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High-level disaster meeting to focus on resilient infrastructure

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By Pradeep Thakur

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government has convened the national platform for disaster risk reduction (DRR) next month--a high level meeting to be attended by at least 15 Cabinet ministers holding key portfolios besides scientists, UN representatives, disaster experts and other stakeholders to deliberate on mainstreaming DRR in all developmental initiatives with emphasis on building resilient infrastructure.

This is the first such meeting after the 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand where more than 5,000 perished and thousands of crores worth of properties and national assets destroyed. The floods in Kashmir and the latest one in Chennai had caused considerable damage to properties besides loss of lives which have been the trigger to prioritise DRR.

The meeting is considered important in view of the prime minister's office taking special interest in the deliberations with the PM's additional principal secretary P K Mishra chairing a technical session on funding mechanism for DRR. Mishra was the CEO of the reconstruction authority of Gujarat set up after the devastating 2001 earthquake in the state. He had conceptualised the state's disaster mitigation plan and incorporated important clauses in building bylaws backed by ground-level surveys in successfully implementing the resilient infrastructure development plan.

The Modi government wants all states to prioritise DRR in all their development plans and bring down loss of lives and infrastructure during natural disasters. The central government has allocated Rs 55,000 crore, over $8 billion, for five years from 2015-20 to all states for disaster management. A senior home ministry official said most of these funds at present go into meeting the expenditure for rescue and relief operations. Little is provided towards building resilient infrastructure.

"The government would now like the states to use majority of this fund towards building resilient infrastructure which automatically brings down cost of rebuilding," the official said.

The national platform also comes just ahead of the UN's global platform on DRR being organised in Cancun in May where countries will have to present their progress report on meeting DRR goals set two years ago by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as part of the Sendai framework to which India is a signatory.

India has played a leadership role in Asia Pacific in shaping the DRR initiatives. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju has been recognised by the UNISDR as the Asia Champion for DRR. The outcome of the national platform will help New Delhi reclaim its leadership role in the region at the forthcoming global platform. The national platform will be represented by policy makers, administrators, UN, multilateral organisations, scientists, technocrats, corporates and community and panchayat leaders.