Millennium Post

Alerts apart, how prepared are we?

It happens with scary regularity now: the cyclone alerts, the hours of trepidation, and then the ritual encounters with horrific disasters. With alerts now sounded along the eastern and southern coastlines of India, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are once again bracing for another tropical tormentor, Cyclone Hudhud. But has the Met department’s warning that the deep depression over north Andaman Sea would make a landfall on 12 October been heeded by the authorities yet? Already, caveats have been sounded that the depression could turn into a full-fledged cyclonic storm, with gust speed up to 110 kmph. And this barely a year after Cyclone Phailin had ravaged Odisha, leaving trails of destruction and displacing lakhs. Uprooting electricity grids, flooding district after district, destroying hundreds of crores worth of crops, infrastructure, ruining houses, schools, hospitals, offices and public buildings – Phailin had left an indelible impression on lives of people in Odisha, who still haven’t completely recovered from the tragedy. And even though chief minister Naveen Patnaik has promised full preparedness, we need to see what happens when Hudhud makes a landfall on 12 October. Especially after the debacle that has befallen Kashmir, and the floods in Bihar and in Odisha as well, how exactly will Patnaik ensure no casualty, whether of life or property?

Even though Patnaik’s handling of Phailin was lauded since massive evacuation in the history of the world was undertaken to move people to safety, how he deals with the challenge thrown at him by Hudhud will be crucial. Naturally, evacuation will once again assume significance and will be key to ensuring minimum loss of lives. Yet, addressing the symptoms of the malaise that is global warming and climate change leading to erratic and ever-increasing intensity of tropical storms along coastal regions in and around Indian and Pacific Oceans will not end the deeper nature of the problem.

We need concerted attempts to build storm-proof infrastructure along coast lines, and move them away from the shores. Also, more sensitive seismic instruments must be developed to ascertain if fluctuations in weather patterns aren’t because of quakes and tectonic shifts underneath. Indian peninsula is particularly susceptible to changes in global climate, with extended and harsher summers as well as winters, long periods of little or no precipitation followed by torrential downpour or snowing causing flash foods, snow blockades. Rising water levels in the seas and oceans is adding to the woes of coastal people, who are in the line of fire.
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