As per a preliminary report, on the 21 November 2020, an observation was made by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) of a Low-Pressure Area being formed over the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, over the next few days, the same region noticed a rather serious Depression, which finally developed into what is known as Cyclone Nivar that hit the south-eastern parts of India in the early hours of 24 November 2020. The known death toll amounts to 13 people.
The Standard Operating Procedure and the Effective Cyclone Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan suggests the Indian Meteorological Department is required to monitor and predict any form of disturbances in the following stages:
- monitoring and prediction
- warning organization
- warning generation, presentation & dissemination
- coordination with disaster management agencies
- public education & reaching out
- post-event review
Under the protocols to be followed, the Indian Meteorological Department even sent out 38 bulletins to various government officials and even tweeted about the same for which they received backlash solely owing to the content of the post being in Hindi, and was not well received by the residents of Tamil Nadu, who were seen using the hashtag ‘#StopHindiImposition’. This feeling by the locals who were to be caught amidst the oncoming cyclone was justified to an extent because Hindi is not a common language used in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, or Andhra. Therefore, in light of such uncertainty and danger, it is imperative for clear communication, and no risk can be afforded during translation since the lives of people are at risk.
There is also the National Disaster Management Act, the main aim of which is to provide for the effective management of disasters. The Act also allowed for the creation of a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which is known as the central body for managing and communicating during disaster management, with the Prime Minister as its Chairperson.
Preparedness by the Government during Cyclone Nivar
The Disaster Management Minister of Tamil Nadu, RB Udhayakumar communicated to sources that around 1,45,000 people from various vulnerable locations had been shifted to over 1500 relief camps, while the Tamil Nadu government, led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, urged people to stay indoors and declared a public holiday for two days.
In Puducherry, the Chief Ministers’ office banned all public gatherings and also stated that only essential services and shops along with government offices would be allowed to function, in anticipation of minimizing damage and keeping the people safe. Even the Chief Minister in Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Jaganmohan Reddy issued similar warnings advising them to stay indoors.
These measures did ensure the safety of the people, flora, and fauna; however, there were still casualties and damages involved that could have been avoided if these measures were taken slightly earlier. This is because the bulletins and press releases were given by the IMD well before the cyclone could make landfall. This lapse certainly caused major losses in terms of property and loss of life, which in hindsight could have been averted to a larger extent.
The Aftermath of Cyclone Nivar
This cyclone has certainly caused a loss of lives and has also witnessed a lot of material losses as well, with the issue of the losses sustained that cannot be prevented, in the sense of material damages like homes, crops, uprooted trees, death of various birds and fauna in the area.
The farmers can be deemed as most affected due to this cyclone. There has been an estimation of around 4.91 lakh hectares of agricultural land affected by the same, and this came at a time when the cultivation period was around the corner and farmers’ main concern was revolving around whether their crops would be able to match the Fair Average Quality after the cyclone and heavy rains. This was approached by the Agricultural Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Kurasala Kannababu, who came out in support of the farmers stating that after a proper assessment of the total damage caused, compensation will be given by the end of the year.
Other working classes have surely been affected due to the rains, there has been minimal movement since there was a constant risk to life, therefore people were restricted to their homes, without access to electricity majority of the time. The youth and students have also been affected, as a number of the schools were beginning to catch up with the curriculum that was overdue owing to Covid-19 and the lockdown that followed, will again cause a drawback to the students disrupting the newly generated flow of adhering to an online system. There has also been a delay in various entrance examinations which could be seen as a boon with increased preparation time but also has its drawbacks since the students’ morale and ability to study during such disasters reduces to a great extent.
The effectiveness of the response time of the authorities and the government was certainly laudable, India is yet to reach a high standard in terms of disaster response and management. These damages caused are inevitable, and therefore prevention is not an option whatsoever, but improving the existing mechanisms to a higher level is certainly a step towards increased safety for the people.
Considering the fact that the Indian coast is extremely prone to such events, the need of the hour is to learn from the slip-ups observed during the management of disasters that struck in the recent past, considering the fact that the climate is unpredictable and constantly evolving and changing, therefore effective measures need to be put in place, including time and money that will speed up the response and rescue time, while also restructuring the inanimate, such as buildings and homes, to withstand the damage. The approach towards such measures needs to be carefully planned and based on scientific research.
There have been a lot of questions raised as to the response and preparedness of the government, and the government and the authorities involved can certainly be commended for the steps they took, but there is a need for accountability to be taken for every single life lost. There was intimidation from the Indian Meteorological Department much in advance, but the response time on behalf of the government authorities was certainly lacking, and while it can be improved, it needs to be accounted for. While on the other hand, the help being offered to the farmers for their loss, amongst many others, is a great initiative that governments must take to help those who are financially weaker and whose livelihood has been snatched from under them.
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