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India: IRCS gears itself to face the floods

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Annual flooding is perennial causing widespread damages year after year. With climate change the problem has augmented as States like Rajasthan are also facing annual flooding. We need to prepare ourselves as the monsoon for the current year has set in' said Prof. (Dr) S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General during the inauguration of four days Flood Response and Contingency Planning Meeting which opened at Disaster Management Center (DMC), National Headquarters, Indian Red Cross Society. He further said that Indian Red Cross has experience of seven decades in flood response. It is equipped with the best of disaster response, preparedness and mitigation tools including WATSAN, National, State and District Disaster Response Teams and trained volunteers. He reiterated that it is important to integrate disaster management, health and organizational development with each other which would help us achieve the desired results.

Mr. Mohamed Babiker, Head-India Office, International Federation stated that the meeting would serve as the platform for building a national level contingency planning for disasters that also includes annual flooding. He also said that the coordination meeting of Inter Agency Group (IAG) which was held in the morning at DMC would paved the way for IRCS NHQ for formalizing a support network which can act as a system of organized effort to respond all emergency situations in the country.

IRCS responded to the floods of 2007 which was the worst in the last 30 years in India. 57 million people were affected and 3,339 lives were lost. IRCS flood assistance was to the tune of Rs. 6.28 crores (approx).

In the morning a flood coordination meeting was organized which was joined by 16 representatives from the organizations like UNDP, UNICEF, Save our Children, European Commission etc. The objective of the meeting was to map the stakeholders experience in the flood response 2007 and preparedness mechanisms; to identify a practical platform to bring together all the humanitarian actors to increase the synergy & maximize the flood response and to increase the coordination and cooperation among all the stakeholders for information and knowledge sharing and networking.

Twenty five participants representing the disaster management units of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Orrisa, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Chattisgarh has come together to discuss and share their future course of action for the ensuing floods in the coming weeks. During the meeting DM planning guidelines, analysis of hazards and vulnerabilities and sectoral responsibilities shall also be discussed.

All the participants are enthusiastic and eagerly expecting the meeting to provide them a platform for sharing their experiences and learning about new tools of flood response. Mr. Shamul Baran Mukherjee, SDRT leader, State Branch of West Bengal shared that there are 32 SDRT members in the State. They have already initiated community contingency planning in 2007 at the village level. Quoting an example he said that the SDRT members have mapped the pumps available in the community that may be used to draw water from the dwelling areas to keep water borne diseases away.