rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » How we can ensure a terror-free Commonwealth Games

How we can ensure a terror-free Commonwealth Games

Last updated on: September 13, 2010 11:39 IST

How we can ensure a terror-free Commonwealth Games

     Next

Next

With some games venues not yet ready, delays in achieving security lockdown are causing concern, given the variety of new and emerging terrorist threats

Ensuring foolproof security at mega-sporting events like the Commonwealth Games 2010 is a challenging task, especially in the face of new and emerging threats like CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) terrorism. The 1972 Munich Olympics massacre clearly showed the extent of havoc that a small band of terrorists can inflict on athletes. India, and New Delhi for that matter, is no stranger to terrorist events that have resulted in mass casualties.

The 26/11 Mumbai carnage, the serial blasts in Delhi on September 13, 2008 which killed 25 people, the October 29, 2005 serial blasts in localities in Delhi like the Sarojini Nagar market and Karol Bagh, in which nearly 60 people were killed, are pertinent examples. Because terrorist groups are always in the business of achieving the biggest bang for their buck, events like CWG 2010 present themselves as prime targets, more so with the world media present.


Image: A soldier stands guard inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium constructed for the 2010 Commonwealth Games during its inauguration ceremony in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
     Next

The Al Qaeda threatened to target the CWG

Prev     Next
Prev

Next
Reports have noted that some of the suspects who can indulge in such acts could include Kashmiri terrorist groups acting with the material and technical support of their friends across the border, groups based within Pakistan itself like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba -the main perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage - or even trans-national organisations like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Of these, Al Qaeda has been documented to have dabbled in efforts to secure a radiological or nuclear device in the past. Operatives of Al Qaeda in fact issued a warning in February 2010 that they would target the CWG in Delhi.

Security agencies and government officials responsible for CWG 2010 have assured foreign governments as well as the public that they are well prepared to deal with any eventuality relating to CBRN terrorism. Minister of State for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran stated on August 4 that agencies are prepared to face "new CBRN assault methods". Reports indicate that the Indian Army's CBRN units will be actively assisting the Delhi Police.

Apart from these units, over 1,000 Army personnel are to be deployed from September 15 onwards, in addition to nearly 20,000 paramilitary personnel. The total security presence would be over 100,000 personnel. This would include personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who will be placed at key transportation hubs such as the Delhi Metro. CBRN detection equipment is also being deployed at metro stations.


Image: A sign outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium constructed for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Prev     Next

Construction delays have hampered security

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The army units would have been trained in the tenets of CBRN security including prevention, mitigation, and management at the Indian Army as well as Defence Research and Development Organisation establishments dealing with the issue. The army's main tools to respond to CBRN emergencies - integrated field shelters and nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) filtration systems, among other things, are currently supplied solely by the Ghaziabad-based Dass Hitachi Ltd. This company received the Defence Technology Absorption Award 2009 at the annual DRDO Awards ceremony in May 27 this year for "enabling the country to achieve a high degree of self-reliance in this strategic and critical technology area."

 

The UK-based company Bruker Detection, in association with the Tatas, has also reportedly offered its CBRN detection equipment and surveillance vehicles to the Delhi government ahead of the games. Among other measures, about 30-50 medical doctors of the Delhi government have also been reportedly trained to respond to CBRN contingencies, especially in the aftermath of the Cobalt-60 contamination incident at Mayapuri scrap market in April.

 

Despite these measures, however, construction delays, which in turn has led to delays in achieving security lockdown for games venues, has generated concerns about the state of preparedness of the security agencies. Cities hosting mega-sporting events should ideally be prepared well in advance so that various aspects relating to CBRN security - such as mass evacuation plans and crowd control measures - are convincingly sorted out.

 

London, for instance, is organising a conference to discuss CBRN security issues in October, nearly two years ahead of the summer Olympics in July-August 2012. Cities like Beijing and Rio de Janeiro (which will host the 2016 Olympics, the 2013 Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup in 2014) have also taken the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Office of Nuclear Security to help in training as well as fine-tuning procedures for radiation detection and emergency response.

 

The IAEA had extended similar support to the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups in Germany and South Africa respectively. It has also provided sophisticated radiation detection equipment to Ukraine ahead of the Euro 2012 football event, which will be jointly held in Poland and Ukraine.


Image: A guard keeps watch over the giant aerostat inside the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Prev     Next

India has not sought international help

Prev     More
Prev

More
This writer has not come across any reports to suggest that New Delhi has approached the IAEA for technical or advisory support for the October games; nor does the IAEA website give any indication to that effect. While the capabilities of the Indian Army (and the Air Force which could help in mass evacuation) and the training of personnel tasked with CBRN security is stated to be robust, it will not have hurt to get acquainted with current international best practices.

To be sure, India has an institutionalised man-made and natural disaster management and response in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), established in 2005. The NDMA issued guidelines to deal with chemical and nuclear disasters in 2007 and 2009 respectively, using some of the criteria established by the IAEA - such as safety perimeters for radiological emergencies, for instance. The NDMA is also in the process of establishing a nuclear, biological and chemical institute in Nagpur, which is expected to be completed by 2016.

The adage that security agencies have to be successful all the time while terrorists have to be only successful once is dangerously true, especially while dealing with low-probability but high-impact threats like CBRN terrorism. Points of vulnerability in a teeming city abound, and get accentuated during mega-sporting events. It is to be hoped that the agencies responsible for CWG security have covered all ends, not only to prevent a CBRN incident but also effectively contain it, in the unlikely event that they have to deal with such an eventuality.


Image: A dancer performs during the launch of the XIX Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace in London
Photographs: Matt Dunham/Reuters
Prev     More
Source: