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