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Bridging the Knowledge Gap

The imperative of disaster management awareness in Kashmir
12:00 AM Mar 11, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
bridging the knowledge gap
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Kashmir, situated in a seismically active zone, is as vulnerable to devastating earthquakes as it is to flash floods, landslides and avalanches. Yet, preparedness for such events remains alarmingly inadequate in this region of unmatched beauty. In a region where natural beauty harmoniously coexists with other complexities, understanding disaster management is not just essential; it's an exquisite journey into the heart of resilience. Recently, the valley has experienced a series of small-scale earthquakes, underscoring our vulnerability to natural disasters. This emerging pattern is a clarion call for heightened awareness and preparedness in disaster management.

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By fostering awareness and inculcating preparedness skills, doesn't merely preserve lives; it transforms citizens into resolute custodians of their homeland.

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The Landscape of Kashmir: A Beauty with Risk

Kashmir's history is marked by an array of environmental challenges, including seismic tremors, inundations, snow slides, landslips and gales. These events can be attributed to its distinct topographical complexity, rugged terrain and the region's vulnerability to severe weather, making it a hotspot for natural disasters. The increasing frequency and intensity of the disasters in the valley owe to the following factors -

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  • Geological vulnerability: Kashmir is in a highly active seismic zone, most parts of the valley fall under seismic zones 1V & V. Sited on the western side of the Indian Plate, the region is bordered to the north by the Himalayas and to the south by the Pir Panjal range. The geological movement of these ranges has made the region prone to earthquakes, landslides and avalanches.
  • Hydrological vulnerability: The Jhelum River basin, which runs through the Kashmir Valley, is prone to flooding due to its topography and heavy rainfall. The region receives rainfall from both the southwest monsoon and western disturbances, which can cause flash floods and landslides. Further, due to the rapid melting of snow in the Himalayas, water levels in these rivers can rise rapidly, inundating low-lying areas and causing extensive damage.
  • Extreme weather: The climate of Kashmir is characterized by extreme weather conditions, particularly during the winter months. The region experiences heavy snowfall, cold waves and avalanches, which make it prone to disasters such as snowstorms and avalanches.
  • Deforestation: Deforestation and land-use changes have disrupted the natural balance in the region, making it more susceptible to landslides and floods. The indiscriminate cutting down of trees and encroachment of wetlands has led to the loss of natural vegetation cover, soil erosion, and degradation of water bodies. These activities have increased the risk of landslides, particularly in the hilly areas of the state.

As a result, the region has constantly paid high in terms of lives and assets. Therefore, awareness is the first line of defence, ensuring that every individual understands the potential risks and the steps they can take to mitigate them. This knowledge not only saves lives but also helps in building a community resilient to the whims of nature.

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Need for Public Awareness

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In a region full of nature's breath-taking artistry, the importance of disaster management awareness cannot be overemphasized. Its significance is twofold, bringing together deep foresight with pragmatic wisdom.

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  • Risk Mitigation: Knowledge empowers individuals and communities to take proactive measures in anticipation of these perils.
  • Preservation of Life: It gives people the intelligence to make wise choices that could mean the difference between life and death.
  • Safeguarding Assets and Infrastructure: Not only does awareness preserve lives, but it also serves as the sentinel of property, infrastructure and livelihoods. It reduces the possibility of devastation and financial instability following disasters.
  • Fortifying Community Resilience: An educated populace in disaster management breeds resilience. Neighbours extend their hands to neighbours, alleviating the burden on emergency services and promoting communal solidarity.
  • Averting Chaos: Raising awareness is a powerful way to combat chaos. Knowledgeable people understand how to react to crises in an artistic way, which helps to create a coordinated and effective crisis response.

Disaster management empowers individuals, enhances decision-making, mitigates human suffering, bolsters economic resilience and safeguards local ecosystems. This results in an overall improvement in resilience and well-being in the region.

Integration into All Fields:

Disaster management is not merely the responsibility of a dedicated department but should be a core element of every sector. Here's why:

  • Healthcare: Hospitals and healthcare professionals must be equipped to handle an influx of patients during disasters.
  • Education: Schools become bastions of knowledge, with students and staff well-equipped for any emergency.
  • Agriculture: Farmers become virtuoso guardians of the land, taming nature's whims with agricultural evenness.
  • Infrastructure: Engineers embark upon a creative journey, crafting structures that stand firm against nature's tempest.

 

Employment:The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Despite the evident need for disaster management awareness in Kashmir, there remains a conspicuous gap in the opportunities for employment in this critical field. The pursuit of disaster management as a profession, even for the academically qualified, has not been without its share of challenges. The University of Kashmir's Department of Geography and Disaster Management, a testament to intellectual prowess, generates over 40 graduates in each batch, yet their talents remain unutilized, due to the dearth of opportunities in this field. This disconnect not only hampers the professional growth of individuals but also deprives our region of skilled experts who can lead the way in disaster preparedness and response. The lack of defined career pathways, insufficient government initiatives and limited public and private sector engagement contribute to the scarcity of employment opportunities in this sector.

By Basra Jan

Basra Jan, Post-graduate in Disaster Management from University of Kashmir

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