PMNC 2017 : Keynotes : Project Management In Disaster Relief
PMNC 2017

Unpredictability is one of the biggest challenges in rescue and rehabilitation projects. The success of such a project depends largely on the direction that the project leader provides the team and the ability of team members to respond to crises. The Indian Armed Forces that train its personnel to work under the most difficult and volatile situations have earned global admiration for their rescue and rehabilitation work in different parts of the world.

One such mission was undertaken by the Indian Navy in Sri Lanka after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Commodore G. Prakash, who led the mission to Galle in Sri Lanka, spoke about the highly complex circumstances under which his team worked. He had only broad guidelines for the mission: “Assume command and control of all Indian elements in the Galle region.”

Soon after INS Taragiri docked at Galle, Commodore Prakash got a request from his Sri Lankan counterpart to help restore the local naval base that was devastated by the tsunami.“Within days, our sailors, along with the Indian Army personnel who were already present there, started working as a homogenous unit and performed tasks in which they had no prior experience or training. Our men were clearing the ground, cleaning wells, setting up camps for those displaced, and building roads,” said Commodore Prakash.

In the brief period that the team was in Galle, they set up over 700 tents, provided medical aid to 2,300 people in special medical camps, cleaned over 800 wells, tested 17 bridges for safety, distributed water, dry rations and cooked food, repaired boats, helped restart a school, and more.

Commodore Prakash and his team were felicitated for their contributions by the then Sri Lankan president, Chandrika Kumaratunga. Commodore Prakash spoke about the careful selection and training of officers of the Indian Armed Forces that enable them to handle the unique demands of unpredictable situations. He also highlighted the overarching military value system that teaches soldiers to work under the most challenging circumstances.