Critically evaluate the institutional arrangements and the level of preparedness of India in relation to the cyclone.

Question – India, along its extended coastline, encounters an average of five to six tropical cyclones annually from both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Critically evaluate the institutional arrangements and the level of preparedness of India in relation to the cyclone. 1 March 2022

AnswerIndia is one of the most populated countries of the world. Being a peninsular country, the border of half of the countries is surrounded by sea. Of the 7516 km of the Indian coast, 5770 km (76.76%) are highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as cyclones, and tsunamis.

Most of the cyclones originating in South Asia originate from the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The Indian region accounts for 7% of the world’s total tropical cyclones. The region has one of the world’s highest population densities and a shallow coastline, making it highly vulnerable to storm surges. As far as loss of life and financial loss is concerned, the Indian subcontinent is the worst affected part of the world.

Institutional arrangements:

National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP): The Government of India has initiated the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) with a view to address cyclone risks in the country. The overall objective of the Project is to undertake suitable structural and non-structural measures to mitigate the effects of cyclones in the coastal states and UTs of India.

The National Disaster Management Authority under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs will implement the project in coordination with the participating State Governments and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM).

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Project: In August 2019, a draft of Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) for integrated coastal management was released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC.) It aims to bring a comprehensive plan to manage coastal areas.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – The CRZ Notification 2018 and 2019 bring new reforms w.r.t sustainable development of coastal areas.

Recently, in December 2020, the Director General of IMD announced the launch of a dynamic and impact-based cyclonic warning system. IMD will work with NDMA, INCOIS and various State Governments to make this system operational successfully.

Appraisal of India’s preparedness level

  • The government’s “Zero Casualty” policy for natural disasters and the near accuracy of the India meteorological department’s early warning system have helped reduce the possibility of deaths from cyclones.
  • The India Meteorological Department has built an effective service to predict the exact time of cyclone formation in the Bay of Bengal and when it will hit the coast of India. This early warning system enables the state to be disaster prepared and minimize the loss of life and property.
  • The government’s disaster response forces are already stationed at vulnerable locations, preparing food packets to drop into the air for air force helicopters to reach people.
  • In the aftermath of the 1999 super cyclone, the government relied on a number of community based groups, and volunteers to help and rebuild communities. The same goes for today, but they are in a much better position duet to disaster preparedness and risk mitigation followed before the storm hit.
  • Despite some degree of success, India still needs to go a long way in dealing with such a disaster. For example, in 2019, there were five million new disaster displacements in India, the highest in the world. This was the result of a combination of increased threat intensity, higher population exposure, and higher levels of social and economic vulnerability.

The failures to manage the disasters properly enhance the casualties. Failure of communication and early warning systems, lack of immediate and speedy rescue operations and rehabilitation centres, lack of proper medical treatment etc further add to the gravity of the disaster. In ecologically sensitive regions, disaster management should be a priority. The Uthrakhand experience exposed that India has failed to take adequate precautionary measures in case a disaster occurred.

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