Disaster Management




Natural unforeseen calamities, i.e. disaster like drought, nor’wester, cyclonic storm, flood are the common occurrences in the State of West Bengal every year. Even disaster due to earthquake in the Darjeeling hilly region of West Bengal was also often experienced by the people. These kinds of disaster have always wider impact on human life, livestock, property and assets created by individual and state. Aftermath the disaster among the basic needs for survival, safe drinking water and emergency sanitation always figures on top of the priority list along with food and shelter. As Public Health Engineering Department/Directorate is mandated for supply of safe drinking water to the people of the State, during disaster it requires delivery of services on safe drinking water supply on war footing basis. Emergency sanitation is usually a common task and also delivered by PHE Dte aftermath the disaster. Every year PHED/Directorate keep prepared its Divisions, Sub-Divisions and Blocks level Offices/Officers and staffs for management and combating impacts of disaster. Public Health Engineering Department/Directorate every year prepares an action plan for management and combating of impacts of disaster and deliveres required services effectively and smoothly to manage and mitigate the situation. The Action Plan outlines the objectives, institutional mechanism at State and District level, preparedness, linked organisations, IEC & HRD activities , water quality monitoring etc.

A tentative estimate based on experiences of last few years is also prepared and produced in the action plan. The estimate encompasses all possible services usually deliverd by PHE Dte, including mobilization of Mobile Treatment Units (MTUs) and supply of package water from its own unit; on such occurrences.    

1.0  Introduction :

The term “disaster” implies a natural unforeseen calamity which would have a wider impact on human life, livestock, property and assets created by individuals, organizations or state. “Safe drinking water” is one of the basic needs and without its availability in adequate quantity and safe quality, there could be serious impacts on human health and even on livestock and animals. Drought could lead to scarcity of water due to depletion of ground water table and / or drying up of surface water sources. It could also lead to failure / damage of pumps due to increased suction head. Disaster like flood, cyclonic storm, tsunami, earth quake, landslide etc could result in wash-off / damage of water supply assets created, thus resulting in disruption of supply of safe drinking water. Therefore in any type of disaster, proper management of drinking water supply to the affected people on an “immediate basis” is an essential requirement. Maintaining environmental sanitation and individual hygiene are also equally important to reduce / eliminate chances of disease prevalence and outbreak of epidemics.

The present plan is to address disaster caused by natural calamities. 

2.0  Objectives  :  

The main objective of Disaster Management Plan is to minimize loss of human lives, livestock, social and community assets etc due to natural disaster. The objectives may precisely be articulated as; 

i)    To provide an efficient system for cooperation and collaboration with other Departments, Local Authorities, Agencies, NGOs and other organisations at State, District, Block Level.

ii)    Ensure preparedness, response and relief at all levels.

iii)   To ensure prompt and effective response to deliver the services during disasters, thereby to minimise causalities and enable quick recovery, restoration and rehabilitation of water supply.  

3.0  Institutional mechanism of PHED :

PHED is the nodal Department at State level for safe and quality drinking water supply service to the communities. The Department is responsible for providing management and technical services while responding to natural calamities for restoration of damaged water supply infrastructure and sanitation requirements, including meeting up emergency drinking water needs to the affected people caused by natural disaster. 

To respond any disaster Institutional mechanism of PHE Dept. / Directorate are as below; 

Principal Secretary, in-charge of the Department supported by Engineer- in-Chief & Ex-Officio Secretary and Chief Engineers of  PHE Directorate . 

3.1.1   Control Room operating at Head Quarter Level : Control Room headed by OSD (Superintending Engineer), Monitoring Cell and functions round the clock during the declared period of emergency. 

Planned, coordinated and implemented by WSSO of PHE Department during and after emergency period including regular post disaster awareness. 

PHE Department / Directorate maintain active linkages with State UNICEF Office, WHO and other relevant organizations who extend all supports and management services available to them during and after the disaster. 

