Sophia-Salenius

We Have the Technologies to Prevent the Worst Effects of Natural Disasters – But They Need Governmental Support

The typhoon in the Philippines reminded us all of Mother Nature’s destructive power.

Even in a technologically advanced 21st Century, we remain dangerously exposed to the worst she has to offer.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. We have the capability to utilise a wealth of information and state of the art scientific analysis to significantly improve survival rates when disasters hit.

We are able to geo-localize mobile phones and send SMS messages to everyone in a designated area.

With mobile phones being readily available in every country, they can be harboured as an invaluable tool for such communication.

It’s up to governments to act, before it is too late. Effective warning systems are available, but politicians must give them their backing if they are to realise their potential.

Surely nothing is more worthy of financial support from nation states than in the spirit of saving lives; lives of citizens that those states are designed to serve.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 killed 230,000 people in fourteen countries around the Indian Ocean. Nearly 2 million people were displaced.

Indonesia was the worst affected country, with a death toll of 170,000. The wave cost the Indian economy an estimated $5 billion.

And despite a significant time lag between the earthquake and the impact of the tsunami, nearly all of the victims were taken by surprise. There were no tsunami warning systems in place – and people paid the price.

Just this month, the world witnessed the havoc that natural disasters can reap. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, with winds exceeding 320km/h (200 mph) affecting upwards of 11 million people.

At the time of writing, it has killed 3,600 people and left about half a million homeless.

We now have the technology for effective early-warning systems, with the ability to prevent the worst of these effects. When the next disaster strikes, let’s not regret failing to adopt such systems. We should do everything in our power to protect our fellow man.

Unfortunately, in the nine-year period between the Tsunami and today, early warning systems remain conspicuous by their absence across much of the Indian Ocean, despite them being readily available.

It’s time for governments around the world to throw their support behind new technologies that can save lives, before it is too late

The Indian government is one that has stepped up to the mark. The Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has recognised how imperative an effective early-warning system is and has worked with us to put one in place.

Linking up with government and network providers, we can make a substantial difference to the security of our people. Already, we are having an impact in conjunction with INCOIS.

As Dr. Abhijit Gangopadhyay, Dean and Professor at Aegis School of Business, New Delhi, said this really is a great innovation, which can be of significant use in the most disaster prone countries of the world.

The world is experiencing catastrophes evermore frequently. The power failure in the US, flooding in Pakistan, volcanic eruptions in Iceland; and of course heart-wrenching scenes like those recently beamed all over the globe from the Philippines.

In such situations, availability of information is key. Early warnings, facts and guidance, if effectively communicated, can enhance disaster resilience.

Now others, on the Indian peninsular and elsewhere, must follow suit.

Politicians – it’s over to you.