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Disaster films to spread awareness

Jorhat, May 5: The Assam government is taking disaster management preparedness beyond the mere mock drill exercises and is proposing to involve communities through the screening of different films.

The Assam State Disaster Management Authority has asked the Film and Cultural Society of Northeast to screen such movies initially in the five districts of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Kamrup and Barpeta in an outreach programme, which calls for community participation.

The first film screened today was on the Mumbai cloudburst on July 26-27, 2005, in which 994mm of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours and it continued to rain intermittently throughout the next week. The others were When a City Falls by filmmaker Gerard Smyth and When Time Stopped Breathing on the Myanmar typhoon. Tomorrow, One Night in Bhopal on the Carbide gas leakage tragedy will be shown.

Rahul Jain, secretary of Film and Cultural Society of Northeast, said the aim was to build resilience through communities.

“The movies are a powerful medium to prod people out of their initial inertia. We cannot always expect a Noah’s ark to save us or depend on the government for everything. Society has to be strengthened to tackle such eventualities,” he said.

After showing the films in five districts as a pilot project, we hope the corporate world and the government will reach out to the rural areas and screen them in each of the gaon panchayats,” he said.

Biswajit Sarma, civil engineer associated with multidisciplinary construction projects who attended the workshop and discussion sessions, said more technical people were needed in the ASDMA and district disaster management authorities to tackle the eventuality of an earthquake. Regarding a tragedy of the kind witnessed in Bhopal, he said here there was a slight possibility in the Namrup fertilizer plant. About the occurrence of disasters in Oil India Limited, ONGC and the like he was of the opinion that fire would be the major occurrence but all these corporations had well equipped fire fighting units which could tackle an outbreak.

“The major cause of concern here is floods and erosion. Even a storm like that of Mumbai would not happen here because it was not at an altitude which favoured cloudbursts,” he said.

Manik Bora, yesteryear filmmaker and one of the resource persons, said he was all for the visual media making the greatest impact.

After the screening in Dibrugarh on Saturday, Ajaya Acharya, senior DGM, Oil India Limited, said his company had drawn lessons from small and big mishaps like the Dikom gas pipe blowout to raise the safety standard of the company and its workings in several installations across the state.

Jain said the highlight of Saturday was the screening of When a City Falls, by New Zealand filmmaker Gerard Smyth, who also addressed the gathering through Skype. Activist Sathinath Sarangi who is working in Bhopal to support the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy, in his Skype address was sceptical of the government and company standards in ensuring the safety and security of people living in and around the industrial zones across the country.

N.H. Hazarika, senior manager systems, of Assam Gas Company Limited after the viewing on Saturday rued the fact that people encroached on gas pipelines which resulted in not only wastage of precious natural resources but also casualties among people. Dwipen Sarmah, chief manager of Indian Oil Corporation, narrated IOC’s safety exercises from time to time.


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