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14th June 2024 (11 Topics)

Heatwaves: A Missing Disaster in India's Law

Context

North India is grappling with its longest heatwave. Despite the severity, heatwaves remain excluded from the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The absence of heatwaves as a recognized disaster under the Act deprives states of accessing disaster response funds for relief efforts and mitigation measures.

What is Disaster Management Act?

  • The Disaster Management Act, 2005, was enacted to address catastrophes arising from natural or man-made causes.
  • It established the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to oversee disaster response at different levels.
  • The Act includes provisions for funds such as the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

What are ‘notified disasters’?

  • Notified disasters, as per the Act, are catastrophic events beyond the coping capacity of communities, leading to substantial loss of life, property, or damage to the environment.
  • These include cold waves, cyclones, earthquakes, floods, and others. States can access funds like the NDRF and SDRF for relief and recovery efforts.
  • Heatwaves, although increasingly common due to global warming and urbanization, were not initially considered a disaster when the Act was enacted in 2005. With 23 vulnerable states and growing risks of heat-related illnesses, there's a pressing need to address heatwaves in disaster management.
  • Despite demands from state governments, the 15th Finance Commission did not include heatwaves as a notified disaster, citing the existing list covering state needs adequately.
    • However, states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Kerala have designated heatwaves as local disasters, allowing them to access funds for relief efforts.

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