Tropical storm Fani, which wreaked havoc on the eastern Indian state of Odisha on May 3rd, 2019, and particularly the two main cities of Odisha, one of which is the capital city and the other is the heart of Odisha, the land of Shree Jagannath, Puri, has refocused attention on the area’s bleak future in the face of climate change, experts say.
Odisha, like its neighbors Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, has seen some of India’s deadliest cyclones. According to tropical meteorologist Uma Charan Mohanty, a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar, the state was struck by roughly 110 cyclones between 1891 and 2018. “Gosh, that’s a huge number.”
Many cyclones turn and steer in the Bay of Bengal, making Odisha a typical landfall destination, according to well-documented evidence.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment from 2013, as the climate warms, fewer tropical cyclones will occur, but a larger percentage of those will be more intense and cause more damage. On the shores of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, the research predicts greater summer monsoon precipitation and greater rainfall extremes from landfall cyclones. So, this results in jeopardy for the residents of the state who are already dealing with extreme weather conditions such as thunderstorms, heat waves, floods, and droughts.
It all started with the 1999 super cyclone, India’s biggest ever cyclonic storm that killed over 10,000 people after making landfall in Odisha & wreaking such havoc that it took years for the state to recover from its loss. Then there was Cyclone Phailin (2013), which was the most recent storm to hit the state and wreaked havoc.
“On the map of Odisha, the landmass between Puri and Bhadrak extends a little into the sea, making it vulnerable to any cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal,” says meteorologist Sarat Chandra Sahu, the retired Director of the IMD’s Regional Meteorological Science Centre in Bhubaneswar.
While other cyclones-Hudhud (2014) and Titli (2018) – have not made landfall in Odisha, Sahu, currently Director of the Environment and Climate Centre, claims that they have caused serious damage to coastal communities. “Every other year, it almost appears like a cyclone”, he stated further.
What makes the Bay of Bengal a hotbed for cyclones?
This location is a core area for cyclone formation-many cyclones that impact the region are created here, and many of them make landfall here too. Of the world’s 36 most deadly tropical cyclones, 27 have emerged in the East of India. The winds from the Arabian Sea to the west of India keep the waters colder, leading to fewer storms. However, the tempests on the eastern shore are more severe and a flatter terrain which is not capable of disrupting the winds may easily go forward. And this is the reason that makes it a hot bed for cyclones.
How did Yaas affect Odisha?
Recently, on May 26th, 2021, a severe cyclonic storm named Yaas which originated from the Bay of Bengal & made landfall on the Odisha coast between north of Dhamra and south of Balasore, wreaked havoc in north coastal Odisha, making a loss of 610 crores in the state. Precisely, Cyclone Yaas impacted up to 19,23,699 people living in 2722 villages in the 12 blocks of the Balasore district.
What lessons can the rest of the world learn from the disaster management system of Odisha?
The policy of Shri Naveen Pattnaik, CM of Odisha towards cyclones is to maintain “Zero Causality”. And it is the first state to form a state disaster management system in the country, known as OSDMA (Odisha State Disaster Management Administration).
Odisha has a strong system of outreach to the community that reaches people on time. It currently has a network of over 450 cyclone shelters. Each cyclone shelter has a maintenance committee with youths engaged and trained for search and rescue, first-aid medical care and cyclo warnings. There is a strong structure for the upkeep of the cyclone shelters here.
The state has integrated the whole community with its network of shelters and committees, as well as training; alerts can now be easily disseminated and people can also be transferred to secure cyclone shelters. In view of the propensity of state natural disasters, state disaster management systems are monitored twice per year.
It was not the first time that an impoverished state like Odisha succeeded in evacuating millions of people in the course of natural disasters; it did it during the 2013 Cyclone Phailin and then it did during Cyclone Fani in 2019 following Cyclone Yaas in 2021.
During such calamities, other states of India & foreign countries can also adopt Odisha’s management rules to establish a feeling of community which can lend a hand in minimizing the losses that occurred during such severe natural disasters.
Why did the UN praise Naveen Pattnaik & how it brought recognition to the state?
Naveen Pattnaik, the best CM awardee, received praise from the UN because of his excellent disaster management techniques. And, as an Odia, it is a proud moment for me to see the CM of my state receiving such praise from Mami Mizutori, the chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
She said that they can learn from Odisha to “strengthen disaster risk governance, invest in preparedness and scenario preparation, and promote the awareness of disaster risk.
What are recent development plans produced by the Odisha government to centre regarding disaster management?
After Yaas, the state has demanded the centre to help them build up infrastructures as long-term solutions for natural disasters such as tropical cyclones which are very frequent in Odisha. The CM demanded building up a disaster-resilient power system and coastal storm surge protection for uninterrupted supply of power even during natural disasters and the safety of the coastline respectively.
The solutions that they mentioned are:
Under-ground cabling with contemporary power supply technology which can well endure cyclones and other natural catastrophes may accomplish the disaster resilience power system. And in view of the 7-8-metre-high tides affecting coastal regions during the cyclones, modern infrastructure for long-term coastal protection is required.
During Yaas the state government not only managed the cyclone but also gave equal importance to corona management too and in this terrifying cyclone situation, the state continued to provide oxygen support all over India. Hats off to their management. With the goal of making the state equipped to deal with any biological or climatic crisis, the government has resolved to make disaster and pandemic management not only a component of high school and college curriculum, but also an important skill set for current and future government officials.
So, from this, we can conclude that the Government of Odisha has now taken a step forward by investing in creating a safer housing facility in coastal regions and in creating electrical systems that can go underground. Really, this will not only minimize the need for evacuation but also save the investments that are made while making houses near coasts which are lost during a disaster.
Written By: Swati Sahoo