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Socio-economic Effects of Disasters
Dr. Rajkumar Singh12/2/2020 8:41:43 PM
The word 'Disaster' is defined as a serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material, or environmental losses which exceeds the ability of the affected society to cope using its own resources. It is among the many shocks and surprises that human history has witnessed since its inception and is a product of hazards which is considered a dangerous condition or events that threaten or have the potential for causing injury to life or damage to property or the environment. Without hazards there is no disaster. Hazards, itself on the basis of its origin, has been basically grouped in two broad headings - natural and unnatural. The first is closely related to meteorological, geological or even biological aspects, while the second is with human-cause or advancement of technology. Another component of disaster is vulnerability which is an extent, a community, structure, service, or geographic area is likely to be damaged or disrupted by the impact of particular hazard, on account of their nature, construction and proximity to hazardous terrain or a disaster prone area.Thus, a disaster occurs when hazard and vulnerability meet. A disaster minus hazards is a natural phenomena. For example, a massive earthquake in an unpopulated region is a natural phenomena, but when it interacts with the man made environment or fragile areas and causes widespread damage, becomes a hazard.
Vulnerable factors of Disaster
To some extent social and economic conditions determine the vulnerability of a society. It has been observed that human losses in disasters in developing countries like India tend to be high when compared to developed countries where material losses predominate. While no country in the world is entirely safe, lack of capacity to limit the impact of hazards remains a major burden for developing countries. According to an estimate 97% of natural disaster related deaths each year occur in developing countries. In developed countries the absolute cost of physical damage increases, but its relative cost decreases; and the number of lives lost also declines. The rise in the cost of disasters reflects increase in the quality and quantity of property and infrastructure. Wealthier countries can also afford increasingly sophisticated early warning and communications systems, allowing people more time to move to safe places and resulting in fewer deaths and injuries.
Vulnerability plays a key role in natural and unnatural disasters. Mainly it is a human factor, liable to be affected from a number of other considerations. In the case of natural disaster hazards, location of the hazards, exposure that includes various types of structures and lifeline systems such as water supply, communication network, transportation network etc and finally, vulnerability of the exposed structures and system are badly affected. In a developing country like India what make any area vulnerable to the disaster are increased demographic pressures and escalated environmental degradation. Environmental factor increases the impact of any hazard and caused by deforestation, which causes erosion and clogs rivers, siltation of riverbeds etc.
Affected areas
All disasters bring with themselves a lot of sufferings and pain to the people of the affected area. The accelerated, and often uncontrolled growth of cities has contributed to the ecological transformation of their immediate surroundings. In addition, the lack of appropriate drainage systems and sealing increase the volume and speed of rainfall. Recent studies have highlighted that a poor understanding by decision makers of seismic related risk and tendency of some builders to use the cheapest designs and construction materials, increase the risk during catastrophic earthquakes. As to the unnatural disaster which has a much larger spectrum includes epidemics, industrial accidents, communal violence terrorism, nuclear weapons and biological bombs etc. They cause mainly to the unhealthy social, economic and environmental conditions. Reports of outbreaks of communicable diseases are due to poverty which is one of the major factors contributing to the vulnerability. Often in an affected area there ensues a period of economic and social instability characterized by fluctuating prices, shift of class lines and movement of population. The shock of disaster always produces unusual or extreme types of human behaviour. Normally financial impacts of a disaster are calculated on the basis of damage to homes, hospitals, schools, factories, infrastructure and crops. It does not include less quantifiable effects such as the loss of personal belongings or jobs, widening trade or government budget deficits, or the increasing scale and depth of poverty. The degree of severity largely depends on the type of hazard, the size of the economy and its economic structure and the sectors affected by the disaster. For instance, droughts do not damage buildings or physical structures but their lengthy duration creates other problems. However, in contrast, sudden-onset disasters such as floods or earthquakes have a direct impact on infrastructure and productive facilities and resources.
Large scale economic effects
Traditionally, it was the pacific region that was supposed to be prone to tsunami, which usually occur because of earthquakes on the ocean floors 70 kilometers deep. But in the case of recent tsunami, the deep was just 30 kilometers and that too close to the Asian landmass. There are large parts of the earth where the potential hazards are likely to occur and the problems may result of an event. India is highly prone to almost all the disasters. Out of 35 states and Union Territories, 25 are officially considered disaster prone. More than half the country is in a seismically active zone. The economic costs of disasters, in a broader view, can be of three types - direct, indirect and secondary. The direct costs relate to the capital cost of assets such as buildings, other physical structures, raw materials and losses of crops. The indirect costs pertain to the flow of goods and services and include lower output from factories, loss of sales income and the costs associated with having to purchase more expensive materials. The last, the secondary effects concern the short and long-term impacts of a disaster on overall economic performance and include deterioration in external trade and government budget balances, the reallocation of planned government spending and increased indebtedness. All disasters, proportionately limit the economic development and seriously affect the household livelihoods and push already vulnerable groups to poverty. The loss of income earners through death or injury, the interruption of production or access to markets and the destruction of productive assets affect local and household economies.
Every natural disaster to the degree of its severity, makes damages to the economic structures of the affected areas which has a direct bearing on population of the region. With the destruction of health or education infrastructure and personnel, death, disablement or migration of key social actors, social development becomes limited, leading to an erosion of social capital. In addition to the loss of social assets, there are many examples of disaster events destroying the gains of the health, sanitation, drinking water, housing and education sectors that underpin social development. The Kutch-Bhuj earthquake in 2001, completely damaged district hospital, 992 primary schools and 18 secondary schools. The cyclone that hit Orissa in 1999 led to the contamination of drinking water wells and damaged many schools in the direct impact of a single event.
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