No one wants disasters to cause pain and misery, and erode the gains of growth and development. So we try our best to avoid or rule out the possibility of hazardous incidences, but it is not always possible to do so.
Assume that you live in Zone V of Seismic Zonation Map of India, say at Gairsain in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand that also lies in the Seismic Gap of April 4, 1905 Kangara and January 15, 1934 Bihar – Nepal earthquakes. Scientists repeatedly warn you of the possibility of a major earthquake around that area in near future. Despite knowing the risk you cannot rule out the possibility of the next earthquake devastating your surroundings, and that might also include your own house.
In that case can’t you do anything?
You can very well reduce your exposure to earthquake hazard by shifting to a place that has relatively low possibility of earthquakes and consequently reduce your risk. May be, you can shift to a place located in Zone II of Seismic Zonation Map of India; say Ajmer in Rajasthan and consequently significantly reduce your earthquake risk. But shifting is often not possible because of socio-economic, cultural, emotional and other reasons.
Does that mean you have no option but to wait for the earthquake to devastate you, and your surroundings?
The answer is a big NO; in Bold and Capitals.
So you, and your family can be prepared to face the earthquake; make sure your house is earthquake safe – consult an engineer and get done structural and non-structural retrofitting, practice earthquake safety measures – specially Drop, Cover and Hold, know what to do and what not to do before, during and after an earthquake. By doing and practicing all these you can ensure safety and security of your loved ones.
All these measures certainly do not rule out the possibility of an earthquake hitting your surroundings but these do promise to reduce the earthquake impact or effect, and these are known as mitigation measures. The term mitigation more generally implies that whilst it may be possible to prevent some disaster effects, other effects will persist but can be modified or reduced provided appropriate action is taken.
Mitigation is the reduction of something harmful or the reduction of its harmful effects. It may refer to measures taken to reduce the adverse impact of hazards, or to manage harmful incidents that have already occurred. It is a stage or component of emergency management and of risk management.
Given below are some actions that are generally regarded as coming under the heading of mitigation.
Strengthening of infrastructure: This includes measures to improve performance of structures during hazard incidences, and ensure their safety. It is important to note that changes in building codes can make previously built structures unsafe according to the present standards. The National Building Code was revised in 2005, and 2016, and therefore it becomes necessary to review the safety of previously constructed buildings, particularly lifeline buildings.
Retrofitting of buildings is a mitigation measure to make these resistant to various hazards.
Building bye laws: Some countries regard the development and application of building codes (which can reduce damage and loss in the event of earthquakes and cyclones) as being a category of mitigation. Other countries however regard such building codes as being a category of prevention; recent developments in earthquake proof buildings has no doubt influenced this outlook.
This suggests that, under some circumstances, the term prevention/mitigation may be more suitable for some countries than using prevention and mitigation as two separate concepts and activities.
Changes in crops or cropping patters: Early maturing crops can be promoted in areas that are routinely affected by floods during certain identified period, such as Indo-Gangetic plain during the monsoon period. Similarly crops resistant to saline water could be promoted in coastal areas routinely affected by storm surges.
Economic diversification: Concentration of economic assets in a given geographical area often result in major economic set back in the event of that area being affected by a major disaster. Two hydropower projects located in close proximity at Rishiganga (13.2 MW) and Tapoban (520 MW) were devastated by February 7, 2021 flash flood in Rishiganga – Dhauliganga rivers in Indian Himalaya.
Economic diversification implies discouraging concentration of investment and assets in a geographical area. Economic diversification, though a risk reduction strategy, ensures equitable development of the region.
The investors generally desist from venturing into remote or new areas and are interested in investment in areas that are relatively developed in terms of basic infrastructure and facilities and have easy access to power, labour and the like. The industrialised areas generally have all these facilities and investors are therefore easily attracted towards these areas. The state could therefore create basic facilities and infrastructure in different geographical areas and the same could be an incentive for the investors to explore possibilities of setting up their venture in other areas. As a by-product, this exercise would ensure balanced development of the region.
Risk transfer: Risk transfer refers to measures whereby one party promises to assures the other party to redeem the losses due to identified event in future in lieu of an agreed upon consideration.Besides compensating individuals, organisations and state in the event of a disaster risk transfer reduces the burden of public exchequer and thereby ensures uninterrupted, and sustainable growth, and development. Being an important component of mitigation risk transfer is also dealt in detail separately.
Safety regulations relating to high-rise building, control of hazardous substances, safety codes governing land, sea and air transport systems, systems to protect key installations, such as power supplies and vital communications and developments in infrastructure, such as the routing of new highways away from disaster-prone areas are some other mitigation easures.
Periodical power quality audit and exhaustive preventive maintenance process with the help of electrical consultants is a mitigation measure that can avert fire risks due to electrical reasons, which is the major cause (>85%) of fires.
In earthquake prone areas, mitigation measures might include structural changes such as the installation of an earthquake valve to instantly shut off the natural gas supply, seismic retrofits of property, and the securing of items inside a building. The latter may include the mounting of furniture, refrigerators, water heaters and breakables to the walls, and the addition of cabinet latches. In flood prone areas, houses can be built on poles/stilts.