The recent Himalayan temblor has shaken and stirred not only Nepal and India, but threatens to grow into one of the worst calamities to hit the sub-continent since a very long time. With over 100 aftershocks and earthquakes in the subsequent 72 hours, there is a huge possibility that it could take years for life in the region to restore back to normalcy. The Kingdom of Nepal has been devastated and reduced to a heap of debris on account of shattered temples and crumbled houses.
India has shown great resolve and been a true neighbour and friend to Nepal by dashing across relief teams within a few hours of the catastrophic event. However our agencies are faced with the daunting task of having to save lives and simultaneously rehabilitate survivors by providing them food, water, sanitation, shelter and above all, deal with the fear and insecurity that has housed itself in the hearts and minds of every affected person. After all, collateral damage can be more harmful and fatal than physical damage caused by the calamity itself. Inclement weather, rains and strong winds will not make it any easier and with monsoons due to arrive within a couple of months, the situation can deteriorate very quickly.
Some of the most critical essentials in disaster management are medical aid, food, safe drinking water, power, sanitation, shelter and trauma management, all of which are an ongoing process. However restoration and rebuilding cannot commence unless aftershocks and tremors cease. The biggest challenge lies during the period between destruction and commencement of rebuilding. Restoring hygiene by sanitising the environment and providing clean food and safe drinking water while debris is being cleared requires expertise and skills of the highest level. There are technologies available in the world that may not be able to eliminate collateral damage but can contribute significantly to ease the recovery process.
There are special inoculants that can be sprayed on the entire affected region, which not only sanitise the area but also rid it of foul odour thus making the place habitable. Stand alone solar lights and water purification systems that can operate easily in any environment across geographies are easily available and can make a world of a difference. Prefab structures compliant to seismic zones 5 and 6 having a life of upto 30 years can be built in very short time thus providing housing, schools, hospitals, administrative buildings, etc.
Relief teams and aid materials are pouring in from around the world and will continue to do so in the years to come. However, it is very important for all such agencies to use technology based tools to augment their efforts and make them more impactful on ground. As the focus remains on saving human lives, it is important to spare a thought for pet animals, cattle and wildlife that will perish and cause huge amount of damage to rivers and ground water tables on account of having being caught under the heap of debris or met watery graves.
Contamination of water and spread of epidemics like Cholera are most likely and we would do well to learn lessons from the Haiti disaster where millions were affected and over 300,000 people have died since 2010. The cause for greater concern is that approximately 8000 people have died only recently, five years after the disaster occurred due to water-borne diseases.
Millions of lives are at stake and for once, god is on the other side. Its only Cleantech solutions fused with physical efforts that can help restrict damage and restore normalcy in our lives sooner than later.
An entrepreneur with rich global exposure and distinct understanding of cutting-edge technologies, Parag Agarwal is a leading expert on “smart cities, urban planning, emergency, response and disaster management”. He is an acknowledged thought leader, speaker and author.