Centre’s delay renders disaster mitigation funds idle

Centre's delay renders Disaster Mitigation Funds useless

For Karnataka, which is hit by natural disasters year after year, funds allocated to mitigate them will be of little help thanks to the Centre’s delay in issuing guidelines on how they should be used.

The 15th Finance Commission had granted Rs 200 crore under the State Disaster Mitigation Funds (SDMF) for projects to protect assets, settlements and eco-systems.

Similarly, around Rs 70-crore projects under National Disaster Mitigation Fund (NDMF), which includes Rs 50 crore for an Urban Flood Forecasting and Mitigation System in Bengaluru and a Rs 20 crore project to reduce the impact of droughts, have also not taken off.

Authorities are confident that the guidelines will be issued shortly, following which works under the fund can be taken up in the state. However, sources blame the Covid-19 pandemic for the delay by the Centre in notifying the guidelines, adding that it is unlikely that the funds will be put to use this fiscal.

For 2020-21 fiscal, the Centre has allocated Rs 1,054 crore under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and Rs 210 crore under SDMF. This was as per the Finance Commission's recommendation to share National and State Disaster Relief and Mitigation Funds, according to which 80% of the total corpus was set aside for relief and 20% for mitigation.

Manoj Rajan, Commissioner, Karnataka Disaster Management Authority, told DH that the Centre had circulated draft guidelines to all states for feedback. "They are expected to issue the final guidelines shortly," he said.

G Sreenivas Reddy, senior consultant for Disaster Management, Revenue Department, said that the funds will be restricted to projects such as providing small interventions to villages susceptible to flooding, or raising the height of bunds near lakes to prevent overflow, constructing retaining walls, to divert floodwaters for drinking water or agricultural purposes and so on. The funds can also be used to prevent landslides in regions frequently affected by them during monsoon.

Sources said that though the funds allocated were available, the government was not able to use them for want of guidelines. "We are not sure whether the money can be used this year as notifying guidelines in the final quarter of the fiscal will be of little help in initiating any projects that are identified under the funds," one source said.