As PHE Dept./ Directorate is the nodal Department/Directorate responsible for water supply to the community, the Department/Directorate keeps itself prepared to implement emergency support function relating to drinking water and to some extent on emergency sanitation requirements. The Department/Directorate keeps constant touch with Disaster Management Department and Chief Minister’s designated disaster management group including detail reporting on services and supports extended, requirement of support and services from other Departments and linkage organizations. 

Preparedness activity ensures following;

a)      Linkage with WSSO for framing technical guidelines and IEC & HRD planning for managing and combating disaster. 

b)    In case of drought or like situation ground water table monitoring and necessary steps for crisis management. 

c)    Ensure that minimum inventory of water supply and emergency sanitation materials and spare parts as may be required by Executive Engineers in an event of disaster and have a roaster of RWS Staff to be deployed during the disaster. 

d)    Ensure issue of alert notices to District and Block level Officers. 

e)    Ensure specific attention to water users group. 

4.0  Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) :        

PHE Department / Directorate follows  Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of MDWS of GoI in terms of preparedness, preparation of Action Plan, management, coordination, implementation and monitoring of disaster mitigation activities for water supply and emergency sanitation. 

5.0  State level emergency inventory of PHED / PHE Dte :  

As West Bengal has a considerable stretch of coastal zone, the common disaster, the state experiences is flood. Even overflowing of Tista River System, Damodar  River System, Kansabati River System, Subarnasrekha River System etc sometimes causes flooding of large area in the State every year. This results scarcity of drinking water during the disaster by flood. Occasional occurrence of drought, mainly in the ground water stressed Blocks of West Bengal are also common. Considering above facts and to combat the disaster in terms of water supply during last couple of years, PHED/ PHE Dte had been procuring Mobile Water Treatment Units (MTU), which is able to treat and produce 500 ml. of drinking water pouches for supplying to affected people. PHED has been carrying out the service since 2006-07. During last financial year (2013-14) PHE Dte installed 7(seven) nos.Water bottling plant one each in North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad, Barddhaman, Malda, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar Districts in addition to existing one water bottling plant at Dakshin Roypur in South 24 Parganas District. Except North 24 Parganas, all the water bottling  plants are in operation and each having capacity of producing 3600 bottles per hour of 1000ml or 500 ml capacity. 

Annexure – I showing list (15 nos.) of Mobile Water Treatment Units (MTUs) and Annexure – II showing list of Water Packaging Plants possessed by PHE Dte, its location, production capacity and controlling division with contact telephone / mobile phone nos. 

6.0   District Level Institutional Mechanism : 

As PHED has constituted DWSM at all Districts, Executive Engineer of PHED being the Member Secretary of DWSM will function as nodal officer under the supervision of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) headed by District Magistrate, to carry out management and combating services related to water supply and emergency sanitation.

Usually, Executive Engineer of normal PHE Division of the District attends and reports DDMA preparedness meetings and post disaster meetings, as frequently as may be necessary. Executive Engineers also send daily reports to District Disaster Control Rooms and implement and monitor functions entrusted by DDMA, regularly reviews status of essential water supply and emergency sanitation services and procurement of essential supplies etc.  Under the guidance of DDMA, Executive Engineer also monitors emergency response at the Block and Panchayet levels and impact thereon. 

As Executive Engineer of PHE Dte is the District level Nodal Officer for coordinating emergency operation with respect to deliver of safe water supply and emergency sanitation services, he has to ensure that all Rural Water Supply System in the District works properly and in the event of disaster by carrying out timely repairs where necessary. For doing this Executive Engineer use to maintain proper inventory in terms of materials, spare parts and skilled human resources and those are as follows: 

6.1.1    Proper inventory of materials, spare parts, bleaching  powder etc both for PWSS and Spot sources. 

6.1.2    Trained and skilled team for repairing and disinfection of PWSS and spot tube wells. 

6.1.3   Proper action plan for repairing and re-sinking of tube wells, lowering of deep well pumps in drought, rising of platform in flood etc. 

