India: Bringing resilience in cyclone management

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By SP Vasudeva


[Disaster management] was taken seriously after the 1999 super cyclone that struck Odisha when more than 9,000 people had died and 4,00,000 livestock perished. It affected 15 million people and more than two million households in the state. The loss estimated was around Rs 25,000 crore. Odisha decided to set up an exclusive state disaster management authority to deal with disasters. It started investing in strengthening cyclone mitigation infrastructure and mobilising communities for disaster management. 


These measures helped reduce cyclonic risks. The results were visible when cyclone Phaillin struck Odisha and AP in 2013. Only two people died in Odisha and 10 in AP. Similarly, during cyclone Hudhud in 2014 that struck these two states, loss suffered in terms of human and animals lives was minimal. However, the total loss of Rs 26,000 crore was reported due to Phallin and Rs 21,000 crore due to Hudhud. These cyclones caused colossal damage to the electrical infrastructure that fell flat on ground. Agricultural and horticultural lands were inundated and roofs of houses blown away, properties of railways, airports, steel plants, ports were damaged. In the past, cyclones had mostly struck in rural areas. Hence, Vishakhapatnam was taken by surprise as a lot of destruction was caused in the city in the absence of measures.


So, the Government of India decided to further initiate mitigation and risk reduction measures to tackle such losses. Components of taking electrical infrastructure underground, helping people to have cemented roofs resistant to wind speed of up to 300 km per hour, making such measures compulsory for buildings, raising of coastal shelter belts of tree species to protect coastal agriculture and horticulture from strong winds, and conserving mangroves and planting them for protection from coastal erosion were made part of the NCRMP-I. Rs 835 crore was additionally allocated.


However, in spite of these measures, the losses sustained due to subsequent cyclones have not been encouraging. Due to Cyclone Gaga that struck Tamil Nadu this month, the death toll  has touched 45 and that of cattle 735. About 1.20 lakh houses have been damaged and 88,000 hectares of agricultural land affected. More cyclones are due in future because of  climate change. It necessitates the need to fast-track the implementation of the measures initiated. 


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Hazards Cyclone
Country and region India
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