Approach to Writing Mains Answer on 27-11-2020

Topic: Disaster Management

Qn. What do you understand by “vulnerability” and explain how unplanned urbanization increases the vulnerability during cyclones. What steps can be taken to mitigate such risks ? (250 words)

Why this Question ?

This question has been asked in the background of the recent very severe cyclone “nivar” that had formed in the Bay of Bengal and was supposed to cause huge damage and devastation to coastal Tamilnadu. The memories of 2015 chennai floods remains still fresh and concerns have been raised regarding the vulnerability of the people during the time of the cyclone.

The entire question is straightforward as it attempts to bring out the concept and knowledge related to Disaster Management approach in India.


Since it is a 250 word answer, an apt introduction to the question could be to the length of about 40-50 words.

The introduction can be common and can address both the aspects of the question since both the aspects are inter related.

The introduction for the question could be:

India is one of the ten worst disaster-prone countries of the world. The country is prone to disasters due to number of factors; both natural and human induced. During times when disaster strikes, it is the vulnerability of the population that determines the impact of the disaster on the people.Anthropogenic factors such as unplanned urbanization have only added to the vulnerability of the people during times of disasters.


What Is Vulnerability?

A population or area being affected by a hazard has to be vulnerable for a disaster to occur. The vulnerability of a population relates to how susceptible it is to the effects of hazards and its ability to cope when struck. Vulnerability is influenced by factors such as location, state of housing, and the level of preparedness and ability to evacuate and carry out emergency operations. Different populations have different levels of vulnerability; this is one reason why hazards of a similar type and intensity can have quite varied effects on different populations.

Effect of Unplanned Urbanization during cyclones :

1.Rainfall associated vulnerability

Urban encroachments often spread over low lying lands, marshlands and erstwhile natural drainage systems. Such constructions prevent the effective drainage of the rain water since cyclones are usually associated with excessive rainfall. The resultant water logging is the main reason for the residents in the low lying areas.Many urban areas infact lack the basic drainage system to drain the rainwater.

2. Wind associated vulnerability

Since urban slums mainly comprise of tin sheets and asbestos sheets as roofs, more often these structures do not withstand the fury of strong winds during cyclones. Though municipal rules do not allow such structures that are not safe for human habitation, the unplanned nature of urbanization goes unnoticed by the authorities and this poses a significant challenge to life and property during cyclones.

3. Problems in relief and rescue measures

Unplanned urbanization also causes huge problems in organizing the rescue and relief operations. Streets are not planned as per the town planning guidelines. As a result narrow streets do not allow rescue personnel and materials to reach the site of disaster.

4. Disruptions in critical infrastructure

The electricity wires in the urban areas are still over head connections. Municipal authorities of cyclone prone metropolitan cities such as Chennai have not taken any steps to make them underground connections. As a result, these overhanging wires are severed during cyclones and this poses the risk of electrocution which have been mostly witnessed during cyclones.

5. Flooding and health issues

Lack of proper sanitation facilities due to the unplanned nature of town planning also paves the way for water borne diseases post disaster. This was the case with Chennai floods when the storm water had led to typhoid outbreak and water related digestive disorders after the disaster.

What steps can be taken to mitigate the risks associated with unplanned urbanization ?

  1. Creating a network of underground sewerage
  2. De silting of existing drainage systems before times of
  3. Periodic drive by the municipal authorities to remove encroachments on water
  4. Widening of streets and regularization of illegal
  5. A good disaster plan for the locality can be greatly helpful during times of cyclones for carrying out rescue and relief
  6. Ensuring zero tolerance for violations against the municipal
  7. Cyclone shelters to be constructed at critical points where the vulnerable population is


Urbanization has become an integral part of the society. Steps should be taken by the local authorities to ensure urbanization incorporates disaster risk reduction as a component. This requires a mindset change towards how we deal with the question of urbanization in India.