods which were also influenced by the climatic and socio-economic change in these regions prompted the introduction and implementation of new policies. The drainage systems within the major cities in these regions were restructured to accommodate the carriage of more water volume, and the buildings were assessed and recommendations made on whether they should be modified so as to withstand future floods. Other mitigation measures adopted by the governments included educating the society on how to handle flood emergency situations as well as the introduction of flood insurance services. Flood management systems of the affected countries were revised, and a sustainable framework suggested to ensure that the region is no longer vulnerable to the occurrence of future floods.
- Paton, D., & Johnston, D. (2017). Disaster resilience: an integrated approach. Charles C Thomas Publisher.
- Shanmugasundaram, J., Gunnell, Y., Hessl, A. E., & Lee, E. (2017). Societal response to monsoon variability in Medieval South India: Lessons from the past for adapting to climate change. The Anthropocene Review, 2053019617695343.