In a significant collaborative effort, the Government of Himachal Pradesh has joined forces with the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), a prominent French Development Agency, to unveil a pioneering disaster preparedness program. With a staggering allocation of Rs. 890 crore, this comprehensive initiative aims to enhance the state’s resilience against climate-induced disasters and fortify its disaster preparedness mechanisms.

The program, officially titled the ‘Himachal Pradesh Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness Program,’ marks a bold step towards proactively addressing the escalating threats posed by climate change and environmental uncertainties. The project, scheduled to commence from April 2024, is envisioned to extend over a period of five years, fostering a resilient and better-prepared Himachal Pradesh.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu emphasized the urgency of this collaborative endeavour, citing the pressing need to confront the mounting challenges presented by climate change. “This is the high time to address climate change’s escalating threat and the need to take proactive measures,” stated Chief Minister Sukhu, underlining the imperative to bolster the state’s disaster preparedness and resilience efforts.

The cornerstone of the program lies in its multifaceted approach to disaster risk reduction and governance. By enhancing institutional capacities, deepening the understanding of potential risks, and establishing robust knowledge management systems, the program aims to bolster disaster risk governance. This, in turn, will empower the state to anticipate and effectively manage various disaster scenarios.

Integral to the initiative is the reinforcement of disaster preparedness through the establishment of advanced early warning systems and the enhancement of emergency response capabilities. The creation of a State Institute for Disaster Management, the strengthening of the Himachal Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (HPSDMA), and the establishment of district-level Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) are vital components of this strategy.

The program also dedicates a substantial portion of its funding to mitigation measures, particularly focusing on eco-disaster Risk Reduction (eco-DRR) and nature-based solutions. Various departments aligned with climate change mitigation will receive dedicated funding to ensure the successful implementation of these measures.

Specific challenges like landslides, flash floods, cloudbursts, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), and dam safety are addressed through targeted measures. Cutting-edge early warning systems tailored to these threats will be developed, significantly enhancing the state’s preparedness. Additionally, the program endeavours to strengthen flood forecasting networks and introduce a state-of-the-art GIS-based Decision Support System.

Recognizing the menace of forest fires, the program outlines robust strategies for forest fire mitigation. This includes the establishment of fire stations in previously underserved regions, equipped with advanced tools and vehicles to effectively combat fire emergencies. The plan also envisions enhancing the capabilities of existing fire stations to manage Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) emergencies.

Landslide mitigation and the stabilization of vulnerable landslide sites are also integral facets of the program’s comprehensive approach. By implementing these multifaceted strategies, Himachal Pradesh aims to emerge as a more resilient and prepared state, equipped to tackle the growing array of environmental challenges it faces.