Australian High Commissioner to India, Mr. Barry O’Farrell AO visited the Assam State Disaster Management Authority headquarter with a view to share knowledge on areas concerning international cooperation between Australian Government and the Government of India, in context of disaster management and allied sectors. High Commissioner was accompanied by Ms. Rowan Ainsworth, Consul-General, Australian Consulate-General, Kolkata; Mr. Paroksh Prasad, First Secretary, Australian High Commission, New Delhi and Ms. Angelina Nair, Senior Research and Visits Officer, Australian Consulate-General, Kolkata. A meeting at ASDMA was coordinated by Shri. Gyanendra D. Tripathi, IAS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), ASDMA who was joined by Shri. Amitabh Rajkhowa, ACS, Commissioner & Secretary, Revenue & Disaster Management Department; Shri. Bhaskar Pegu, ACS, Secretary Revenue & Disaster Management Department, Shri. Alakananda Medhi, ACS, SPC ASDMA and other senior officials of ASDMA.
During the meeting, Tripathi presented the landscape of measures adopted by the ASDMA over the years to address the challenges that state faces due to the interplay of multiple disasters. Climate change induced disasters like recurring floods, erosion, landslide and thunderstorm has been devastating the communities every year. Moreover, challenges of environmental degradation, seismic vulnerabilities, etc. are making the task of preventing the adverse outcomes more complex.
ASDMA, with an objective to promote the culture of safety and to reduce the disaster risk, has been strengthening its Disaster Management Plan through infrastructure development like Multi-Purpose Flood Shelters; capacity building; adoption of mitigation measures like Flood Resilient Villages, Women-friendly community managed flood shelters with Sanitary Vending Machine, etc.; enhancing knowledge through various collaborative studies and through various technology interventions like Flood Early Warning System (FLEWS), Integrated WebGIS Platform for Early Warnings/Alerts Dissemination, etc. The measures also include a quick response, recovery and rehabilitation mechanism like State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), V-SAT and satellite phone for strengthening communication, MIS for Search & Rescue Equipment and FRIMS for standardized reporting and aggregation of impacts. The challenges that exist in the dissemination of early warnings is that it is confined within the administrative machinery. To disseminate it to the last mile ASDMA needs to implement a location based alerting system for lightning, severe thunderstorm and flood early warning.
In conversation with the High Commissioner, Tripathi said “Partnership between Government of Assam and Australian Government holds a lot of potential both strategically as well as economically under Australia India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. From the point of view of disaster management in Assam we are now putting more thrust on Risk Reduction instead of focusing only on Response and Recovery. Therefore, I strongly feel there is need for a Disaster Risk Reduction framework that will help in building a Resilient Assam. In this context, I seek support from the commission to help the department in developing a robust Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Plan and Management by providing guidance on better understanding of risk, partnering with those who effect change and supporting capabilities to ensure preparedness. I am also keen to take inspiration from the Land Management System of Australia
as the land use management & rapid urbanization has been a major challenge in Assam”.
Speaking on the occasion O’Farrell said, “Thank you for the fascinating discussion. It reminded me of the similarities in the disaster management systems between Australia and India including the challenges of climate change. Look forward to working with you in disaster resilience in the northeast Indian Ocean”.