This content is taken from 3rd report of 2nd Administrative reform Commission (Crisis  Management). The reports of 2nd ARC are important because they provide truckload of fodder-material in UPSC exam General Studies, Public Administration, Essay and interview.

  1. Crisis vs Disaster
  2. Disasters: why increasing?
  3. Disasters in India
    1. Earthquakes
    2. Cyclones
    3. Tsunamis
    4. Floods
    5. Landslides
    6. Avalanches
    7. Industrial Disasters
    8. Reforms after Bhopal Gas tragedy
    9. Epidemics
    10. Nuclear Hazards
    11. Desert Locusts
  4. Slow Onset disasters
    1. Climatic Change
    2. Droughts
    3. Desertification and Soil Degradation
    4. Sea Erosion
  5. Disaster Response Mechanism in India
    1. Constitution of India: Disaster  Management
    2. State Government & Disaster  Management
      1. Role of CM
      2. Role of Chief Secretary
      3. Role of District Collector
    3. Union Government & Disaster  Management
      1. Role of cabinet Secretary
      2. Where does the money come?
      3. Role of Army
  6. Timeline of Events: Disaster  Management in India

Crisis vs Disaster

  • crisis’ may be defined as “an emergency situation arising out of natural or human activity which poses a threat to human life and property or leads to large scale disruption of normal life.
  • A crisis may degenerate into a disaster if it is not properly managed resulting in avoidable loss of human life and property on a large scale.
  • Second Administrative Reforms Commission, in its 3rd report discussed the Crisis  Management.

Disasters: Why Increasing?

  • Natural disasters have been an integral part of human history right from the dawn of civilization. The rise and fall of the Indus Valley and Babylonian civilizations are a testimony to this.
  • globalization, urbanization, large-scale migrations of human population and climate changes = more disaster.
  • The scourge of terrorism has created new types of crises
  • increasing dependence on communications and computer networks have increased the threat of newer emergencies in case these are disabled by accident or design.(Net-banking, sharemarket, Financial Terrorism etc)
  • modernization, information explosion, transnational migrations, and the economic interdependence among nations have all contributed to extending the impact of crisis situations.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came to the conclusion that, worldwide the frequency and magnitude of all types of natural disasters are on the rise
  • In some regions of the country, the frequency and intensity of droughts have increased over the past few decades.
  • Extreme rainfall events will increase over many areas, resulting in greater number of floods and landslides.
  • Mid-continental areas would generally become drier, thus increasing the risk of summer droughts and forest fires.
  • tropical cyclone expected to be on the rise.
  • Such increasing trends in natural disasters will inevitably create crisis situations.
  • Therefore Disaster management will become a very critical issue in the coming years.
Disaster management matrix

Disaster Matrix (Click to Enlarge)

Types of Disasters

  • caused by acts of nature
    • Climatic events
      • cyclones
      • storms (associated sea erosion),
      • floods and
      • drought
    • Geological events:
      • earthquakes,
      • tsunamis,
      • landslides
      • avalanches;
  • by environmental degradation
  • by accidents.
    • by biological activities
      • public health crises, epidemics etc;
    • by hostile elements
      • war, terrorism, extremism, insurgency etc;
    • by disruption/failure of major infrastructure facilities
      • by large crowds getting out of control

Life Cycle of a crisis

  • It is also necessary to recognize that often a crisis does not emerge suddenly; it has a life cycle, which may take days, months or even decades to develop depending on its causative factors.
  • This ‘life cycle’ of crisis management may be divided broadly in three phases –
    • pre-crisis,
    • during crisis
    • post crisis.
      • Recovery
      • Rehabilitation
      • Reconstruction
  • Most of the natural disasters can now be predicted with a fair degree of accuracy (earthquakes are an exception).
  • Similarly, a reservoir of knowledge and experience now exists about managing all aspects of disasters. The challenge is to ensure that the community at large and the decision makers are empowered with this knowledge.

Traditional Knowledge for Disaster Management

  • Why should people be brought in for a community approach to disaster management? The answer should be easy to appreciate. If tribals in the Andamans could survive the tsunami, it was because their existing warning systems worked well in comparison to our non-existent modern systems
  • The fact that traditional houses of wood and stone survived the Uttarkashi earthquake not so long ago while modern buildings collapsed offered a similar lesson.
  • This intelligence needs to be tapped for devising approaches to management of disasters.

High Cost of Disaster

  • India is very vulnerable to natural hazards because of its unique geo-climatic conditions. Disasters occur in India with grim regularity causing enormous loss of life and property.
  • Almost 85% of the country is vulnerable to single or multiple disasters and about 57% of its area lies in high seismic zones.
  • 40 million hectares of the country’s land area is prone to flood
  • 68% of the area is susceptible to drought
  • investment in disaster prevention and mitigation is highly cost effective: for example, every dollar spent on mitigation saves three to five dollars on relief and rehabilitation
  • Unfortunately, long-term benefits of crisis prevention and mitigation have not been duly factored into our planning and administrative systems
  • A brief description of some major crises/disasters, which India faces is given in the following paragraphs


Disaster Management: EarthQuakes

  • Himalayas – the youngest among the mountain ranges
  • very severe earthquakes in several parts of the Himalayan and surrounding regions
  • This makes the entire region covering fourteen states (located in western and central Himalayas, northeast, and parts of Indo-Gangetic basin) highly prone to earthquakes.
  • The other seismically active regions of the country include the
    • Gulf of Khambhat
    • Rann of Kutch in Western Gujarat,
    • Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Earthquakes can neither be prevented nor predicted in terms of their magnitude, or place and time of occurrence
  • Therefore, the most effective measures of risk reduction are
  • Building construction norms
  • effective rescue and relief actions immediately after the occurrence of the earthquake.


Disaster Management: Cyclones

Tropical Cyclone Exaplained: Click to Enlarge

  • More than 8000 km of coastline in the east and the west face the hazards of tropical cyclones,
  • A ‘super cyclone’ hit x Orissa in  1999
    • caused extensive damage killing about 10,000 people and lakhs of livestock population.
    • The economy, infrastructure and environment were devastated
  • An effective cyclone disaster prevention and mitigation plan requires
  • efficient cyclone forecast – and warning services
  • rapid dissemination of warnings to the government agencies, particularly marine interests like ports, fisheries and shipping and to the general public
  • construction of cyclone shelters in vulnerable areas, a ready machinery for evacuation of people to safer areas and community preparedness


How Tsunami works?

  • Tsunamis are large waves generated by sudden movements of the ocean floor that displace a large volume of water.
  • Tsunamis are usually associated with earthquakes
  • But tsunamis can also be triggered by other phenomena like submarine or terrestrial landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions or even bolide (e.g, asteroid, meteor, comet) impacts.
  • Tsunamis have the potential to strip beaches, uproot plantations, and inundate large inland tracts and extensively damage life and property in coastal area.
  • The tsunami in December 2004 caused severe damage to life and property in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
    • The confirmed death toll in India was 12,000+ while 5,640 people are still unaccounted for.
    • The total estimated value of damages is Rs.11,000+ crores (Approx US $2.56 billion)


How to prevent Flood Damage?

  • The term flood is generally used when the water-flows in rivers, streams and other water bodies cannot be contained.
  • Floods occur regularly in India affecting about 10% of area.
  • According to the estimates of the National Flood Commission (1980), commonly known as the Rashtriya Barh Ayog, Assam and Bihar are the States worst affected by floods followed by U.P. and West Bengal.
  • In many cases, the natural process of flooding is aggravated by man-made due to
    • unplanned or unauthorized construction activities;
    • Increasing pace of urbanization,
  • The incidence of floods in recent times in urban areas such as Mumbai, Surat, Vadodara and other places is symptomatic of this trend and is the direct result of unauthorized construction activities.
  • poor urban planning and implementation,
  • lack of investment in storm water drainage and sewerage
  • The country has to shift towards efficient management of flood plains, disaster preparedness, response planning, flood forecasting and warning
  • There should be strict regulation of settlements and economic activity in the flood plain zones along with flood proofing, to minimise the loss of life and property on account of floods.
  • Flood forecasting activities should be modernized



  • Landslides are mass movements of rocks, debris or earth, down mountain slopes or riverbanks. Such movements may occur gradually, but sudden sliding can also occur without warning.
  • They often take place in conjunction with earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions
  • Prolonged rainfall causing heavy landslides block the flow of rivers for quite some time, which on bursting can cause havoc to human settlements downstream
  • hilly terrains of India, particularly in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, are most vulnerable to landslides.
  • In contrast, the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills are geologically stable
  • regulate settlements in hazard prone area
  • construction of retaining walls against steep slopes


  • sliding down of snow cover on mountain slope causes avalanches
  • Avalanches create various crisis situations for the local administration;
  • road traffic may be blocked and communication links to vital areas may be disrupted
  • winter sports may be disturbed stranding tourists in places with scant facilities.
  • Small rivers may be blocked creating danger of down stream flooding.
  • Avalanches may sometimes hit or bury human settlements down the slopes
  • Solution
    • remove snow deposits on slopes by blasting,
    • predicting avalanches and evacuating people from vulnerable areas.

Industrial Disasters

  • Among the man made disasters, probably the most devastating (after wars) are industrial disasters.
  • These disasters may be caused by chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical or other process failures in an industrial plant due to accident or negligence,
  • But they also cause widespread damage within and/or outside the plant
  • worst example = Methyl Iso-cynate gas leak in 1984 from the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal (known as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy) which has
  • so far claimed more than 20,000 lives and injured several lakh persons

Reforms after Bhopal Gas tragedy

  • In the pre-Bhopal Gas Tragedy era, industrial safety was governed by legislations like the Factories Act, 1948 and the Explosives Act, 1884.
  • These laws proved to be inadequate to provide safety to workers as well as to the people living in the surrounding areas
  • So, The Environment Protection Act, 1986 was enacted.
  • Stringent environmental protection laws have prevented major industrial disasters after Bhopal, but minor disasters do take place on and off site and also during transportation of hazardous materials, which claim a number of lives each year besides creating environmental problems.
  • With rapid industrialization, the threat of industrial disasters has increased.
  • However, in spite of the existence of a large number of laws, their enforcement has left much to be desired


In India, the major sources of epidemics can be broadly categorized as follows

  • Epidemics often take place due to poor sanitary conditions leading to contamination of food and water or due to inadequate disposal of human or animal carcasses in post-disaster situations.
  • They become real dangers during floods and earthquakes. Sometimes, poor solid waste management may create epidemics like plague.
  • Plague is quite uncommon now but it can still occur as it did in Surat in 1994

Nuclear Hazards

Fukishima Nuke Power Plant

  • Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is the nodal agency in the country in respect of man made radiological emergencies in the public domain.
  • (I think we already covered the steps taken by Indian Government to prevent nuke accidents. Refer the Seoul Summit article click ME)

Desert Locusts

Swarm of Desert Locust

  • Under favourable environmental conditions, a few insects can dramatically multiply, form large swarms able to migrate great distances
  • they threaten agriculture over a large part of Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia = food security problem.
  • International cooperation lies at the core of an effective strategy for locust control

Slow vs Rapid Onset disasters

Slow onset disaster Rapid onset disaster
climate change (global warming), desertification, soil degradation, and droughts, Earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis
Also known as Creeping Emergencies.their impact is not felt immediately.

Climatic Change

  • Climate change is defined as ‘a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate for an extended period (typically decades or even longer)
  • Global warming caused due to the “Greenhouse effect” is one of the major reasons for climate change.
  • Global warming leads to melting of glaciers, rise in sea level and threatens low lying coastal areas (Like the Sunderbans and entire nations such as Bangladesh and Maldives)
  • Combating global warming requires urgent and concerted efforts by the international community.


  • Droughts refer to a serious shortfall in availability of water,  thus  affecting agriculture, drinking water supply and industry.
  • Droughts in India have their own peculiarities requiring appreciation of some basic facts. These are:
  • India has an average annual rainfall of around 1150 mm; no other country has such a high annual average, however, there is considerable annual variation
  • More than 80% of rainfall is received in less than 100 days during the South-west monsoon and the geographic spread is uneven.
  • Inadequacy of rains coupled with adverse land-man ratio compels the farmers to practice rain-fed agriculture in large parts of the country
  • Irrigation, using groundwater aggravates the situation in the long run as ground-water withdrawal exceeds replenishment; in the peninsular region availability of surface water itself becomes scarce in years of rainfall insufficiency

Desertification and Soil Degradation

  • Any kind of land degradation can be termed as desertification.
  • This can take place due to soil erosion, increasing alkalinity in soil and water-logging
  • Land degradation is estimated to affect one third of the total area of the country
  • process of desertification is accelerated due to continuing cultivation.
  • alkalinity and salinity coupled with water-logging= seriously reduces agricultural productivity and has grave implications for our food security system.

Sea Erosion

  • landward displacement of the shoreline caused by the forces of waves and currents is termed as erosion.
  • Coastal erosion occurs when wind, waves and long shore currents move sand from the shore and deposit it somewhere else.
  • this results in permanent changes in beach shape and structure.
  • The impact of the event is not always seen immediately, but it is equally important when we consider loss of property that it causes.
  • It takes months or years to note the impact. So, this is generally classified as a “long term coastal hazard”
  • While the effects of waves, currents, tides and wind are primary natural factors that influence the coast,
  • construction of artificial structures, mining of beach sand, building of dams
  • About 23 per cent of India’s mainland coastline of 5423 km is getting affected by erosion

Crisis/Disaster Response Mechanism in India

  • Arthashastra, (a treatise on public administration by Chanakya in the 4th century B.C), devoted a section to mitigation measures to combat famines
  • Modern methods of crisis management began to be applied from the late 1870
  • After Independence, drought relief works were undertaken in areas affected by severe droughts.
  • With the onset of the green revolution in the late 1960s the necessity for famine relief work declined
  • holistic drought management programme was taken up in the form of the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP).
  • Legislation on disaster management at the national level was enacted in the year 2005 with the Disaster Management Act, 2005

Disaster Response Mechanism in India

  • community is usually the first responder in case of a disaster
  • in urban areas the response is articulated by agencies like the civic authorities, the fire brigade and the local police station
  • At present, panchayats do not have the capacity to react in case of disaster.
  • So, it is the district administration, which retains the basic responsibility of handling crises situations with the Collector playing a pivotal role.

