Achieving, Evolution of Risk Free Society

"Assuring safety of human lives has to become a part of each on of us"

Chief Guest Shri A P J Abdul Kalam (Former President of India) Speech during Seminar "Disaster Risk Reduction: Another important Route to Poverty Alleviation" on 24th November 2011 at VIF Auditorium

Former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam delivering his address I am delighted to participate in the Seminar on Disaster Risk Reduction: Another important Route to Poverty Alleviation organized by Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). I convey my greetings to the organizers, scientists, technologists, academicians, researchers and distinguished invitees participating in this Seminar. I am happy that this conference for disaster risk reduction has emphasized that there is a need to mainstream Disaster Risk Management in all areas of development and cooperation. This can be achieved only by integrating the development plan of a particular region with the disaster risk reduction plan of the same region. I am sure, this seminar will provide an opportunity for such interaction among multiple fields which can lead to an action plan for integrating development with disaster risk reduction schemes. While I am with you, I would like to share few thoughts on the topic Achieving, evolution of risk free society.

Natural Disasters

India, with its varied geographical, geological and climatic conditions, is prone to different types of disasters: (1) 5700 km of the total 7516 km coast-line is prone to cyclones and certain coastal areas are prone to tsunamis (2) over 40 millions hectare which is nearly 12% of the land mass is prone to floods and the river erosion due to non desilting of rivers. (3) 58% of land mass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity in the earthquake zone 4 level. (4) 68% of cultivable area is vulnerable to drought due to the non availability of river water for irrigation and (5) some of the hilly areas are at the risk from land-slides and avalanches.

Clean environment: societal needs

Apart from these vulnerabilities to natural disasters, we also have the radiological and nuclear radiation due to handling of such systems for the development missions and environmental degradation due to abnormal dumping of GHGs (green house gases) in the atmosphere through the use of fossil fuel for majority of energy generation activities and transportation.

What is the basic foundation for risk reduction? They are:

  1. Planning in advance.
  2. Designing the systems to withstand the higher level of risk through robust design methodologies.
  3. Implementing it in right time to reduce the vulnerabilities of the risk to a maximum extent.
  4. Ensuring safety and security in case of a disaster due to natural and other type of calamities foreseen in separate incident or in a combination of multiple disasters together.

Economic Development and dimensions of floods and droughts

In our country, natural disaster particularly like floods and cyclone in certain regions have been occurring with a predictable regularity. With this situation, the entire development programme of the state has to be dovetailed with the disaster management and mitigation plan of the state. This will enable sensitization of the entire development machinery of the state to the predictable disasters and create infrastructure which will not only facilitate faster growth of the region and also prevent large scale destruction of people and property in the unfortunate occurrence of a disaster. I would suggest the participants of this seminar to work on a combined disaster management and development plan for the state like Bihar which can be implemented as a part of the 12th five year plan of the nation. Connecting the rivers and water bodies as a national smart waterways as a grid in each state will definitely mitigate the suffering from flood and redistribute the water to the water deficit areas and hence reduce the problem during droughts.

Integrating flood and drought mitigation through economic development

Bihar Chief Minister told me that every year they spend six months of their time only in managing the flood situation. This has become a perennial problem in the states like Bihar. Hence, the risk is higher on yearly basis and the flood disaster which claims heavy loss of property and human lives. The state machinery is diverted to the mitigation and rehabilitation activities throughout the year. How to eliminate and reduce this risk is the question?

On 15 November 2011, I addressed the Bihar Legislative Assembly. There I mentioned that most of the districts in Bihar are frequently affected by flood or drought in-spite of the blessing of river Ganges and its multi river system. There is a big dream of the citizens of Bihar "Will we see a flood-free and drought-free Bihar" which means, I told the Bihar Assembly members, that they should, not only be concerned only for the 5 years of their tenure, but they should be able to give a 15 year vision to Bihar, so that, Bihar will have a "Smart waterway" that will lead to a flood free Bihar, with abundance of power, year long irrigation system in many districts and freedom from pollution and a navigational waterway attracting national and international tourists and ensure that equal distribution of water to other areas of Bihar where there is no water. I have suggested this Bihar Smart waterway programme when I addressed the Bihar Assembly during 2006, and now I am convinced about smart waterway solution after witnessing the Mississippi River System in 2010 in USA. Dams are built on rivers to hold back water and form deeper navigation "pools." Most pools in the United States are maintained at a constant minimum water depth of 9 feet for safe navigation. Dams allow river vessels to use a series of locks to "step" up or down the river from one water level to another. It was built by US Army Corps in 1907 and it is managed and maintained by them.

Certainly Smart waterways programme is possible and what is needed is the courage, long term vision and the creative leadership to implement the programme at the state level. Smart waterway is different from networking of rivers programme. Networking of Rivers, will be certainly possible, if the Government nationalizes the rivers in the interest of the development of the nation and gives the networking of rivers as a national mission. But at the state level, implementation of Smart Waterways is a possible mission to mitigate the flood and drought situation if it is implemented as a Public Private Partnership scheme. This single action will bring this flood and drought under control and save the loss of life, loss of property and loss of fund arising out of perennial floods every year. This is a possible way of risk reduction approach in managing the flood and drought situation which will also create large scale value added employment potential in the state in a sustainable manner.

