Symposium on ‘Tsunami 2004- Memories and Lessons’ held

Disaster risk reduction remains primary objective of A&N Admin: LG
Report by: 
Port Blair
17 Mar 2017

The Directorate of Disaster Management, A&N Administration conducted a daylong symposium on ‘Tsunami – 2004 ‘Memories & Lessons’, in the Conference Hall of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Institute of Technology, Dollygunj today. The Lt. Governor, A & N Islands, Prof. Jagdish Mukhi as the chief guest, inaugurated the symposium by lighting the traditional oil lamp. The Chief Secretary, A&N Administration, Shri Anindo Majumdar, the Adhyaksha Zila Parishad South Andaman, Shri Jaydeep Kumar Dey, Principal Secretary & Relief  Commissioner, Shri Raajiv Yaduvanshi, the former Chief Secretaries of A&N Administration, S/Shri V.V Bhat and DS Negi, former Relief Commissioner, Shri Puneet Goyal, senior officers of the Administration and officers who had performed exceptionally well in handling the situation and providing relief after the catastrophe of Tsunami – 2004 attended this symposium. In the beginning, a one minute silence was also observed in memory of the people who lost their lives during the tsunami of 2004.  
Addressing the gathering, the Lt Governor, while offering his heartfelt prayers to all the families who have lost their loved ones during this tragedy, said, the tragic Tsunami of 2004 brought this small archipelago of A&N Islands into the eyes and hearts of millions of people worldwide.
Appreciating the dedicated efforts made by the officers of the Administration during and after the Tsunami, he said, many officers who rendered their services during Tsunami are present here with us for sharing their experiences, memories and lessons that they learnt.
The Lt Governor said, adversities not only bring people together and open up challenges on human limitations but it also provides us opportunity to identify people who performed beyond their call of duty at the crucial time and raise their work to the level of true worship.
Referring to the relief and rescue operations, the Lt Governor said, the Armed Forces, Administration, NGOs and others joined in rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts of unprecedented proportions, the results of which are before us today. The destroyed or damaged infrastructures have been rebuilt, in much stronger and better way, he said, adding that the best way to plan the way ahead is to look back and learn from our experiences. Appreciating the initiatives of the Chief Secretary, Shri Anindo Majumdar for convening this seminar and inviting some of the key persons who played pivotal role in those days, the Lt Governor said, their views will be the guideposts for our Directorate of Disaster Management. He also appreciated Shri Anindo Majumdar for coming to the Islands as a volunteer to join the rescue and relief operations, post tsunami and working in the worst affected areas. He also mentioned about Dr MM Kutty, IAS, who came and assisted the then Lt Governor in relief and rehabilitation works in these Isles.
He also expressed happiness that the Directorate of Disaster Management is taking initiative to equip all the establishments, Departments, non-governmental organizations and other stake holders for timely disaster response. He hoped that the Directorate, in co-ordination with other Departments of the Administration would be able to mitigate the impact of any disaster.
The Lt Governor further said that to have a proper strategy for disaster reduction, the Administration has adopted a holistic, positive and technology-driven strategy by promoting values of prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response. He emphasized that disaster risk reduction remains the primary objective of the Administration.
Mentioning about the preparedness, he pointed that despite the best preparedness and highest response standards, disasters, both manmade and natural, remain a challenge to mankind. To capture information about all incidents; hazardous situation that occurs daily in and around these Islands, a State Emergency Operation Centre has been established with State- of- the- Art communication facility which is functioning 24x7, he informed the gathering.
The Lt Governor further disclosed that to augment better information and communication network, the Administration has taken up major initiatives under which 10 Automated Weather Stations have been set up at all the Helipads in coordination with ISRO and data is being gathered for smooth navigation of our helicopters. Further, 35 locations have already been identified by the Administration in coordination with Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad for installing GPS strong motion Sensors to collect the data related to movement of Earth, he said.
He also informed that the Administration has already taken up with Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi for commissioning of Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) in these Islands, the land for which has been allocated.
The IMD has assured that in the second phase of their plan, they will be installing the DWR in these Islands. This will help forecasting of Weather in an accurate manner as these Islands are also prone to Hydro-Meteorological disasters, he said. Apart from this, the Administration has also signed a tri- partite agreement with INCOIS, BSNL, Port Blair for setting up of Automated Tsunami Sirens along with 35 GPS observatories for disseminating Tsunami Sirens by centrally triggering it from the State Emergency Operation Centre, the Lt Governor informed.
Concluding his speech, the Lt Governor said “I am hopeful that the symposium on ‘Tsunami-2004: Memories & Lessons’, would be fruitful and deliberations of the delegates and the resource persons during various sessions of the symposium would be insightful”. A compilation of the deliberations will be useful handbook for the Directorate of Disaster Management in planning their future strategies, said the Lt Governor.
In his address on occasion, the Chief Secretary, A & N Administration, Shri Anindo Majumdar recalled the tragedy of Dec, 26, 2004, the massive Tsunami which struck the Islands and other parts of neighboring countries. He also narrated about the relief and evacuation process and the various contributions made by the team led by Shri V.V.Bhatt (former Chief Secretary, A&N Administration). He said the whole team galvanized into action with the cooperation of defense forces, police, civil societies, IRBn, CISF and other agencies despite limited resources and no relief aid from International Organizations, unlike other countries. He also highlighted the rehabilitation process which was executed excellently by the team led by Shri DS Negi (former Chief Secretary, A&N Administration). The Chief Secretary also acknowledged the contributions made by many unsung heroes during the time of disaster and said, it was concerted efforts from all quarters. The Tsunami of 2004 brought out the leadership qualities among people and they were united in all their efforts, he said.
About the symposium, he said, memories of the past need to be recalled to an extent that it guides us in the future and this seminar will focus on what the Administration did, what it could have done and what it should do in the future.
Highlighting the journey post 2004, the Chief Secretary remarked that we have traversed a long journey. A lot of developments have taken place and a fully fledged Department of Disaster Management came into effect from 2009-10 onwards. Besides, infrastructure developments, communication set ups were improved, SEO centers have been set up in Port Blair and six other locations of Isles which are interlinked with the support of INCOIS besides hotlines and VSATs have been strengthened and with the help of INCOIS,  the Administration is monitoring the events of the Islands on timely basis.
He further added that capacity building training has also been strengthened and NDRF has stationed a team of 45 persons to help during emergency. Apart from this, each Department has been strengthened internally and is working in coordinated efforts besides awareness campaign and mock drills are being conducted from time to time.
Mentioning that the Islands lies in the seismic zone, the Chief Secretary stressed that response to disaster and mobilization of people needs to be tested time and again so that we are fully prepared for any untoward incidents. Mentioning about cyclone ‘Vardha’ which stuck the Islands in the recent past, the Chief Secretary remarked that it gave an opportunity for the Administration to test its preparedness and response to disaster which was done reasonably well. However, he added, certain shortcomings came to fore and more efforts need to be put for mitigating future instances. He highlighted the need to have a broader and bolder understanding of different types of disaster and to integrate the best in technology, adding that human elements, along with feeling of commitment should continue. He expressed hope that the timely symposium would yield effective outputs leading to an action plans which will be a guiding force for the Administration to be prepared to meet future exigencies.
During the first session, a documentary on disaster management activities in A&N Islands and a presentation on vulnerability, preparedness, response, mitigation and capacity building was made by the Directorate of Disaster Management. This was followed by views, observations and suggestions of the delegates.