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Vol. 8, No. 4 October-December 2002

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Disaster Management in the Hills. Dr Satendra, 2002, ISBN 8-1806-9014-8, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, Rs 450. Order from

Disaster Management in the Hills is a timely publication as it coincides with the UNISDR’s campaign for disaster reduction for sustainable mountain development and the International Year of Mountatins. The author is a former Indian Forest Service Officer and is presently working on deputation to the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. He has done extensive research in India’s newly-formed northern state of Uttranchal. This publication is a result of his research work in the region.

The book is divided into ten chapters. The initial five chapters present an overview of disasters; disasters particular to the hilly regions; a detailed description of the physical, geographic and socio-economic features of the hill state of Uttaranchal; and its vulnerabilities to different hazards such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, avalanches and forest fires. Throughout the book the author stresses that disasters occur only through a combination of natural vulnerability aided by human interference with nature in an unplanned and unscientific manner. Uttaranchal is prone to disasters, located on the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, and with a network of rivers and tributaries cutting through the state. Its susceptibility is further increased by human factors such as overexploitation of natural resources, dense and ever-increasing population, deforestation, excessive agricultural activities, construction of large dams and improper land-use patterns.

The book proceeds further to discuss current national policies and institutional mechanisms for disaster management. It not only details the entire structure from national to local village levels, but goes a step further to explain political structures and new developments in disaster management. The sixth chapter is particularly useful to any newcomer to this field, in understanding the institutional framework of the country and how the country responds to disaster events.

The seventh chapter is the main thesis of the book and presents a case study on disaster management in Uttaranchal. The author concludes through his research that despite increased awareness of disasters and hazards at all levels, little work has been done in preparedness, planning and mitigation. Even today, focus is given more to response and relief rather than to mitigation and preparedness. This is the root cause of the problem. With better conceptualizing and planning, disaster management can be effectively implemented in the region. Development work and disaster management have to go hand-in-hand and therefore development planners have to work in tandem with disaster managers to reduce vulnerability to disaster risks. In the concluding chapter, the author presents a model which he says is perhaps the best solution to disaster reduction, not only in the region but also throughout the country. He advocates applying the same principles and techniques of management used by private and profit-oriented organizations. The model has four basic steps: recognition and analysis of the problem, identification of the variables, collection of relevant data and model building. Only with long-term management strategies can disasters be dealt with effectively.

The book is indeed a useful source of information. Anyone new to disaster management in India, and particularly wanting to study about Uttaranchal, will find this a useful starting point. It is replete with graphs, maps, diagrams, tables and statistical data, which both aid and supplement better understanding of the situation. Sample questionnaires used for the research and data collection are annexed. The amount of information available in the 284 pages shows the extensive research that has been done to bring out this publication. However, with better editing this publication would have been easier to read and understand. Despite this, the book is a valuable source of information on the subject and will definitely be useful to disaster management professionals.

Ambika Varma is the Information Coordinator at ADPC and can be contacted at


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