India is the world’s second-most populous country, and the people of India face effects of disasters on many fronts. During the years 2000-2019, India had the third highest number of disaster events in the world, due to recurring natural hazards and the increasing impacts of climate change.
India has a history of destructive earthquakes. The seismic zoning map of India marks a large “high damage risk” area (zone IV), which includes densely-populated Delhi. Parts of the Himalayan region and the North East are Zone V, severe damage risk. Earthquakes in the hilly areas could also trigger many landslides at once.
Landslides mainly affect mountain regions in the North, North East India, and the Western Ghats to the southwest. Rains during monsoon season often trigger landslides, as weak rock layers and soil become saturated. Such slope failures regularly cause injuries and death, displace people from family lands, and cause great economic damage.
Disastrous floods impact many states each year. India’s National Institute of Disaster Management considers India ‘one of the most flood prone countries in the world.’ Flood factors include monsoon rains, silted river systems in highly erodible mountains, cyclones, and cloudbursts. In 2018, flash floods in Kerala affected two-thirds of the state population and twelve of the state's fourteen districts. India’s extensive coastline is exposed to cyclones and occasional tsunamis. In 2020 alone, India was hit by five severe cyclones.
After two disastrous events in a span of 15 months, a ‘Super Cyclone’ (1999) and the Gujarat earthquake (2001), India’s Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority shifted focus from reactive response to proactive preparedness and mitigation. These efforts are beginning to show results, as recent cyclones that affected the same location as in 1999 had minimal loss of life.
In 2016, India developed a roadmap for accomplishing the goals of three major agreements to which India is signatory: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Hon. Prime Minister put forth a ten-point agenda: mainstreaming DRR into all development, risk coverage for all, leadership roles for women, risk mapping, leveraging technology for DRR efficiency, knowledge sharing among universities, using social media for DRR, enhancing local capacities in DRR, learning from disastrous events, and ensuring cohesive international response to disasters anywhere.
Taking this forward, India developed a coalition to focus on Disaster resilient infrastructure called the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) for communities not just within its shores. As a leader in CDRI and the International Solar Alliance, and with initiatives such as the National Seismic Risk Mitigation Project, India supports t sustainable development through collective efforts of Government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations such as ours and communities on the path to resilience.
GeoHazards International in India: Our staff members have been based in Delhi since 2005, in Dharamshala since 2007, Aizawl, Mizoram since 2012, and Kerala since 2020. Along with our local partner organisation, we have worked across 18 states in the country in initiatives relating to hospital safety, school safety, engineers training, retrofitting, masons training, urban risk reduction, risk assessment, development of disaster scenarios, policy and planning.