Arguments for and against recognizing heatwaves as a disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act

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Source: The post arguments for and against recognizing heatwaves as a disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act has been created, based on the article “Why heatwaves have not been included as a notified disaster in the Disaster Management Act” published in “Indian Express” on 13th June 2024

UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3-disaster management

Context: The article discusses the debate over classifying heatwaves as a recognized disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act. This change would allow states to use specific disaster funds for heatwave management. Currently, heatwaves aren’t included, leading to funding and resource challenges for states.

For detailed information on Disaster Management Act 2005 read this article here

What are Notified Disasters?

  1. Notified disasters are specific disasters recognized under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005. The DM Act was created after the 1999 Odisha super-cyclone and the 2004 tsunami.
  2. It defines disasters as events causing substantial loss of life, property, or environmental damage beyond the community’s coping capacity.
  3. Recognized disasters allow states to use the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). In 2023-24, only two states drew money from the NDRF.

For detailed information on National Disaster Response Fund read this article here

What are the arguments for recognizing heatwaves as a disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act?

  1. Increasing Frequency and Severity: Over the last 15 years, heatwaves have become more severe and frequent, posing greater risks to public health and safety. The rising number of heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially among those who work outdoors, underscores the need for heatwaves to be recognized as disasters.
  2. Improved Disaster Response Funding: Recognition would allow states to use funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and potentially the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for heatwave management, including financing Heat Action Plans (HAPs). These plans involve creating shaded spaces, ensuring water availability, and adjusting work and school schedules to mitigate heatwave impacts.

For detailed information on Heat Action Plan read this article here

What are the arguments against recognizing heatwaves as a disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act?

  1. Financial Constraints: Recognizing heatwaves as a national disaster could significantly increase financial burdens. The 15th Finance Commission expressed that the existing list of notified disasters covers the needs of the states to a large extent, suggesting that the financial implications of adding heatwaves could be substantial.
  2. Compensation Costs: Official recognition would require the government to compensate for heatwave-related fatalities and injuries. This year alone, more than 500 heat-related deaths have been reported, and official recognition could lead to higher compensation costs.
  3. Attribution Challenges: Determining if a death was directly caused by a heatwave is complex, as heat often exacerbates pre-existing conditions rather than being the sole cause, making direct attribution difficult.
  4. Existing Provisions for Local Disasters: The enabling provision by the preceding Finance Commission allows states to use up to 10% of their State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for local disasters like heatwaves. States such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Kerala have already designated heatwaves as local disasters, utilizing this provision for management and relief, which may reduce the urgency for national recognition.

Question for practice:

Discuss the factors influencing the debate over whether to classify heatwaves as a recognized disaster under India’s Disaster Management Act, considering both the arguments for and against such recognition and their respective implications.

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