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date: 20 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

India faces a very broad range of hazards due to its wide geoclimatic spread. This, combined with deep-rooted social, economic, physical, and institutional vulnerabilities, makes India one of the highest disaster-affected countries in the world. Natural hazards have gained higher visibility due to an increasing frequency and magnitude of their impact in recent decades, and efforts to manage disasters have been largely unable to keep pace with the growing incidences, scale, and complexities of disaster events.

A number of mega events between 1990 and 2005, including earthquakes, cyclones, floods, and a tsunami, created momentum in decision making to look at disasters critically and to push for a shift from response to mitigation and preparedness. While efforts were put in place for appropriate legislation, institution building, and planning, these processes were long drawn out and time and resource intensive. It has taken years for the governance systems to begin showing results on the ground.

While these efforts were being formulated, the changing face of disasters began to present new challenges. Between 2005 and 2015, a number of unprecedented events shook the system, underscoring the increasing variability and thus unpredictability of natural hazards as a new normal. Events in this period included cloudbursts and flash floods in the deserts, droughts in areas that are normally flood prone, abnormal hail and storm events, and floods of rare fury. To augment the shifting natural hazard landscape, urbanization and changing lifestyles have made facing disasters more challenging. For example, having entire cities run out of water is a situation that response systems are not geared to address.

The future will be nothing like the past, with climate change adding to natural hazard complexities. Yet, the tools to manage hazards and reduce vulnerabilities are also evolving to unprecedented levels of sophistication. Science, people, and innovations will be valuable instruments for addressing the challenges of natural hazards in the times ahead.

Keywords: social vulnerability, variability, response, resilience, innovation, disaster, governance, climate change, India

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