On 22nd November 2011, when I was addressing the World Tea Science Congress 2011, Chief Minister of Assam Shri Tarun Gogoi said, one of the very important need of North-eastern state is to create erosion free Brahmputra river basin. I brought out an observation during my flight from Delhi to Calcutta and to Jorhat. I saw the Brahmaputra river as soon as our aircraft entered into Guwahati area, I found number of islands appearing in the midst of the river path. The artificial islands have results due to non-desilting of the rivers for decades, creating an additional pressure towards embankment leading to erosion. I suggested to Hon'ble CM of Assam to evolve a Brahmputra river basin smart-waterway fully navigational through out the year which will involve large scale desilting of the river and strengthening of embankment and it has to be a 20 years mission for the state and centre.

Development of areas prone to earthquake and tsunami

The next element, I would like to discuss will be on tsunami prone areas. The study after 26 December 2004 tsunami brought out that the habitat constructed by the tribals have been protected by the affect of tsunami in the Andaman & Nicobar area. I would suggest the development planners to study the unique characteristics of the tribal habitat and incorporate them in the design of buildings in tsunami prone areas of our east and west coast. It has been found that rectangular type of houses in tsunami prone areas are to be avoided. Wherever we have rectangular houses, it will be desirable to have a circular wall as an enclosure to the building. The housing material particularly for roofing can be of composite product like fibre reinforced plastic. Apart from reducing the damage due to tsunami, use of this material will minimize the heating during the summer. The buildings in earthquake prone areas should be with steel column stilts and floor which is ventilation friendly. There is an exclusive document published by the Building Materials & Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC). This should be referred by the project authorities and action can be taken to build the new construction with this specification in tsunami and earthquake prone areas.

Bio-shield: Another observation made during 2004 tsunami was that wherever on the seashore, there were thick mangroves acting as bio-shield, the affect of tsunami was minimal. Keeping this in mind, the district authorities in the coastal region can take a nation wide project of creating Bio-Shield along the coast just 500 meters away from the seashore. It was reported in the Science journal that 30 trees per 100 square meters would reduce the destructive speed of the tsunami by 90%. These development activities will not only provide dwelling units and regions which are least affected by tsunami but also provide employment to large number of rural citizens living in coastal areas on construction and afforestation activities. This bio-shield will apart from being revenue earner will also reduce the atmospheric pollution by absorbing the carbon-di-oxide in the atmosphere.

Living example for Risk reduction in India

Another good example for Risk Reduction is the building of Nuclear Power Plants taking care of the safety, security against all probabilities to reduce the risk to a maximum extent. I have visited almost all the Nuclear Power Plants of India and also visited the 3 reactors built on the coastal areas such as Tarapur, Kalpakkam and Koodankulam. Today, there are 29 countries operating 539 nuclear power plants, with a total capacity of about 3,75,000 MW(e). The industry now has more than 14000 reactor-years of experience. In this context, taking the accident history of the nuclear power plants in the world is very few, such as Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island reactors which were due to human and manmade errors affecting certain number of people due to radiation leakage. But even in the Fukishima accident in Japan, the reactor withstood the earthquake of 9.2 richter scale intensity and also the tsunami and there was no radiation death. Hence, the nuclear power reactor technology is graduating towards most
robust safety and security system capability which virtually minimizes the risk factor in building and operating a nuclear reactor. India has a history of zero nuclear accident record and our reactors withstood the tsunami of 2004. Such a kind of risk reduction system is essential in planning, designing and construction of systems such as Nuclear Power generation and other similar major missions.

Nuclear Power Plant: Electric power and safety

Friends, on 6th November 2011, I have visited Koodankulum Nuclear Power Plant, with my team, to review the 2000 MW, a 3rd Generation plus plant. I wanted to understand the plant's safety features and how it is addressing the concerns of the people which have been inflated as an aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Event. I spent the whole day there meeting scientists and experts, meeting the local people and also studying the various facilities of the plant first hand.

It is established that this plant is equipped with the latest technologies when it comes to safety. There are four important aspects of safety in a nuclear power plant which are interconnected.

