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14th June 2024 (11 Topics)

Heatwaves: A Missing Disaster in India's Law


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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