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Man-made disasters are essentially the results of human activities or to put it more accurately, incoherent activities. Unlike natural disasters where a natural hazard is a direct contributing factor, human-induced disasters are caused by unsafe act or existing unsafe conditions. The development of unsafe or hazardous condition is the accumulation of various unsafe activities over a period of time, often inter-related.
Sometimes, man-made disasters are also resulted from natural disasters. For example, floods or earthquake could lead to social unrest, political upheaval and economic stress which then increase the vulnerabilities of people. Another broader perspective emphasizes that all disasters, natural or man-made, are basically caused by human, since we choose to stay in close proximity to a hazard without realizing our vulnerabilities to the same.
Usually it is hard to provide warning or forecast a man-made disaster. In many cases we have to rely on historical data, our social conditioning, vulnerabilities, probability theories and statistics to assume the likelihood and severity of man-made disasters. Still, the nature and extent of man-made disasters cannot be predicted accurately.
Although safety can be improved through awareness, monitoring, maintenance and capacity building, one hundred percent security from man-made disaster is practically unattainable for any system. There is always something which can go wrong. Suddenly, 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy in India and 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Catastrophe in Ukraine come to mind.
In the event of industrial or technological failures, often the accidents occur due to human error (unsafe act) or technical malfunction (unsafe condition). The disaster can also spread out beyond the neighborhood thru wind, water as well as travellers. Besides, lack of awareness and preparedness may also contribute to a serious man-made disaster. Rapidly growing population, infrastructures and industrialization are also increasing our vulnerabilities, especially in developing countries such as ours, hence the high frequency of man-made disasters.
Newspapers are crowded with various types of man-made disasters every day. Most common are road accidents and building fires. In the month of August of 2016 alone, Nepal witnessed two major road accidents in Kavre and Chitwan districts killing dozens of people in each. Industrial accidents including chemical spill, fire, leaks, explosions, cyber-attacks, etc. are also commonly reported in media these days. Unfortunately airplane accidents are also frequently reported in Nepal, pretty unusual considering the flight safety statistics of other countries.
Man-made disasters such as, civil conflicts, warfare, arson and terrorism are becoming more frequent in today’s world. Nuclear hazards cannot be termed as common but their impact could be no less than catastrophic. After the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster brought terror not only for the Japanese but to the entire world. Same was true when a couple of Boeing planes hit the twin towers in New York City.
It shouldn’t sound overrated to state that the environmental and ecological disasters, as we understand them, are basically man-made events. Air, water and soil are being polluted left and right, especially in developing countries where policies are unable to provide adequate scrutiny. Very little is being done to manage ever growing garbage and industrial toxic wastes. This in turn is causing chronic health hazards, hence more diseases, epidemics and loss of lives.
In one way or another, humans are greatly responsible for the loss of biodiversity, species, forests and natural habitats of wildlife, causing adverse effects to natural ecosystems beyond borders. In the meantime, global warming, climate change and ecological disorders are also the result of human activities accumulated in just over the last few centuries. The climate change effects may not be local, direct or prompt but they are showing up in global scale as weather patterns are changing all over the planet, several species are going extinct, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting rapidly, and sea level is rising faster than ever before:(
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