February 21, 2024

HPAS/Allied Mains 2022 Answer Writing Challenge Day 55 : Model Answer

QUESTION Give an account of natural hazards and their consequences in the desert regions, with special reference to India. What steps can be taken to prevent them from turning into disasters? (20 MARKS 400 WORDS)


DIRECTIVE:  Discuss commonly occurring disasters like drought, flood, heat waves etc. in desert region.

 Discuss region wise disasters in hot and cold deserts in India (Ex. Thar desert, Ladakh desert etc.)

 Mention some steps that need to be taken to tackle identified threats.

 In the conclusion, talk briefly about the steps being taken by the authorities.

Introduction Deserts cover about one-fifth of Earth’s land surface and may be classified into two major types:

  1. Hot (e.g. Sahara desert, Thar Desert) – Extreme summer maximum temperatures can reach up to 49 degrees Celsius.
  2. Cold  (e.g.  Ladakh  region, Spiti  Valley  cold  desert  in  Himachal  Pradesh)-these have  snow cover  for most of the year. Characterized  by  extended  periods  of  drought  and  extremes  of  heat  and  cold,  deserts  experience extreme environmental conditions.

Hazards in desert regions vary according to the location and geology of the  particular  desert.  The location  factor  may  include  proximity  to  hostile  international  borders; geological  factors  may  include  terrain,  seismicity,  volcanicity  etc.  The  various  natural  hazards  in  desert regions of India are:

Main Body
  1. Drought-It  is  attributed  to  the  hot  arid  climate  and  very  dry  sandy  soils  in  hot  and  dry  Thar  Desert  of Rajasthan  and  adjoining  region.  Moderate  to  severe  drought  occurs  every  year.  In  case  of  Ladakh,  its location on the rain shadow side of the Great Himalayas block the monsoon clouds and hence the region has very  scant  rainfall.  Due  to  retreating  glaciers  water  is  getting  scarce  for  the  summer  crop  which  is entirely dependent on melting snow for irrigation.
  2. Sandstorm– Barmer region in Rajasthan is prone to frequent sandstorms which disrupt normal livelihood.
  3. Epidemics of  swine  flu, malaria  and  chikungunya  have  occurred  in  Thar  region. These  have  potential  to cause large loss of human lives. However   the sparse population is the reason for its limited spread. The other major disease is malaria which is endemic to the region due to the large-scale usage of open water storage tanks.
  4. Floods– In  Thar  region floods  are  rare  due  to  poor  rainfall  in  the  region  but  unusually  high  quantum  of rain can result in flash floods as seen in Kawas region of Barmer district in 2006. A layer of gypsum below the sandy surface prevented flood waters from seeping into the ground in the region, slowing down relief efforts.  The 2010  floods  in  Leh  region due  to  cloud  burst which  led  to  a  significant  loss  of  lives  and property points to the vulnerability of the region.
  5. Fires– high temperatures during summer and the presence of large numbers of kutcha (thatched) houses in the villages in Thar region lead to high incidences of fire.
  6. Earthquakes– for  example Bhuj  quake  of  Kutch  in  2001  was felt  in  Jalore,  Barmer  and  Jaisalmer.  Many buildings  in  these  districts  had  developed  huge  cracks  and  had  been  rendered  unsafe.  Leh  region  and Spiti valley are highly vulnerable to earthquakes (lies in zone-4 of India earthquake zone mapping).
  7. Others-Hazards and risks can potentially emanate from riots, civil strife, pilferage and sabotage and may be  taken  into  consideration  for  disaster  preparedness  and  management.  Proximity  to  Indo–Pak  border increase the chances of loss of lives and property during a war. The proximity of the border also increases the probability of terrorist attacks.

Steps to be taken

  1. Shifting from a response oriented reactive management approach to a holistic approach which attaches immense  importance  to  prevention,  preparedness,  mitigation  and  response.  For  example  ensuring proper  drainage  and  watershed  management  practices  can  mitigate  the  effects  of  both  droughts  and flash floods.
  2. Similarly increasing vegetation cover, planting tree buffers, conducting air infiltration testing during building constructions etc. may mitigate effects of sandstorms.
  3. Putting  local  communities  at  the  centre  of  disaster  management  and  in  achieving  progressively  higher levels of resilience to disasters (as communities are the first responders and bear the maximum brunt of any disaster events). There is a need to create awareness  about earthquake resistant  constructions and retrofitting;  also  fire  safety  awareness  among  the  community  members  in  hot  arid  regions  should  be created.
  4. Capacity  building  in  the  institutions  of  National  Disaster  Management  Agency  especially  at  District  and village level also needs to be focused upon. For instance, emphasis should be placed on fast movement of  National  Disaster  Management  force  to  the  areas  affected  by  the  disaster  like  flash  floods  and earthquakes. Similarly enhancing the early warning systems is crucial to prevent natural hazards turning to disaster.
ConclusionIt is impossible to always prevent disasters, but its impact can always be mitigated by anticipating them and  by  being prepared  by  extensive  review  of  health  infrastructure,  disease  surveillance  and  response system, multisectoral coordination etc. For  example  the Drought  Prone  Areas  Programme  (DPAP) and Desert Development Programme (DDP) are being implemented by the Government of India since 1970’s. 
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