October 2013

Drinking water scarcity in Ganjam district

 People in Odisha’s cyclone and flood ravaged Ganjam district are reeling under severe water scarcity due to disruption of water supply in both rural and urban areas, including Berhampur.

“We had only a few litres of filtered water stored when our area got inundated last Saturday... We did not preserve more water and are paying the price now,” B.P. Choudhury, a resident of Aska town, about 40 kms from here, said.

Like Mr. Choudhury, thousands of other residents in the district are waiting for water supply by relief teams.

Supply of drinking water in the district has been affected primarily because all the rural pipeline networks have been damaged in the cyclone and subsequent floods.

Official sources said that water supply in urban areas, including Berhampur, has been disrupted owing to power failure.

“There are 971 rural piped water schemes in the district. Out of which, we have restored 109 till now,” Executive Engineer of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) department, Sitaram Panda said.

“We are using 271 tankers for supplying water to affected areas,” he added.

Water supply in Behrampur was also affected as one out of two schemes was not functioning. While the Dakhinapur scheme was operative supplying around 30 million litres per day (MLD), the other project at Bada Madhapur was out of order since the day when Phailin hit the district.

Rains inflict more damage than Phailin in Ganjam district

The Phailin cyclone may have drawn more attention but the incessant rains and the floods after that caused more devastation in Ganjam district.

If the official data is to be believed then the total population affected by the Phailin cyclone in Ganjam district was 3.5 lakh. But the subsequent heavy rains for the six days from October 22 to 26 and floods due to that caused miseries to around 22 lakh people in the district. Cyclone had its immediate devastating effect but the plight caused by the rains and floods continued for almost a week.

The rains and floods also caused more damages to houses than the Phailin. As per the initial report, 1,64,629 houses had been damaged in the district by the cyclonic storm. But the number of houses damaged by the rains and floods was higher at 1,79,205.

More number of houses collapsed during the continuous rains as they had been damaged by the cyclone and could not withstand the rain and floods. It was expected that the number of houses damaged would increase as the water soaked walls are likely to collapse.

State to train 10,000 students in disaster management

 The State government on Tuesday announced to train 10,000 college students in disaster management as part of its larger capacity development programme for tackling disasters.

Addressing State-level observance of the Odisha Disaster Preparedness Day and the National Day for Disaster Reduction here, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “In all, 10,000 student volunteers from 100 colleges will be given basic training in disaster management skills by the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.”

‘Youth and Disaster Management’ is this year’s theme for the Odisha Disaster Preparedness Day, which is observed in memory of the victims of the Super Cyclone that ravaged the State on this day in 1999.

“We have to further update our preparedness and increase our capacities. About 42 per cent of our population is in the 13-35 age group. Younger people can play an important role in disaster management. They are our strength,” Mr. Patnaik said.

The Chief Minister said, “We have faced the current disaster boldly and effectively. The super cyclone of 1999 had claimed about 10,000 valuable human lives. However, due to our extensive preparedness, we have been able to minimise human casualties during Phailin and the successive floods.”

Earlier, Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patro said this year’s observance of Odisha Disaster Preparedness Day assumed significance in wake of three back-to-back disasters faced by the State.

Very severe cyclonic storm Phailin hit Odisha on October 12 followed by major floods in many rivers. Heavy rainfall from October 21 due to another low pressure in the Bay of Bengal increased the sufferings. The storm along with associated floods and continuous rains severely affected people in 18 districts.

Community response

Panel finds violations along Vizhinjam coast

An expert committee constituted by the Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority (KSCZMA) has detected major violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms on the Mulloor-Pulinkudi stretch of the Thiruvananthapuram coast.

Most of the 31 structures inspected by the committee, including tourist resorts, houses, and shops, have been constructed in blatant violation of the CRZ norms, which prohibit development activities up to 200 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL).

The committee headed by N.P. Kurian, Director, Centre for Earth Science Studies, has submitted its findings to V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, chairman of the authority.

The report is due to come up for discussion at the next meeting of the authority on November 21.

Unauthorised buildings

The expert committee has been set up to investigate reports that unauthorised buildings were rampant along the coastal stretch earmarked for the development of a seaport at Vizhinjam.

Apart from Dr. Kurian, the expert committee includes K. Padmakumar of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala; A. Ramachandran, Registrar, Cochin University of Science and Technology; and Eapen Varghese, Chief Town Planner.

No-development zone

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that many of the structures were constructed in the no-development zone, some of them just 30 to 40 metres from the HTL and a few even less than 20 metres from it.

