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The oil fires in Rajasthan

The raging oil tank fires in Jaipur have once again highlighted the state of disaster preparedness and response mechanisms in India. What is particularly alarming about the incident is the knowledge that hundreds of such oil depots are probably spread across the country with scant regulatory oversight and even lower levels of awareness about the magnitude of storage, risks and vulnerabilities amongst the residents around the area.

This fire is not the first such incident in the world. There have been oil tank fires in China, the UK and the US as well. The accusation flow in some of these countries closely resembled what we are witnessing around the Jaipur incident today. But the key question is what do our regulatory authorities learn from similar incidents that occur internationally? What is the level of coordination between the various departments that authorise the establishment/continuation of a hazardous enterprise in given locations and the authorities that may need to deal with the consequences of a disaster occurring? It would be useful to do a case study on the roles of the fire department, the traffic police, the disaster management authority, the pollution control board, the health department and others to learn lessons for the future.

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