NEWS With a rise in the frequency of devastating cyclones, India needs to look at long-term mitigation measures.
- The severe cyclones, Tauktae and Yaas, which battered India earlier this year, made landfall on the country’s western coast, Gujarat, and the eastern coast, Odisha.
- Both storms caused massive damage to infrastructure, the agricultural sector, and houses.
REPORT OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ON THE IMPACT OF CYCLONES
- According to Government of India reports estimates-
- 199 lives were lost, 37 million people were affected, and economic losses stood at ₹320 billion (U.S.$4.3 billion).
- a crop area of 0.24 million hectares was affected, and around 0.45 million houses were damaged.
- 2.5 million people were evacuated to cyclone shelters and relief camps in the affected States.
- large-scale uprooting of trees in the urban areas have affected already depleting green cover.
- Thus, during the COVID-19 pandemic, these cyclones caused additional financial responsibility for State governments. The health costs need to be measured too.
CONCERNS FOR INDIA
According to the Global Climate Risk Index report 2021, India ranks the seventh worst-hit country globally in 2019 due to the frequent occurrence of extreme weather-related events.
- The Indian coastline is around 7,500 km; there are 96 coastal districts (which touch the coast or are close to it), with 262 million people exposed to cyclones and tsunamis.
- According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), 2013 data-
- Increasing sea surface temperatures in the northern Indian Ocean and the geo-climatic conditions in India have led to a rise in the frequency of devastating cyclones in the coastal States accounting for 7% of the global tropical cyclones.
Compounds with other disasters:
- The World Bank and the United Nations (2010) estimate that around 200 million city residents would be exposed to storms and earthquakes by 2050 in India.
- Among the natural disasters, cyclones constituted the second most frequent phenomena that occurred in 15% of India’s total natural disasters over 1999-2020.
- Also, cyclones are the second most expensive in terms of the costs incurred in damage, accounting for 29% of the total disaster-related damages after floods (62%).
- India lost around 2% of GDP and 15% of total revenue over 1999-2020.
- The Asian Development Bank’s report in 2014 estimated that India would suffer a loss of around 1.8% of GDP annually by 2050 from climate-related events.
Disrupts government’s fiscal policy:
- Cyclones also led to an increase in the fiscal burden of governments through increased spending to implement effective cyclone preparation measures.
- As a result, direct government expenditure on natural calamities increased 13 times.
- Cyclones are the third most lethal disaster in India after earthquakes (42%) and floods (33%).
- However, fatalities due to cyclones declined from 10,378 in 1999 to 110 in 2020.
- This significant drop can be majorly attributed to the improved early warning systems, cyclone forecasting, and better disaster management activities such as timely evacuation, rehabilitation and relief distributions.
MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
- Though with improved measures the rate of fatalities has dropped, measures are not adequate to achieve a zero-fatality approach and minimise economic losses from cyclones.
- Between 1999 and 2020, cyclones inflicted substantial damage to public and private properties, amounting to an increase of nine times in losse.
- This increase can be attributed to the absence of long-term mitigation measures in the risk mitigation plan.
MEASURES TAKEN BY ODISHA
- In the aftermath of the 1999 super cyclone, the Government of Odisha took up various cyclone mitigation measures which included:
- installing a disaster warning system in the coastal districts,
- construction of evacuation shelters in cyclone-prone districts,
- setting up of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA),
- conducting regular cabinet meetings for disaster preparedness,
- building the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF).
- All these activities have helped to minimise the toll from cyclonic storms such as Hudhud, Fani, Amphan, and Yaas.
Despite all the measures taken by Odisha, it’s disaster management model is inadequate to minimise the economic losses that result from cyclones. Therefore, the Government of India should adopt a few measures to minimise disaster damage and fatalities:
- improving the cyclone warning system and revamp disaster preparedness.
- widening the cover under shelterbelt plantations and help regenerate mangroves in coastal regions to lessen the impact of cyclones.
- adopting cost-effective, long-term mitigation measures, including building cyclone-resilient infrastructure such as constructing storm surge-resilient embankments, canals and improving river connectivity to prevent waterlogging in low-lying areas.
- installing disaster-resilient power infrastructure in the coastal districts, providing concrete houses to poor and vulnerable households.
- creating massive community awareness campaigns are essential.
- healthy coordination between the Centre and the States concerned to collectively design disaster mitigation measures.
It is only such a collective mitigation effort by the Centre and States that can help reduce the fiscal burden of States and also be effective in minimising disaster deaths.