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Run-up to COP27: Here is how India counts loss and damage due to extreme weather

While the actual process of loss and damage assessment for a disaster in India varies from state to state, the procedure broadly remains the same

Central Kolkata after Cyclone Amphan. Photo: iStock Central Kolkata after Cyclone Amphan. Photo: iStock

Assess losses, damages

  • Once a disaster is announced, the first step is to coordinate rescue and relief operations.

  • At the same time, the team on the ground, whose size and composition are determined by the magnitude of the disaster, collects damage-related data.

  • Once the disaster ends, the revenue department and disaster management officials at the district level verify the information and upload it to the centralised National Disaster Information Management System.
  • The state disaster management authority reverifies the information and  calculates the economic value based on the Norms of Assistance, a Central document which assigns values to different losses, to avail of funding from the state disaster relief fund and the state government’s budget.
  • If there is a gap in funding, they prepare a memorandum to close the gap with funding from the National Disaster Relief Fund. It is subject to approval by a central team that revisits the data.
  • In the case of slow-onset extreme events like drought, agencies monitor its onset by looking at precipitation and soil moisture levels. After the onset, district and panchayat level teams create seed, fodder banks and create jobs under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005.
  • When state decides that the existing mechanism is unable to handle disaster management operations, international agencies like World Bank are roped in to carry out Joint Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment. It was used during the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 and the Kerala floods of 2018 and 2021.

Use robust tool

  • In 2018, India for the first time, used the post-disaster needs assessment tool for the Kerala floods, which had already been used across the world since 2008. In 2019, cyclone Fani in Odisha was the second disaster that used this tool. Currently, a post-disaster needs assessment is underway for the Assam flood.

  • It replaces an internationally accepted tool called damage, loss and needs assessment, which focuses on physical infrastructure and not on social sectors.  In India, the Bhuj Earthquake of 2001 and tsunami of 2004, used damage, loss and needs assessment for funding from the World Bank.

  • Besides analysing immediate damage, a post-disaster needs assessment, carried out along with international agencies such as World Bank, looks at macro-economic costs such as the impact of the disaster on the local economy. It has a third component that looks at improving the resilience of the region.
  • In 2019, India released a manual for this assessment, and this year at least eight states are using it for floods. The country plans to migrate to this tool for all kinds of disasters over the next three years.

Fund compensation

  • While the disaster is underway, only relief is provided. All compensation occurs post-disaster.
  • Each state has a disaster relief fund, which is financed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, and the respective state/UT budget. The amount and the Centre-state share is decided by the Finance Commission.
  • State relief funds are allocated money based on a combination of capacity (as reflected through expenditure), risk exposure (area and population) and hazard and vulnerability (risk index).
  • In the 15th Finance Commission (2021-26), the corpus for the entire period is `160,153 crore. The Centre’s share is  Rs 1,22,601 crore. The amount is broken down into six installments and released annually to state funds.
  • Finance Commission allocates additional funds for urban floods, landslide-prone states and others.
  • State governments, at times, announce additional compensation to either augment the exsiting amount or cover a bigger population. Maharashtra this year has announced compensation for farmer suicides.

SOURCE: Based on interactions with state disaster management officials of Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka, Assam and Haryana, and government documents

This was first published in the 1-15 November, 2022 edition of Down To Earth

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