Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ignorance, arrogance make for good flood, says Narain of India

Sunita Narain, from the Central Chronicle (India): This year, for once, the devastating floods of Bihar seem to have touched us…. [T]he flood captured our attention, because of the scale of the human tragedy. It was made clear that in spite of all our big talk and even bigger institutions for disaster management, we remain unprepared, under-staffed and unequipped for a crisis, when it hits. Even as people waited to be rescued we had few boats to bring them to safe places; we had little food, water and shelter to provide for them in the relief camps; and worse, we had no authority to ensure that empty homes would not be ransacked. As a result, people refused to leave. They preferred the swirling water to relief camps. What an indictment of our efforts.

Now the waters are finally receding and before our attention also moves on, let us learn, for once, the hard message of the Kosi floods of 2008. Let us learn because this disaster may not be the first or the last but it tells us of a situation getting out of control. It tells us that we have done so much wrong in the way we have managed our environment. It tells us that we know so little about how climate change and its manifestation of changing intensities of rainfall will exacerbate floods in the future. It also tells that we cannot 'adapt' to these changes, unless we do things differently.

…We have to now understand that we are faced with a double whammy-floods will increase also because the pattern of rainfall is going on a twist. Climate change is making rain more unseasonal, erratic and intense in many parts of the country. 'Coping' with floods will become even more difficult now.

So what we can do without is the deadly combination of arrogance and ignorance. Instead, we can do with some learning. And a lot of doing.

This map of India's flood zones was created by PlaneMad/Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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