“The entry for some of the resorts was provided through public places such as beaches, while others were pumping waste water into public property,” an official said, citing the report.

High-level meeting

Adolescent girls fear being married off early in disaster situations: survey

 Nearly 80 per cent adolescent girls agree that disasters had an adverse impact on their access to safe shelter, and that they suffered from lack of privacy and dignity at home or relief camps after disaster. But what they feared most was the fact that they would be married off early. More than one-fourth of the girls also expressed the fear of being sold off or trafficked, post a disaster.

‘State of the Girl Child India Report’ on “Situation of Adolescent Girls in Disasters” was released by Plan India here on Monday that highlights the effects of disasters on adolescent girls’ right to protection, survival, development and participation at the community levels, surveyed in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

According to the survey, gender bias, in terms of access to food, was reported by about one-third adolescents across these four States with inequities being higher in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh when compared to Rajasthan.

Adolescents girls (more than 70 per cent) and boys (more than 80 per cent) in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and boys (over 60 per cent) in Andhra Pradesh said girls are especially hard-hit by lack of sanitation facilities at times of disasters as they cannot go for open defecation and are confronted with privacy issues.

Speaking on the occasion, Govind Nihalani, chairperson Plan India Board, said disasters had effects on the lives of the people that are impacted by it. “The report clearly indicates that girls have been greatly disadvantaged by their gender positions. Discrimination of gender and age makes them far more vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster,” he said.

Cyclone Phailin and a tale of three tragedies

 New Delhi: Ahead of Cyclone Phailin’s landfall last Saturday, the entire nation and most of the world braced for the worst. Odisha, which was to bear the brunt of the cyclone, classified Grade 5, is not just topographically vulnerable to such natural disasters but has a miserable record in dealing with calamities—as was demonstrated in 1999, when a super cyclone left 15,000 people dead in the state.
Worse, the horrible tragedy that befell mountainous Uttarakhand was fresh in everyone’s mind. In June, flash floods and landslides, caused by extreme rainfall, devastated the state—580 died, according to government records, but 5,359 people (938 locals and 4,421 pilgrims) are still officially “missing”.
Fortunately, everyone’s fears were belied. The day after Phailin, it emerged that an estimated 21 people lost their lives.
Yes, there was massive collateral damage—destruction of houses, crops and infrastructure—but the fatalities were minimized.
So, what was the difference between Odisha in 1999 and Odisha in 2013? Or between Uttarakhand in 2013 and Odisha in 2013?
And are there any learnings from this?
After all, such jousts with nature are going to recur more frequently. An analysis of extreme weather conditions—caused by cyclones, heavy rainfall, drought and heat wave—hosted on the National Disaster Management Authority website reveals that instances of extreme weather events accelerated dramatically in the previous three decades. The average annual number of extreme weather events more than doubled from 140.8 in 1980-89 to 350.4 in 2000-10.

Heavy rains hit aquaculture, paddy, horticulture

Aquaculture in Konaseema, and paddy, horticulture in the entire East Godavari district were damaged due to heavy rains for the last six days.

The farmers who ventured into Vanami variety prawn culture for the last one year in coastal belt, particularly from Uppada, Kakinada Rural, Tallarevu, I. Polavaram, Katrenikona, Uppalaguptam, Allavaram, Mamidikuduru, Malikipuram and Sakhinetipalli, have lost hopes about their seed which is growing fast till last week.

Prawn culture is being cultivated in about 30,000 acres in these mandals.

Ponds inundated

As a result of incessant rains, all the saltwater ponds were inundated by sweet water and prawns in ponds started dying or getting infected. “We are expecting a very good yield this year but rains played havoc on prawn culture this time and we are going to lose almost 50 per cent of the crop,” said Devisetti Suribabu of Allavaram, who is cultivating prawn in 25 acres of land which was agriculture land in the past. There are another 50,000 acres in the above mandals where fresh water small fish is being cultivated.

“As a result of merging of saline water with fresh water, the growth of small fish will come down drastically,” said a senior official in Fisheries department.

Paddy, horticulture

Paddy and horticulture crops to the tune of 67,216 hectares are damaged in the East Godavari due to heavy rains in the last six days.

Banana and other horticulture gardens were damaged in Kothapeta, Ravulapalem areas and vegetable fields in Seethanagaram, Diwancheruvu, Korukonda and Rajanagaram mandals were completely inundated.

