Previstar Case Study: West Bengal

BACKGROUND

The Indian state of West Bengal is home to the world’s largest river delta, covering more than 100,000 sq. km. in the north- eastern arm of the country. Two of the biggest rivers in Asia – Ganga and Brahmaputra meet in this region to create a uniquely diverse geography that receives tremendous amo- unts of freshwater and fertile soil deposits. Owing to these factors, the region is heavily inhabited, with over 90 million people on the Indian side of the delta and an additional 30- 40 million people in the neighbouring Bangladesh. The river delta system has an effective draining area 1.7 mil- lion square kilometres – the third largest in the world and is the hub for perennial floods and mudslides. A large number of cyclones are also formed in the Bay of Bengal risking tens of thousands of lives annually during the monsoons (rainy season). In November 1970, the deadliest tropic cyclone of the 20th century claimed 500,000 lives in this region and every year, especially during the monsoons, the risk factor owing to forces of nature is increased significantly.

As an endeavour to tackle these threats, Bengal Disaster Management Department (DMD) has set up a fully functi- onal, 24x7 operational state Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) at the state government’s headquarters, Nabanna. It has also set up district level EOCs in all the 23 districts. Recently, the DMD has undertaken an initiative to implement an Incident Response and Planning System that can take their paper plans and operationalize them. The system is intended to be online and dynamic, bringing all stakeholders and line agencies like police, public works department, fire department, hospitals etc., under one platform to prepare for and respond instantaneously to any disaster in a cohesive manner. This was also part of the capacity building exercise to comply with the Incident Response System guidelines of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) - India, the national nodal body which formulates guidelines on disaster planning and response.

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