Planning-Protecting-Precautionary Measures for Tsunamis in the NorthEast

by D.V.Nathan, MSc, B.A, DipM(Eng.), MCIM(Eng.)

The movement of the earth's tectonic plates underneath the seabed of Sumatra, Andaman, Nicobar and adjoining areas (of the Indian and Burmese Plateau) in the Indian Ocean are volcanic in nature, and the geology is complex.  Moreover, these islands are characterized by the diversity of sedimentary rocks mainly composed of sandstones.  According to geologists and oceanographers, once a movement of these tectonic plates underneath the seabed occurs, there is a tendency for frequent occurence.  Therefore, in the future, these regions in the Indian Ocean should pay attention to earthquakes and the subsequent tsunamis.

The tsunami waves that devastated our coastlines have a way of redefining the nature of calamity. When unpredictable events such as tsunamis hit our shorelines again WILL OUR PEOPLE OF THE NORTHEAST be prepared?

The only solution to minimize the effects or protect from this natural catastrophe is to have an implemented THREE-P ( "3-P") System, a Master-Disaster-Management plan (P-Planning, P-Protecting, P-Precautionary measures) on a continuity basis.  For a "3-P" System disaster-management continuity, the overall management ensures the survival of our community, not just during or after a natural disaster or man-made disaster, but during daily operations. Disaster-management continuity not only includes a disaster plan, but it assess potential everyday risks involved, and provides solutions to mitigate them.  The recent tsunami disaster has proven that the success of our brave soldiers of the Tamil Nation lies more in what they did to prepare for a disaster than how they responded immediately. 

The recent event demonstrated that while it is crucial to our Tamil community's survival to have a master plan, it is even more vitally important that the master plan covers all three phases : Planning, Protecting and taking Precautionary measures. In other words, preparing or ready for the unexpected and maintaining a master plan that can allow operations to resume almost immediately is vital.

The success of any master plan must be embedded into our society economically, culturally as well as politically.  As Nobuo Sato, an engineer (specilized in Tsunami engineering work) of Iwate Prefectural University in Iwate, Japan said, "Tsunami defense work consists of political, social, economic, cultural and engineering matters."  The "3-P" master plan should be regularly tested and revived under our Tamil Nation's leadership to ensure that all three phases (Planning, Protecting and Precautionary measures) are put into action to ensure that our men and women in-charge are aware of their role in a disaster and have had some practice performing their duties.

Protecting is the main key factor since it costs less than recovery.  When a catastrophe of such a magnitude occurs, one of the first questions asked after the tsunami waves recede is how the shore could have been protected from death and destruction.  The first and foremost goal is to identify and locate on the map the areas of the shoreline that are vulnerable and at risk of tidal waves / storms / cyclones / floods. 

We must build dykes/ dams / causeways (zigzag-formats) as shoreline defenses to try to hold back tidal waves or at least reduce their impact.  When tidal waves hit these dykes, they are propelled vertically upwards and lose momentum / velocity.  The zigzag-format of causeways offer gentle resistance, and the water touching these causeways is slowed down and the waves are dissipated. 

Planning with local community leaders is important to ensure that all critical infrastructure such as water holes/tanks/ponds (small and large) and hospitals are located outside the tsunami danger zones.  We must educate the people on an early-warning-system, radio-alert system, particularly in fishing villages.  In other words, EDUCATING our men, women and chlidren in our community is vitally important.  This is the least expensive and most effective way of protecting from death and destruction.

The other important factor in the "3-P" System is PRECAUTIONARY measures.  We must adopt a coastal bio-shield defence - planting MANGROVE vegetation, and CASUARINA trees along coastlines from PointPedro to the Amparai/Yala vicinity.  Our community should made to understand the role of MANGROVE vegetation that can reduce the tsunami waves.  We must develop a bio-shield-movement to grow MANGROVE vegetation, CASUARINA trees, and other plants such as salicornia, atriplex, lacaena that can grow near the sea.  They will serve to reduce the impact of the waves.  In addition, MANGROVE vegetation promotes sustainable fishing by releasing nutrients in the water.  MANGROVE vegetation helps to protect coastlines from strom damage, soil erosion and tidal waves action. Many international scientists are now calling attention to the importance of the rehabilitation of MANGROVE areas in rebuilding communities devastated by the recent tsunami.  The US-based Mangrove Action Project (MAP) urged its associates and other NGOs to join efforts to consider the rehabilitation of a 'viable' protecting mangrove-buffer zones along vulnerable coastlines in Asia.

The World Wildlife Fund will assist in planning aspects of flora & fauna develo[pment in places such as Chundikulam (bird sanctuary), Manal Kaadu, Mulai Nagar (MulaiTivu), Silavatura, Kokutuduvai, ThiruMalai(Trincomalee), Mattu Nagar (Batticola), and the Amparai/Yala area.  Local communty leaders can contact Mr. Dermot O' Gorman, Deputy Director of WWF International, Asia-Pacific region.

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Posted February 22, 2005