6.1.4    Action plan for new sinking of spot tube wells if and where necessary. 

6.1.5   Maintain proper inventory of Mobile Water Treatment Units (MTUS) and Water Bottling  Plants, including timely overhauling of the Units for keeping them in proper running condition.    

6.1.6   Executive Engineers produce daily report on implementation of activities, assessment of impact etc and submits the same to State Level Control Room during disaster.  

7.0   Block Level Institutional Mechanism: 

Sub-Assistant Engineer - RWS, Mechanic and Helper posted at Block level function under the control of Executive Officer of Panchayet Samity. Team engaged for disinfection works, repairing, re-sinking, new sinking, lowering of a deep well pumps, raising of platform etc for spot sources work under the guidance of Block Level SAE of PHE Dte with physical assistance by Mechanic and Helper. Block Level S.A.E. will also produce and submit daily performance report of service to Control Room operated by Executive Engineer of PHE Dte at District level.  

8.0   IEC & HRD activity on safe water and sanitation :  

WSSO is a dedicated unit under PHE Department which plans, organizes and implements IEC & HRD activities on safe water supply and sanitation including awareness generation among the communities. IEC & HRD is a routine activity of WSSO and carries out the same throughout the year at State, District and Block levels. In any natural disaster WSSO used to carry out IEC activity and awareness generation on safe water supply and sanitation. The programme usually implemented through distribution of leaflet, direct interaction with beneficiary groups/affected people, VDO and Poster shows, miking, publicity through electronic media, radio and printing media etc. WSSO always remain alert to generate awareness due to natural disaster whenever it occurs. 

WSSO also engages NGOs and CBOs to deliver support services to PHE activities to the affected people. 

9.0   Service provided by UN Organisations : 

In every occurrences of natural disaster UN Organisations like UNICEF, WHO etc always extend supporting hands for management and combating impacts caused by natural disaster. 

UNICEF  West Bengal Office is associated in different activities of PHE Department and since long back a few of the milestone achievements of joint activities of UNICEF and PHED West Bengal are Joint Action Plan on (a) Arsenic Mitigation (b) Fluoride Mitigation and (c) Water Quality Management & Surveillance through setting up of laboratories all over West Bengal. UNICEF used to share its experience in other countries with PHED West Bengal on disaster management and other resources including support from International Experts. UNICEF also extends human resources and material support and works hand to hand with PHED. It is expected the same joint effort will also be available in future incidents.

10.0  Water Quality Monitoring: 

In any natural disaster safe drinking water supply and emergency sanitation are most important activities for combating the impacts. Spread of communicable diseases are common at post disaster period and water quality monitoring and sanitation plays most crucial role for the prevention of spread of communicable diseases and to avoid occurrence of epidemic. As such PHE Department use to carry out comprehensive water quality monitoring through its 120 nos. laboratory network and take appropriate measures where necessary for ensuring safe water supply to the affected people. Field Testing Kits (FTKs) will also be used for prompt water quality monitoring and in remote areas. 

Water quality monitoring reports will be generated daily basis and placed to Block, District and State level Disaster Management Committees. 

11.0   Daily Reporting : 

In every disaster management daily reports are produced by PHE Divisions and reported to the District Level & State Level Committees and Disaster Management Department. Daily reports usually covers activities performed  by concerned divisions including supply of water pouches, disinfection, repairing, re-sinking and new sinking of spot Tube Wells, construction of latrines, awareness campaign etc. The same modalities will be followed in future occurrence of disaster, if any.

In nutshell PHE Department / Directorate coordinate and monitor pre, during and post disaster  affairs every year. 

12.0   Conclusion: 

PHE Department/Directorate looks after essential and emergency utility services like water supply to the community and all infrastructure including human resources are groomed to attend any sorts of emergency services in the field of water supply and emergency sanitation. Previous experience of PHED/Directorate to manage and combat any natural disaster proved highly efficient and effective and based on such strong foothold it could be assured that PHED/Directorate would deliver ameliorative service in any kind of disaster if occurs , though the same is unwanted.