New Delhi: Underlining the need to learn "right lessons" from the Uttarakhand tragedy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the country has to equip itself in a better way to prevent disasters and check their fall out.
"Our nation is vulnerable to a variety of natural and man-made disasters. We are all aware of the devastation that such disasters have caused in our country in the past. Also, in recent years, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have increased globally," he said, addressing ninth formation day of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) here.
The tragedy in Uttarakhand in June, which caused large- scale loss of life, property and public infrastructure, points not only to India`s vulnerability to disasters but also to the need to take effective measures to prevent them and contain their fall-out when they occur, Singh said.
"It is indeed very important that we learn the right lessons from the Uttarakhand tragedy," the Prime Minister stressed.
Singh said that such disasters have serious implications for the sustained growth and development of the economy as scarce resources are required to be deployed to address their negative consequences.
"It is also very important that we integrate and mainstream disaster risk reduction strategies into our mainstream development initiatives," he said.
"Our common endeavour should be to ensure that adequate capacities are built across our institutions and communities to reduce the adverse impact of disasters. While doing so, we also need to pay particular attention to the weaker sections of our society who are impacted by disasters in a disproportionately large manner," Singh said.
The central government is committed to fully assist the Uttarakhand government in rebuilding its infrastructure and help people affected by the floods, the Prime Minister said.
A Cabinet Committee has been constituted solely to provide broad guidance and support to reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the disaster-hit state, he said, adding that the Planning Commission is working to put together an Uttarakhand package in consultation with various central ministries.
Singh said there was a need to take more measures to make country disaster-resilient. "Our forecasting and early warning capabilities need to be strengthened and upgraded. Our communication systems need to be improved to ensure that disaster alerts and warnings reach the last person in the village without delay.
"The capacities of our Panchayati Raj institutions and local communities, which are the first responders in any disaster situation, need to be enhanced further. In fact, disaster risk reduction strategies should be made an integral part of our development processes," he said.
NDMA will continue its efforts for strengthening community preparedness for disaster events and engaging in activities related to disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness, he said.
"Efforts will also be made to develop policies and programmes to ensure that our governance structures and communities are better prepared to deal with both natural and man-made hazards," he said.
The Prime Minister appreciated the role of various central and state governments agencies, voluntary organisations and the common people in rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand. "They worked together in very difficult conditions to save precious lives and property," he said.
Singh paid homage to those brave men and women from the Indian Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Response Force, the civil administration, the civilian air crew and the community at large who laid down their lives in trying to save others.
Addressing the gathering, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde asked all Himalayan states in the country to take up necessary mitigation measures to ensure safety from natural calamities.
"We need to improve our capabilities for meteorological observation and forecasting. It is commonly observed that communication takes the first `hit` in such an event. It is therefore, necessary that the authorities have effective communication tools and a fail-safe connection," he said.
The Home Minister lauded the efforts by various agencies to rescue about 1.5 lakh stranded people from flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand.
"The Uttarakhand natural disaster, which was unprecedented in both scale and magnitude, has also raised some serious concerns. We need to see that the lessons from Uttarakhand disaster will not go in vain.
"There is a need for all the Himalayan States to take up mitigation measures. The framework of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 enables the State Governments to revisit and reorient their State Disaster Management Plans to ensure preparedness for preventing such intense devastation, loss of human lives and destruction of property," he said.
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate natural disasters, latest technology must be adopted to see that the suffering and hardship due to such disasters is reduced, he said, noting that the need of the hour is to improve our early warning systems and ensure rigorous enforcement measures.
Shinde said one area of concentration is to enhance hydrological observation and forecasting capability to predict flash floods in the hilly regions.
He also paid tributes to personnel of NDRF, ITBP, Air Force, civilian pilots and a Sub-Divisional Magistrate who made supreme sacrifice while carrying out rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand.