Atlas on disaster hazards

Umiam, April 23 : The Northeast may be prone to all kinds of natural hazards, given its diverse topography and seismic instability. But means of mitigation are also available now, thanks to the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (Nesac).

For one, the centre is releasing an atlas depicting the disaster hazards and vulnerability of Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Silchar towns and Dhemaji district of Assam in July. The research is already done and the centre is now processing the collected data.

The atlas is part of the project — Remote Sensing and GIS-based Input for Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment of Guwahati City, Silchar, Dibrugarh towns and Dhemaji district, Assam — of the centre, located in this small town around 20km from Shillong.

Moreover, a Flood Early Warning System (Flews) is being activated across Assam following a request from Dispur. The system was successfully tested first in Lakhimpur district in 2009 and then in Dhemaji, Nalbari, Barpeta and Baksa in 2010.

Nesac director S. Sudhakar said the atlas project, initiated in 2010 and funded by Assam State Disaster Management Authority, would go a long way in disaster management and mitigation. He was interacting with reporters here today on the sidelines of a two-day workshop on scientific natural hazard management using geophysical information.

The project also aims to prepare GIS-based hazard maps on 1:5,000 (or smaller scale) of Guwahati, Silchar and Dibrugarh and 1:10,000 scale for Dhemaji district and the areas likely to be affected.

Sudhakar said under the project, an assessment of physical vulnerability, including housing, critical infrastructure, lifelines and essential facilities such as schools, hospitals, in structural terms, was conducted.

A detailed assessment of social patterns of vulnerability, which include vulnerabilities associated with gender, weaker sections, disability, widowhood and other social handicaps, was also performed.

He said a similar project would be undertaken in the towns of Meghalaya in the near future, while requesting state government departments to be forthcoming in sharing data with Nesac to facilitate compilation of proper studies and assessments.

On the flood warning system, Sudhakar said the aim of the system was to provide flood warning at the district and revenue circle levels with best possible lead time, to enable the district administration to take action well in advance for relief, rescue and other flood mitigation measures.

He said the system was currently active in 15 out of 27 districts of Assam and added that its success rate had been in the range of 70-80 per cent. “Based on the success rate, we have received a request from the Assam government to extend the system across the state. It is difficult, but I am sure we will be able to do it.”

He said the centre had also started forest fire forecasting in Mizoram and Meghalaya taking wind speed, wind direction, nature of vegetation, slope level and other aspects into consideration.

The centre will also look into other disaster preparedness issues with the setting up of the North Eastern Regional Node for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Rs 4-crore node, which is a Nesac project, will have 10 technical personnel dedicated towards developing preparedness systems for all types of disasters in the eight states of the region.