Mr. Kiren Rijiju, India's Minister of State for Home Affairs and UNISDR Champion
By Andy McElroy
BANGKOK, 4 January 2016 – India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs and UNISDR Champion, Mr Kiren Rijiju, was today on his way to the country’s north-east to oversee initial rescue and relief efforts hours after an earthquake rocked the area.
Mr Rijiju’s deployment to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, came as India’s extensive disaster risk management governance system swung into action after the 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit one of the country’s remotest regions.
Most people were sleeping when the earthquake struck Manipur, with strong tremors also felt in neighbouring Bangladesh, China and Myanmar. Initial reports said nine people had been killed but there were fears of further casualties. Several buildings – including a new six-storey building - were reported to have collapsed in Imphal, population 225,000.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority dispatched four National Disaster Response Force teams of 90 personnel each – including two from neighbouring Assam – to Imphal. The country’s National Crisis Management Committee met to coordinate the response. The first Indian Air Force plane carrying relief had landed at Imphal airport.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested the Home Affairs Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, to oversee the disaster response. Minister Singh was in neighbouring Assam at the time and felt the earthquake. PM Modi told his 17.1 million followers on twitter that he had been in touch with the Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur for updates on the disaster.
The US Geographical Survey (USGS) recorded the epicenter of the earthquake 29km north-west of Imphal at a depth of 17km. The USGS said: “Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist. The predominant vulnerable building types are unreinforced brick masonry and adobe block with wood construction.”
India is one of the leaders of the DRR agenda in Asia Pacific. In November, the country will host the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) to discuss implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global blueprint for reducing disaster risk and disaster losses, adopted in March 2015.
Land use and urban planning, including compliance with building codes, are key elements of the Sendai Framework. Priority four of the Sendai Framework calls for enhanced preparedness for effective response to earthquakes and other disasters.
Two months ago, UNISDR acknowledged specifically the leadership of Minister Rijiju and made him a DRR Champion for his “outstanding commitment and achievement”. In accepting the award, Minister Rijiju committed to building “a larger inclusive and collaborative mechanism for recovery, rehabilitation and rebuilding of affected communities and assets” in the wake of disaster.