Water flows on runway

Flight services from Rajahmundry Airport were cancelled as runway was partially inundated due to heavy rains on Sunday. Jet Airways cancelled its services to Hyderabad and Chennai whereas Spice et cancelled its flight to Hyderabad.

Tackling Cyclone Phailin – preparations were on for past five years

 New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) The fiery Cyclone Phailin left in its wake devastation in the coastal areas of Odisha, but India managed to successfully avert much loss to human lives and destruction as meticulous preparation to meet such an eventuality was going on for the past five years. As coastal areas are prone to cyclones, tsunami and rain-induced floods, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), an apex body whose mandate is to prepare for natural and man-made disasters, got ready to tackle the problem much in advance. NDMA Vice Chairman M.S. Reddy said it was the hard work put in by various government agencies in disaster preparedness during the past five years that paid off while tackling Phailin. “The success lies in the fact that every agency did what was expected of them. The advantage in case of a cyclone compared to other disasters is that there was an early warning, and we were put on alert much ahead. A good coordination made it a successful operation,” Reddy told IANS in an interview. He said the casualties and damage were less not only because of successful coordination among various government agencies, but also that disaster management training was given to people much in advance, helping India successfully undertake one of the largest evacuations ahead of Cyclone Phailin and subsequent floods that hit over ten million people in Odisha. Reddy said they were preparing for such an eventuality for sometime keeping in mind the October 1999 super cyclone which destroyed vast swathes of Odisha, cutting it off from the rest of the country for three days. The various government agencies earned kudos for the manner in which they carried out relief and rescue operations. The magnitude of the relief operation can be judged from the fact that nearly a million people were moved inland before the cyclone hit the coastline Oct 12.

Where cyclone victims, cattle live together

 Phailin cyclone and the incessant rain continuing since past five days have compelled the people to live together with cattle at a school in this small village.

Even some stray dogs of the village have taken shelter in the school. It is a village where the bovine family is a major source of livelihood. Water of the Rushikulya also flooded this village two days ago. So, the villagers have preferred to shelter their cows and buffaloes in the government buildings around, including this school.

Around 100 persons from 30 families, whose houses were completely damaged by the cyclone and the rains that followed have taken shelter in the school. Since Saturday a community kitchen was opened at the school to serve ‘dalma’ and rice to the cyclone and flood-affected families.

Several classrooms of the school have been turned into cowsheds. Jhunu Gouda who along with her husband Choudhury Gouda and daughter Sujata Gouda, who has been in the school for the past two weeks, says she is extremely worried about the condition of her cattle.

“I want to save my 12 cows and two bullocks as they are the only means of our sustenance and almost family members,” says Jhunu.

Satyaban Gouda, a resident of the village, says they were now worried about the fodder of their cattle. “We have got rice and money as relief material but the relief provided for the cattle has not been adequate,” he says.

Plea for more relief

According to him, till now this village, which has over 500 cows and buffaloes, has received only four bags of cattle feed as relief material.

The villagers have asked the government to provide more cattle feed as part of relief material to make their cattle survive.

The continuing rains and the water-logged fields have left no scope for outside grazing by the cattle. The situation would improve only when the rains stop and the flood water recedes.

Double blow for Ganjam district

 The weather god seems to have turned his ire on people of Ganjam district. Already reeling under the impact of Cyclone Phailin, people of the district are at the receiving end again with incessant rain for the last three days leading to a flood-like situation in the area.

As per reports on Thursday afternoon, at least 46 panchayats of six blocks had been affected by floods, and by night all the 22 blocks of the district would be flood-affected, official sources said. Rains have resulted in the death of at least five persons. But none of the deaths has been officially confirmed. Four of the deaths are said to have occurred in the Khallikote, Dharakote, and Kavisuryanagar areas due to wall collapse. One person is said to have been washed away by the floodwaters near Karadakana village.

Speaking to The Hindu , Ganjam collector Krishen Kumar said the water level was on the rise at an alarming rate to reach the verge of flooding in Ghodahada, Baghua, Badanadi, and Bahuda river systems. So, all the Block Development Officers (BDO) had been directed to take immediate measures to evacuate people from the low-laying areas and provide them shelter in upper storeys of any available concrete building. The evacuated families would be provided dry food during night. It is the second evacuation of families in the district this month. The last one was when Phailin hit the coast. By Friday morning, eight Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) teams and 10 National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) teams would be deployed in the flood-prone areas.

The ODRAF teams have already been deployed. Four NDRF teams have rushed to Chikiti, Hinjli, Purushottampur, and Aska areas.