Disasters in India

India Disaster Context Analysis

India is the seventh largest country in the world by geographical area with an extent of 32,62,263 sq.km and is the second largest populated country in the world. India stands unique in its rich cultural heritage, diversified geographical and climatic conditions, with the snow covered mountains (Himalayas) in the northern side and rain forests in the south, the  Indo-Gangetic Plains ,the Deccan Plateau, the major life-giving Rivers which make the areas fertile, deserts on the western side,  drought prone areas  and long stretches of coastal areas.

India, due to its physio- geographic conditions, land characteristics and climatic conditions, is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, exposed to different kinds of natural hazards. India has witnessed a number of disasters which claimed several thousands of human lives, rendering millions of people homeless and causing immense loss to properties of the people.

Natural Disasters from 1980 – 2010   –    An Overview

Over View

No of events


No of people killed:                  143,039
Average killed per year:                  4,614
No of people affected:                 1,521,726,127
Average affected per year:                 49,087,940
Economic Damage (US$ X 1,000):                 48,063,830
Economic Damage per year (US$ X 1,000):                 1,550,446


Major Disasters that struck the country in the recent decades:

1. Uttarkashi Earthquake in  1991
2. Killani Earthquake in 1993
3. Latur Earthquake in Maharashtra  in 1993
4. Koyama Earthquake in 1997
5. Chamoli Earthquake in Uttarakhand in 1999
6. Super Cyclone in Orissa in 1999
7. Bhuj Earthquake in 2001
8. Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004
9. Kashmir Earthquake in 2005
10. Barmer Floods in Rajasthan in 2006
11. Kosi Floods in Bihar in 2008
12. Cyclone Aila in West Bengal in 2009
13. Cyclone Laila in Andhra Pradesh in  2009
11. Cloudburst in Leh in 2010
12. Thane Cyclone in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry 2011

Susceptibility of India to Natural Disasters:

Earthquakes: During the last 20 years, India has experienced 10 major earthquakes that have claimed more than 35,000 lives. Almost 58% of our total land mass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity. The Himalayan mountain range is undergoing constant geological changes (crustal movements) resulting in frequent earthquakes and landslides.

Floods: Floods in the Indo-Gangetic – Brahmaputra plains are an annual feature.  Several thousands of lives have been lost, millions have been rendered homeless and 8 million hectares of crops are damaged every year.  India receives 75% of rains during the monsoon season (June – September). As a result almost all the rivers carry heavy waters during this time resulting in sediment deposition, drainage congestion, invading into the main land. 40 million hectares of land is vulnerable to floods with about 30 million people affected by flood every year.  Floods brought severe drought in arid and semi arid areas. About 12% of the total land mass is flood prone.

Cyclones: India has a long coastline running 7,516 km long and the entire coastal stretch is exposed to Tsunami, cyclone, Tidal waves and storm surges. On an average, five to six tropical cyclones strike every year, of which two or three are very severe. More cyclones occur in the Bay of Bengal than in the Arabian Sea and the ratio is approximately 4:1. Every year the eastern coast is affected by cyclones and Tsunami. The Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and the India Tsunami 2004 claimed thousands and thousands of human lives devastating agricultural crops and rendering lakhs and lakhs of people homeless.

Drought: The Desert which is located in the western region of the country and the Deccan Plateau face recurring droughts due to acute shortage of rainfall. About 50 million people are affected annually by drought and 40 million hectares of land are prone to scanty or no rain.

Landslides: Landslides are yet another recurrent phenomenon in the hilly regions of India such as Himalayas, North-East India and Eastern and Western Ghat regions. The major Landslide disaster that took place was at Malpa Uttarkhand (UP) in the year 1998 when nearly 380 people were killed when massive landslides washed away the entire village. The 2010 Leh cloudburst led to flash mudslides and flash floods that killed 196 people swept away a number of houses and public buildings.

Cold waves: Cold waves are common and recurrent disaster in North India. During the winter season due to extreme cold climates, hundreds of people die of cold bites and related diseases every year. The impact is more on the urban poor.

Management of Disasters in India: Institutional Mechanism:

The increasing frequency and ferocity, the extent of the damage (human & economic) the resources required for reconstruction work, all compelled the policy makers and administrators to do a reappraisal of Institutional and policy frameworks and to develop new frameworks for holistic disaster management in India.

A comprehensive legal and institutional framework for Disaster Management was established through the Disaster Management Act that was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2005 and the National policy on Disaster Management was approved in 2009.

The highlights of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 were:

1. Creation of new institutions at National level, State level and District level as follows:

i) National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

ii) State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA)

iii) District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA)


2. Constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)

3. Setting up of National Disaster Reserve funds and State Disaster Reserve Fund for immediate response

4. Formation of National Institute of Disaster Mitigation (NIDM) for building the capacities of various stake
holders involved in Disaster Mitigation and Response programs

5, Multi-stakeholder participation of Corporates and NGOs in the Disaster Relief, Rehabilitation, Mitigation
and Risk Reduction work

6. A National Executive Committee (NEC) was constituted under the NDMA with Union Home Secretary as
the Chairperson to monitor, co-ordinate and oversee the functions of the Departments concerned with
respect to Disaster Mitigation

7. The State level Relief and Rehabilitation Departments were renamed as Department of Disaster
Management and held responsible for Disaster Mitigation, Risk Reduction, Preparedness and early



The Disaster Management Act provides for allocation of National Disaster Response Fund (NDR Fund) for immediate responses and State Disaster Response fund which is shared between the centre and state at 75:25 ratio respectively.

The Government of India has allocated Rs.525 Crores (for the period 2010 – 2015) for building capacities in the administrative ministry – for delivering the DM programs effectively

In the Eleventh Five year plan, emphasis was given to integrate disaster prevention and mitigation into the development process. Special Funding were earmarked for the stakeholders- CBOs and NGOs.

In the Tenth Five Year plan special funding was allotted for Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation programs – all the disaster risk reduction programs were mainstreamed with development programs.  Mainstreaming disaster management curriculum into schools, colleges and professional courses was given importance.

The Asian Development Bank, World Bank, WHO and UN organisations partnered with Government of India for implementing Disaster the Mitigation, Preparedness and Response programs. Government engaged NGOs in the program implementation process.

The above provisions at the National, State and District levels would ensure availability (not necessarily adequate funds in all respects) of funds for the Disaster Management programs. The Government of India encourages NGOs, Corporates, CBOs and civil societies to participate in the Disaster Response, Mitigation and Preparedness work.


  • The frequency and the intensity of disasters are increasing every year
  • Every year over a million kutcha houses are getting destroyed due to floods and other disasters
  • Large tracts of agricultural land getting silted during floods
  • Homelessness, disruption of education and loss of general health and livelihood  is increasing every year and the impact is more on the poor
  • Migration of people from rural to urban wanting jobs and  safe housing: strain on the basic amenities and land
  • High demand on land, led to the use of unsafe lands such as river banks, unstable slopes and reclaimed lands which are prone to natural hazards
  • People living in unplanned and unregulated settlements and non engineered buildings exposed to flood & earthquake
  • Climate change will increasingly contribute to the vulnerability of people living in rural areas and urban areas – agriculture, fisheries and other livelihoods


  • NGOs make significant contribution as was evident  in most of the recent disasters
  • Enactment of NDM Act, 2005 by Government of India has recognised partnering of Government and NGOs. The District Collectors  has the mandate and role of institutionalising Emergency operations as well as GO-NGO coordination mechanisms at the respective district level
  • The NGOs, CBOs, Corporates and the faith based organisations have extended humanitarian assistance to remote settlements
  • NGOs have demonstrated profound sensitivity to the needs of  the excluded and marginalised sections and the differently abled persons
  • The  good coordination between the Government and the International and National organisations will complement or supplement Government DM programs
  • NGOs bring expertise and effectiveness to the program and increase quality, accountability and standards to DM programs and  help in reaching the unreached
  • NGOs bring diverse perspectives, capacity and resources  to bridge the divide between disasters and development
  • The disaster mitigation and preparedness programs can be supported or facilitated well by the NGOs working at the grass root level who are well aware of the ground realities
  • The Repairs & Retrofitting programs can assist families and communities to return back to normal ways of living with increased access to services and assets
  • In the Emergency phase distribution of the Emergency Shelter Kits will assist families to stay in safe environment and get confidence to work for their development
  • Provision of safe water, Chlorination of water sources, repairing of hand pumps will protect communities from further contamination
  • Reconstruction of houses by encouraging home partners to actively participate in the house construction work
  • Stock pile or pre positioning of Emergency shelter materials and House construction materials for rapid response
  • TO initiate community based disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs and develop action plans for disaster mitigation (structural and non-structural mitigation)





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