A Parliamentary panel has rejected Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi's contention that there cannot be preparation for a disaster like the Chennai floods which "occurs once in 100 years".
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on 'Disaster in Chennai caused by torrential rainfall and consequent flooding', submitted to the Rajya Sabha, strongly recommended that the Ministry of Home Affairs, through its subordinate concerned agencies, bolster its disaster preparedness.
Deposing before the committee, headed by Congress MP P Bhattacharya, the Union Home Secretary had said, "There can be no preparation for a disaster that occurs once in hundred years because the cost of preparing for the disaster would be disproportionately high."
The panel said it does not quite accept the argument that since the rainfall was unprecedented and was more than the hundred years' average the damage was also huge.
"In the opinion of the committee, any natural disaster of bigger intensity has the propensity to cause damage. Thus instead of putting the blame on the forces of nature, we should use advanced technology to fight it," it said.
The standing committee suggested that separate action should be taken to prepare calamity map of all important cities by developing standard vulnerability indices so as to minimise loss of life, loss of private and public property and vital installations.
"Moreover, the administration of both centre and state should work together and remain vigilant to tackle the situation," it said in its 198-page report.
When contacted, a Home Ministry spokesperson said the Ministry would examine the Parliamentary standing committee's report.
"However, mitigation efforts are largely a state subject and Government of India can assist to the extent possible through various central government schemes," the spokesperson said.
The committee also observed that natural disaster of high magnitude will always adversely affect people in large numbers and the administration has to respond in a fastest possible manner.
"Accordingly, the National Disaster Management Authority and all concerned bodies of central and state governments should have established procedures so that vital time is not lost in wriggling out procedural delays," it said.
The panel observed that since urban floods are taking place in cities like Mumbai, Surat, Srinagar and Chennai, these indicate that the problem may further escalate in future.
"Therefore, the committee recommends that the guidelines prepared by NDMA should be scrupulously followed and they should also review town planning of each city by giving due importance to clear flood channels, proper drainage, safe passage to excess water in lakes, other water bodies, desiltation of river bed, removal of illegal encroachment," it said.
Devastating floods submerged Chennai and its neighbouring areas in November December 2015 claiming the lives of over 400 people.