The risk and impact of natural disasters has increased a manifold in recent times because of the rapid and unplanned urbanization along with high population growth. Discuss the measures needed to address the issue in India.

As per UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), about 50% of India’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. This, accompanied by climate change has increased both risk and impact of natural disasters.

Hazard + vulnerability = Disaster

Urbanization – Increased risk of disasters:

  1. Rapid urbanization:
    • Increased burden on natural resources like, land, water, soil, etc increases risk of droughts, degradation, etc.
    • Concretization of natural habitats leading to urban heat Island effect, which increases risk of heat waves, cloudburst, etc.
    • Reduction in green Islands due to deforestation, etc, leads to reduced buffer against winds, cyclones, etc.
  2. Unplanned urbanization:
    • Rise of unplanned slums with vulnerability to bio-disasters from contacts with unhealthy conditions.
    • Encroachment of river beds and other natural habitats, e.g. Assam flooding annually.
    • Lack of hazard vulnerability assessment before urbanization, e.g. Landslides in Western Ghats.

Urbanization – increased impact of disasters:

  1. Rapid urbanization:
    • Lack of sustainable approach with adequate buffer, such as parks, rainwater harvesting regions – buffer against urban flooding.
    • Pollution of resources, e.g. groundwater, air, etc – long term health deteriorates and impact of disasters increase.
  2. Unplanned urbanization:
    • High population concentration in a small region – increase casualties.
    • Lack of regard for safety measures in unplanned urban constructions.
    • Lack of proper drainage.

Measures to address:

  1. Infrastructural:
    • Concept of green cities with green method of construction, e.g. Ash as water absorbent.
    • Designated space for buffers like urban forest, parks, etc.
  2. Institutional:
    • Comprehensive urban planning based on hazard risk assessment.
    • Involvement of environmental experts in urban planning.
  3. Others:
    • Decentralized approaches with city and region specific contingency plans.

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