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Kochi-based NGO plans to train public in disaster management

Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram , May 13

SCIENTIFIC Awareness Forum (SAFE), a Kochi-based NGO, has initiated an awareness-cum-training programme on `natural and manmade disasters and crisis management' across the State under the guidance of scientists and professionals.

The main objective is to prepare groups of individuals who are adequately trained to propagate and initiate scientifically designed crisis management activities in the unfortunate event of a disaster occurring. They will be continually updated on the latest disaster mitigation solutions and deployed for service at the maximum possible number localities in the State.

In order to chalk out an effective action plan, SAFE is conducting an interactive programme on `Disasters and crisis management' in Kochi on Saturday in which leading experts in fields as varied as physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, medicine and social and atmospheric sciences will take part.

Dr C.K. Rajan, President, SAFE, told Business Line that the organisation aspires to create public awareness on the problem-solving capacity of modern science and technology to deal effectively with natural and manmade disasters. Dr Rajan is Professor and Head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). He is also Honorary Director with the Centre for Monsoon Studies at CUSAT.

SAFE conducts activities in all specialised areas of science and aims to develop a very capable younger generation with the required scientific temper and drive to `act' on behalf of the society `for its larger good'. It has set up units in a number of educational institutions, which responded with enthusiasm to the prospect of associating themselves with its activities.

According to Dr Rajan, the young generation in the State is `in a receptive' mood wizened as they are from the damaging impacts of a series of disasters with the December 2004 tsunami being the latest to date.

The extreme variability in the State's weather leading to alternating periods of floods and drought within a space of a few months also has helped create a `fertile space' for sowing seeds of ideas among young minds.

SAFE intends to make use of the enormous knowledge waiting to be tapped from individuals retired from Government service and those serving various institutions and organisations and volunteering them- selves. The rich information garnered in such a collective manner will be put to use for the maximum possible benefit of the public at large.

"We all knew that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre tried to contact people who matter to warn them about the possibility of a tsunami wave reaching our shores soon after the killer quake struck Sumatra. But the warning could not be taken in the true spirit, much less acted upon, since we do not have any redressal mechanism or a system to properly coordinate or assimilate any of the natural or manmade calamities," said Dr Rajan, putting in perspective SAFE's locus standi.

The plan of action charted out for the next few months would see SAFE coming out with scientific material in compact and floppy disks — supported by Power Point projection and animated visuals — on topics such as tsunami, impact of tidal waves on coastal population, thunderstorms, cyclones, landslides, flash floods, droughts and water harvesting, depletion of forest cover, global warming and its impact on climate change and coastal zone management.

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