  1. Structural Integrity Safety: The plant has been designed to withstand earthquake up to a stress of 6 Richter scale with an acceleration of 0.15g and have been tested up to 0.6g. The structure of the plant has been made with the highest safety standards which doubled containment and hermetically sealed. The primary containment is about 1.2 meter and the secondary containment is 0.6 m thick. To counter any risk from Tsunami and cyclones, the plant is elevated, to a minimum height of 6 meter (pump house) and the auxiliary diesel sets are at a height of 9.3 meter with a redundancy of four times in the diesel generators. Similarly, the structure has been tested at pressures up to 250 kg/cm3 which 1.5 times the operating pressure. Moreover, the diesel generators are programmed to start automatically in the event of power failure and would continue to run for minimum period of 30 minutes without any human intervention. This feature has been added as an aftermath of the 3 Mile Island accidents which occurred due to incorrect operator handling. In the case of Fukushima, one of the primary reasons for structural collapse was the explosion in the hydrogen which got out of control due to heat generated by the failure of providing continuous power supply to the spent fuel complex. To counter this, Koodankulum plant has installed 154 Hydrogen recombiners across the plant which can absorb any leaked hydrogen and prevent any structural damage. Moreover, unlike many other plants, Koodankulum plant plans to have a separate control unit for each of the reactors, to prevent cascading effect of reactor instability.
  2. Thermal Hydraulic Safety: The most advanced safety feature in the Koodankulum plant is the installation of the Passive Heat Removal System (PHRS) which is latest in technology to ensure rapid cooling of the reactor in the event of a reactor problem. There is also mechanism to rapidly cool the reactor in emergency situation using an elaborate system of showers which are installed in redundancy across the plant.
  3. Radiation Safety (Compared to natural level of radiation): There are multiple ways in which radiation leakage is being prevented from contaminating the atmosphere. I saw that the steam running in the reactor doesn't come into contact with the steam which runs the turbine and this isolation helps in preventing any accidental leakage of radioactivity.
  4. Neutronic Safety (Criticality radiation safety): Besides the regular control rod mechanism, I saw the Koondankulum Plant has uniquely implemented the latest technology in this domain - The Core Catcher. This is basically an underlying structure with Gadolium oxide and boron mixture which would "catch the neutrons" in the event of a highly unlikely meltdown. The core catcher is the ultimate defense which would, without any human intervention, or need of external power supply, cool down the fuel and reactor.

I have given the details of the safety system in Koodankulam power plant to this audience, so that they may convey the same to the concerned members of the society about nuclear power plant safety aspects. Nuclear electric power is one of the cleanest resource in achieving fossil fuel free, India achieving the energy independence in India by 2030. It should be remembered, electricity is the most important component in development of the society through small and big industry, agriculture, service sector and above all improving the quality of life of every citizen at home and workplace.

Combating Heavy Rainfall and cyclone

The year 2005 was an exception in this regard when unprecedented heavy rainfall led to severe flood both in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Mumbai city experienced a rainfall of over 900 mm in 18 hours. Similarly, Chennai experienced over 230 mm of rain in six hours and it rained and rained for many weeks. The drainage systems of both the cities have not been designed to cater for such heavy rainfall in a short duration of time. This has resulted in severe floods resulting in disruption of normal life, loss of property and certain loss of lives. During my discussion with the State Government authorities, I had suggested desilting and deepening of Mithi river which forms the main drainage system for Mumbai city. In addition to the de-silting there is a need to remove the obstructions which prevent the flow of water into Mithi river. There is also a need to maintain the gradient in the Mithi river. Similar system is needed for Chennai also. For Tamil Nadu, I have also suggested the creation of water ways at the 300 ft above Mean Sea Level connecting Palar, Mettur, Vaigai and Thamirabarani, so that the water can be evenly distributed across the basins. It can also act as a navigation system. It has the potential to generate hydro power to the tune of 2500 Mega watt per year. Urban planners and water management experts have to work together and suggest such programmes in our urban areas and rural areas which will provide large scale employment opportunities to our youth and provide protection against natural calamities like rain and cyclone.

I have covered . areas affected by flood, drought, earthquake, tsunami, nuclear plant safety, high density rain and cyclone. Similar action is required for reducing the risk due to land-slides and avalanches in Himalayan region. Also, for land-slides reduction in Ooty, Kodaikanal and Konkan area development plan have to be integrated for widening the hill road with proper natural and manmade embankments which will not only increase the mobility but also reduce the damage to vehicles and property during land-slides. Based on these examples, I would suggest the seminar participants to recommend to NDMA to prepare a guide line for each of the state and district of the country, integrated developmental programme with embedded disaster risk reduction scheme. This document could become the basis for sanctioning the 12th plan development scheme of different states.

Conclusion: Creative Leadership

How to make this risk reduction strategy to be adopted in all the major programmes which are vulnerable for natural disasters? For that what you need is creative leadership. Friends, I have seen three dreams which have taken shape as vision, mission and realization. Space programme of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), AGNI programme of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) becoming the National Mission. Of course, these three programmes succeeded in the midst of many challenges and problems. I have worked in all these three areas. I want to convey to you what I have learnt on leadership from these three programmes:
a. Leader must have a vision.
b. Leader must have passion to realize the vision.
c. Leader must be able to travel into an unexplored path.
d. Leader must know how to manage a success and failure.
e. Leader must have courage to take decisions.
f. Leader should have nobility in management.
g. Leader should be transparent in every action.
h. Leader must work with integrity and succeed with integrity.

For success in all your missions you have to become creative leaders. Creative leadership means exercising the vision to change the traditional role from the commander to the coach, manager to mentor, from director to delegator and from one who demands respect to one who facilitates self-respect. For the prosperous and developed India, the important thrust will be the availability of number of creative leaders who will integrate disaster mitigation activities with development in each of the districts, states and the nation.

My best wishes to all the participants of this seminar for success in their mission of disaster risk reduction coupled with poverty alleviation. May God Bless you.

Published Date: 1st December, 2011

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