Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Why heatwaves have not been included as a notified disaster in the Disaster Management Act?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Current Notified Disasters

Mains level: Why Heatwaves Were Not Included as Notified Disasters?

Why in the news?

The current period of intense heat in several regions has once more sparked debates about the potential inclusion of heatwaves as officially recognized disasters under the Disaster Management (DM) Act of 2005.

What are Notified Disasters?

  • According to the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, a disaster is defined as a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity, or grave occurrence” arising from natural or man-made causes that result in substantial loss of life, destruction of property, or environmental damage and is beyond the coping capacity of the affected community.
  • Funds: The DM Act allows states to draw money from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for managing these disasters.
  • Current Notified Disasters: There are currently 12 categories of notified disasters: cyclones, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches, cloudbursts, pest attacks, and frost and cold waves.

Why Heatwaves Were Not Included as Notified Disasters?

  • Common Occurrence: Heatwaves were historically considered regular events during summer months in many parts of India. They were not seen as exceptional or unusual disasters warranting specific disaster management provisions under the DM Act, 2005.
  • Perception of Predictability: Unlike sudden-onset disasters such as earthquakes or cyclones, heatwaves were perceived as relatively predictable and part of seasonal weather patterns. This perception led to a belief that they could be managed through general public awareness and local interventions rather than formal disaster response mechanisms.
  • Not fit in definition of Disaster: When the DM Act was formulated, disasters were defined as events that caused substantial loss of life, property, or environmental damage beyond the coping capacity of the affected community. At that time, the impacts of heatwaves were typically viewed as localized health issues rather than widespread disasters.
  • Lack of Urgency: There was a lack of urgency in recognizing heatwaves as disasters requiring national-level response frameworks. The focus of disaster management efforts initially leaned towards more acute and visible calamities like cyclones, floods, and earthquakes.

Why is the Centre Not Adding Heatwaves as a Notified Disaster Now?

  • Financial Concerns: One of the primary concerns is the potential financial burden of declaring heat waves as a notified disaster. Under the current provisions, the government is obligated to provide monetary compensation for lives lost during notified disasters, which is set at Rs 4 lakh per victim.
  • The reluctance of Finance Commissions: Despite requests from various states, the 15th Finance Commission has not recommended adding heatwaves to the list of notified disasters. They argue that the existing categories adequately cover disaster response needs, and they have provided provisions for states to utilize a portion of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for local disasters like heatwaves.

Conclusion: Engage with the Finance Commission and other relevant bodies to reassess the inclusion of heatwaves as a notified disaster. Highlight the evolving nature of heat waves, their increasing frequency, and the need for dedicated funding and support mechanisms.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change?  (UPSC IAS/2017)

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