Researchers design curriculum to get ready in case of a disaster

Updated: Sep 15, 2019, 08:03 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

Two US-based researchers have come together to design a curriculum to create more disaster management graduates to tackle calamities

Participants at the inaugural session of the three-day workshop that saw experts from the US and US, deliberate a curriculum for a master’s programme in disaster management and geoinformatics
Participants at the inaugural session of the three-day workshop that saw experts from the US and US, deliberate a curriculum for a master’s programme in disaster management and geoinformatics

Between August 1 and 10, rains battered south-western Maharashtra, causing water levels in the local rivers to rise uncontrollably. Due to this, lakhs of people in the Pune, Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli districts were left displaced. A month on, as these areas limp back to normalcy, the burning question that needs to be answered is whether Maharashtra is resilient for such events in the future?

Dr Thomas Oommen, associate professor of geological and mining engineering sciences and affiliated associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan Tech, and Himanshu Grover from the University of Washington, believe that the answer lies in training disaster managers.

The duo along with several experts have developed a state-of-the-art disaster management curriculum for Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that lays a strong emphasis on the use of technology for disaster monitoring, managing, and mapping. "Training disaster managers to use these technologies would significantly change how natural disasters are approached in the future. For example, the advancements in satellite imaging and drone technologies have provided us with tools that could be used to quickly understand the extent of natural disaster events," said Oommen.

Dr Oommen

Last month, Oommen and Grover received a grant from the US Consulate General in Mumbai to visit TISS. "The proposal was written as a joint effort by the US institutions and the TISS centre for geoinformatics, which is part of the Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studies. As part of this project, we conducted a three-day workshop bringing both US and Indian experts in the field of disaster management to deliberate a curriculum for a master's programme in disaster management and geoinformatics," Oommen said.

Mumbai alone has a population of 19 million people, but TISS is the only institution offering a degree in disaster management and mitigation. This workshop, held from August 21 to 23, stressed on the need for disaster managers in India, as it is prone to geohazards like earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and floods. "There are very few institutions in India that train disaster managers. Therefore, our goal was to work with TISS to develop a curriculum that can be adopted easily by other institutions in India. We hope this will help create more disaster management graduates in India who can reduce the country's disaster risk and vulnerability," added Oommen.

According to Grover, the same programme can be adapted to train existing government officials to make them better prepared to "anticipate, respond to and recover from further disaster events". In the wake of Maharashtra floods, Oommen and Grover think it is crucial to prepare students to tackle natural disasters. "The curriculum is designed to help students with a science background gain relevant insights in social sciences to help them deliver useful hazard-related information. Those with a social science background can learn about technologies that can assist them in supporting local community response, recovery and resilience efforts," Grover said.

2.5 lakh
No. of people displaced due to floods in the state

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