Context: Amphan has wreaked destruction across West Bengal and Odisha, showing India needs a focused approach to cyclical natural disasters.


  • Amphan is the first super-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal after 1999 (ie, wind speeds beyond 220 kph). 
  • It currently seems a bigger threat than Covid 19 at least in temporal proportionality as the cyclone has affected almost 70% of West Bengal’s population.


  • Financial: In less than two days, Bengal lost around Rs 1 lakh crore. 
  • Social: The cyclone left 80 dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, uprooted trees, ravaged houses, marooned dwellings, knocked out electricity and phone lines.
  • Infrastructural: It flooded cities and villages, plundered embankments, fencings and boundaries. 
  • Environmental: It wreaked ecological destruction and devastation, especially in the eco-sensitive Sundarbans. Not least was the ruination of Kolkata’s iconic Great Banyan Tree, among the world’s largest.

Way Ahead :

  • Prominent State Role -  There is a need for a genuinely non-discriminatory and equal approach qua all states.  Support must be given based on need rather than political considerations.
  • Pool of Funds -  There is a need to exponentially increase government allocation to fight natural disasters.
    • In the 2011 tsunami-earthquake, Japan allocated $167 billion for rehabilitation and recovery.
    • Earthquake-prone Iran allocated 2% its national annual budget towards disaster risk reduction, including $4 billion in 2012.
    • Comparisons with India on a per-affected-population basis yield a dismal picture.
  • Planning - Random allocation is far less useful than targeted and focused relief measures. 
    • Japan’s targeted five-year plan focussed on each stakeholder — from fisheries to housing and power. 
    • Knee-jerk reactions in grand mega-announcements after cyclones, without specific sub-allocations, lose their limited vigour and vitality by the time they reach the ground target.
  • Policy - Finally, and ironically given our cyclical annual natural disasters, we have very little policy focus on pre-disaster countermeasures. 
    • After 2011, the Japanese government enacted the “Act on the Development of Tsunami-resilient Communities”, to efficiently combine structural and non-structural measures to minimise damage. 
    • All municipalities had to draft their reconstruction plans based on modelling and the plans were based entirely on urban planning, land management, structural mitigation and relocation. 
    • Such innovations have barely been conceptualised in India, much less implemented .
  • Preparedness - We cannot, on the one hand, rightly project India as a global leader and, on the other, pale when it comes to justifiable proportionate global comparisons
    • Adequate preparedness in form of method of fund disposal, hotspot identification etc.. must be done to enhance implementation. 
    • Many countries in their disaster-prone coastal regions have constructed high seawalls to protect vulnerable communities. 
    • Odisha’s cyclone shelters are a praiseworthy-but-partial achievement, deserving emulation, so more needs to be done by India.


  • Prevention is always better than cure, and such countermeasures will be highly effective as well as cost-effective. 
  • There is light after the longest tunnels and only with these five “Ps” can we dream of effectively mitigating and minimising the impact of disaster.


Image Source: Hindustan times