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Digital power helps India's districts prepare for disasters
16 September 2003

New Delhi: When cyclones, earthquakes or other calamities next strike in India, district officials in many areas can go online and quickly mobilize support for evacuation, search and rescue, medical aid and other relief priorities.

Launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani recently in New Delhi, the India Disaster Resource Network (IDRN) is part of the nationwide Disaster Risk Management Programme, a joint initiative by the Government and UNDP that aims to reduce the vulnerability of communities in 169 districts in 17 States most at risk.

IDRN includes a nationwide inventory of resources, such as equipment and experts in various fields, required for emergency response to disasters.

Mr. Advani opened the network through a video conference with Chief Ministers of five States - among them Orissa, at risk for cyclones, and Gujarat, prone to earthquakes together with West Bengal, Assam and Maharashtra. These States have contributed to the IDRN online database.

He expressed confidence that IDRN would provide critical information to disaster managers about resources and their location so that these can be accessed immediately during emergencies. He also saluted UNDP for its support to the ministry in moving the agenda for disaster preparedness forward.

The most immediate need of district relief commissioners in responding to emergencies is to deploy resources quickly and efficiently. Yet they often lack information on resources in their own districts, and have even less data about the limited quantities of essential search and rescue equipment in other parts of the country.

IDRN will provide ready access to information from across the country about the availability of vital resources. Access to the network is available for district decision-makers and the National Disaster Management Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

National UN Volunteers helped design and develop the IDRN web-based application, providing technical support to the Government at district and state levels. They now assist relief commissioners and district authorities, in coordination with Government departments and public sector partners, in maintaining smooth operation of the network. Other national UN Volunteers, working with UN Information Technology Services (UNITeS), are helping put IDRN into operation at the district level.

Earlier this year, the ministry drafted a national disaster management framework to guide the Union and State Governments in managing risks from disasters of all kinds. The Government is further promoting a culture of prevention, mitigation and preparedness by setting up Disaster Management Authorities and converting State Relief and Rehabilitation Departments into Disaster Management Departments.

Through the Disaster Risk Management Programme, the Ministry of Home Affairs has also launched an initiative to reduce earthquake vulnerability in 38 cities with populations of more than 500,000 in zones that are at risk.