NEW DELHI: Cyclone Vardah, which hit the Indian coast in Tamil Nadu in December 2016, resulted in destruction of properties estimated at over $1 billion. In January the same year, an earthquake of 6.7 on the Richter scale in Manipur had damaged properties worth over $75 million — this was only 40% of all disaster losses estimated in India that year.

With the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) egging on India to implement its commitment to the Sendai Framework, the government will shortly launch “a uniform and credible national-level disaster database with locally obtained and validated data”.

The unique database will capture nationwide losses of properties and lives occurring due to disasters and will ensure that states compulsorily report and feed all losses real time into the dynamic platform being developed by the Centre. This may also help the Centre in deciding the quantum of future investments in critical infrastructure depending on the performance of states in disaster risk reduction.

In absence of its own database, India at present relies on global estimates on its losses caused by man-made and natural disasters. During the 10 years between 2005 and 2014, at least 167 disasters struck India causing damages of more than $47 billion, ranking the nation among the top four countries in the world with highest number of reported disasters, according to UNISDR.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with the help of UNISDR, UNDP and Unicef, is organising its first workshop on the proposed national disaster database in the Capital where representatives of all states, central ministries and departments will participate.

A working paper prepared by the NDMA on the two-day workshop said India is vulnerable to more than 30 different types of disasters. In 2015 and 2016, more than 1,100 people reported killed in disasters and over 350 million affected across the country. The damages to properties in these two years alone have been estimated at over $4.4 billion, indicating the urgency for the government to develop a unique platform that will help policy-makers plug gaps with interventions.

“The proposed integrated database will track impacts of hazards such as death, injury, affected population by categories, economic losses in sectors such as education, health, housing, agriculture, industries, critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and building, cultural heritages, etc,” the NDMA paper said.
The national database had become imperative for India, particularly after the UNISDR recently launched the Sendai Framework Monitor, an online tool to capture data on achievement of five targets agreed by UN member states, including India, on committed reduction of mortality from disasters.
Launching the Monitor, UNISDR chief Mami Mizutori had reminded signatory countries that the UN office through its Sendai Framework Monitor will provide inputs to the first report on achieving progress on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in July.
“In a world where climate change and extreme weather events contribute to pushing 26 million people into poverty every year, improving how we manage risk is vital and this requires a deeper understanding of where these losses are occurring and not just for major internationally recorded events,” she had said.

India, being a signatory country to the Sendai Framework, has to ensure that it has fulfilled its commitment by reducing disaster related deaths and economic losses. The national database will for the first time indicate its official data on actual losses.