Constitution of India: Disaster  Management

  • Indian Constitution has specified specific roles for the Union and State Governments.
  • However, the subject of disaster management does not find mention in any of the three lists in the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

State Government & Disaster  Management

  • State Governments = post disaster relief and rehabilitation
  • A few states have created seperate a Disaster Management Department.

Role of CM

  • a Cabinet Committee on Natural Calamities under the chairpersonship of the Chief Minister takes stock of situations and is responsible for all important policy decisions.

Role of Chief Secretary

Every state has a Crisis Management Committee under the chairpersonship of the Chief Secretary,

  • It reviews crisis situations on a day-to-day basis at the time of crisis,
  • coordinates the activities of all departments and provides decision support system to the district administration

Role of District Collector

  • District Magistrate/Collector has the responsibility for the overall management of disasters in the district.
  • All departments of the State Government including the police, fire services, public works, irrigation etc. work in a coordinated manner under the leadership of the Collector during a disaster, except in metropolitan areas where the municipal body plays a major role.
  • District Collector also enjoys the authority to request for assistance from the Armed Forces if circumstances so demand

Union Government & Disaster  Management

  • Union Government plays a key supportive role by
    • Giving physical and financial resources
    • early warning and co-ordination of efforts of all Union ministries, departments and organizations
  • Till recently, the Department of Agriculture had the nodal responsibility for managing disasters.
  • After the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, this responsibility has been shifted to the Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Matters relating to nuclear, biological and chemical emergencies are looked after by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Role of cabinet Secretary

  • Cabinet Secretary, as the highest executive officer, heads the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC).
  • NCMC can give directions to any ministry, department or organization for specific action needed for meeting the crisis situation.

Where does the money come?

  • After a natural disaster, Government has to take do relief work.
  • To finance such relief work, lot of money is required.
  • The allocation of this money is governed by the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
  • Finance Commission is appointed by the Government of India every five years.
  • Under the existing scheme, each state has a corpus of funds called Calamity Relief Fund (CRF)
  • In case the funds under CRF are not sufficient to meet the specific requirements, State Governments can seek assistance from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF)
  • Both these funds, as the names suggest, are meant for relief and rehabilitation and do not cover either mitigation or reconstruction works, which have to be funded separately by the State or Union Government

Role of Army

  • They’re most effective in dealing with Natural Disaster relief because of
    • their ability to organize action in adverse ground circumstances,
    • Their speed of operational response and also their resources and skills (army engineer, doctors etc)
  • Thus, they play a major role in assisting the civil administration.
  • They provide communications, search and rescue operations, health and medical facilities, transportation, power, food and civil supplies, public works and engineering, in the immediate aftermath of major disasters


  • Essential Services Maintenance Acts (ESMA) to ensure provision of essential services during the time of crisis.
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C) still remains the most important Act to tackle crisis situations due to public order problems
  • Seperate Disaster  Management Act was enacted in 2005.

Timeline of Events: Disaster  Management in India


  • United Nations decided to observe the 1990s as the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
  • National Governments were expected to pay special attention to measures to deal with natural disasters


  • Government of India Constituted a High Powered Committee (HPC) on Disaster Management.
  • HPC came out with a large number of recommendations.


  • Following the Gujarat earthquake, the Government of India took important policy decisions/measures for reforming the disaster management system in the country. These are:
  • Disaster management was moved from the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Although Ministry of Agriculture retains the responsibility for droughts, pest attacks and hailstorms;
  • State Governments were advised to create separate Disaster Management Department
  • State Governments were further advised to constitute
    • State Disaster Management Authority under the Chairmanship of State Chief Ministers
    • District Disaster Management Committee under the Chairmanship of District Collectors
  • A specialized force comprising eight battalions to be named as National Disaster Response Force to be constituted with state-of-the-art equipment and training to respond to various natural and man made disasters;
  • advanced fail-proof disaster communication network
  • National Institute of Disaster Management was set up at Delhi for training research
  • Basics of disaster management to be introduced in school education
  • disaster resistant technologies to be introduced in engineering and architecture
  • disaster- Management topic introduced in medical and nursing education


  • separate law on disaster  Management. (more on that later)