New Delhi: ‘Biparjoy’, a cyclonic storm, recently formed from a deep low over the Arabian Sea. From Mumbai, where three of the five persons who had gone missing in the water at the city’s Juhu Beach earlier this week perished, to Gujarat, where two more fatalities and 22 injuries were recorded on Thursday (June 15), the storm has left a trail of damage. In addition to uprooting trees, the cyclone also wrecked a number of cars and homes. Even in the early phases of their development, cyclones pose one of the greatest risks to human life and property, creating dangers that can have a substantial negative impact on daily life and livelihood.
The name of the cyclone, ‘Biparjoy’, was given by Bangladesh, means ‘disaster or calamity’ in Bengali. The naming of cyclones is done by countries on a rotational basis, following certain guidelines.
Vice President of Meteorology and Climate Change at Skymet, Mahesh Palawat, said that a cyclone’s devastation is huge, as it intensifies with time as the wind speed increases.
The cyclone intensifies to various stages, from severe to very severe. There are about four to five cyclones in a year that develop in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, and there are about two cyclone seasons – March-May, which sometimes extends to the end of June, and the last three months of the year (October, November, and December).
Mr. Palawat said that a cyclone is the most destructive natural phenomenon after an earthquake, but unlike earthquakes, the forecasters can predict the point of landfall and intensity of a cyclone. However, this time, for Biparjoy, the predictability was uncertain. Mr. Palawat explained the reason being that.
There were two anticyclones hovering over India and Arabia, and Biparjoy was stuck between two anticyclones. Therefore, the unpredictability persisted for a long time.
CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASING THE INTENSITY OF CYCLONES
Mr. Palawat said that climate change has led to cyclones becoming fiercer and more frequent.
Cyclones have been intensifying at a faster pace in the recent past due to climate change. The reason for this is not just an increase in sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) but also rising ocean heat content (OHC). Tropical cyclones use warm, moist air as their source of energy, or ‘fuel’. As climate change is warming ocean temperatures, there is potentially more of this fuel available.
Senior Programme Lead, Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), Dr Vishwas Chitale, said that the warming up of the Arabian Sea is fueling more cyclones.
In the last two decades, the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones have increased in the Arabian Sea. The areas that have been impacted more by Biparjoy would be Kutch, Jamnagar, Morbi districts of Gujarat. These districts are not only prone to cyclones but to floods and droughts as well. When we talk about the intensity of cyclones getting increased, it also includes the harsh weather conditions it would bring in and alter the overall weather pattern in the Arabian Sea.
SOME OF THE DEADLIEST CYCLONES WITNESSED BY INDIA
According to the 2021 study by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), nearly 320 million people in India are vulnerable to the impact of cyclones. The primary states and union territories prone to the cyclones include Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal on the east coast, while Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat are vulnerable on the west coast, along with some Union territories.
Vishwas Chitale talked about the devastation such cyclones have brought, quoting the example of Tauktae that occurred in 2021.
In 2021, we saw Tauktae, which caused a loss of Rs 15,000 crore and roughly 169 deaths. That time, we were also reeling under a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which further affected our preparedness. So, in order to reduce the disaster risk, we really need to focus on building long-term climate resilience, and that can be achieved by climate proofing our infrastructure and understanding the overall climate change vulnerability of different parts of India.
The highest number of fatalities in Cyclone Tauktae were reported from Gujarat. The cyclone packed winds of up to 210 km per hour. The 11 districts of Saurashtra coast of the state witnessed losses of the summer crops, mangoes, pulses, banana plantations and coconut plantations. An estimated 90 per cent damage to standing crops was reported in the region. In Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the cyclone damaged cardamom, banana plantations, mangoes, cashews and winter vegetables in several districts of the state.
It is high time we focus on prepared measures and look at long term resilience building, Mr. Chitale added.
Let us look at some of the cyclones, including Biparjoy, that have incurred damages in the recent years.
Biparjoy Cyclone: For the Biparjoy cyclone alone, around 94,000 persons living in eight coastal districts of Gujarat have been shifted to temporary shelters up till now. Of the 94,427 persons evacuated so far, nearly 46,800 were evacuated in Kutch district, followed by 10,749 in Devbhumi Dwarka, 9,942 in Jamnagar, 9,243 in Morbi, 6,822 in Rajkot, 4,864 in Junagadh, 4,379 in Porbandar and 1,605 in Gir Somnath district, a Gujarat government release said.
So far, the fatalities have been reported from Mumbai, where three of the five people who had gone missing in the sea at city’s Juhu Beach earlier this week lost their lives.
Amphan (May 2020): The cyclone lashed coastal areas with brutal winds and rain in India’s Odisha and West Bengal and Bangladesh, leaving more than 120 people dead. India sustained economic losses worth $14 billion, according to a United Nations report. The report, ‘State of the Global Climate 2020’, was prepared by the World Meteorological Association, which outlined the human and economic toll of the devastating cyclone, along with neighbouring countries last year. Amphan was the “costliest tropical cyclone on record for the North Indian Ocean,” the report stated. Cyclone Amphan caused damage to 2.8 million homes, likely resulting in homelessness and prolonged displacement for many people. Additionally, it ravaged the farming sector in more than 14 districts. Nearly 3 lakh hectares and 1 lakh hectare of farmland in Bengal and Odisha were damaged, according to the study.
Nisarga (June 1): Within just two weeks of Amphan, Cyclone Nisarga struck the Indian subcontinent, primarily affecting Maharashtra on June 1 and it dissipated on June 4. Six people lost their lives after the cyclone made landfall in Konkan belt of the state. Cyclone Nisarga was the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Maharashtra after decades. According to the state government report, the cyclone hit the Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts and incurred a loss of Rs 6,048 crore, including the damage to the orchards, houses along with others. In Raigad alone, around 2,285 houses were damaged, while over 2 lakh houses were partially damaged. The crops and orchards on around 12,000-hectare agriculture land were also damaged in the district. In Ratnagiri, around 1,400 houses were destroyed and 44,000 houses were damaged partially. Around 8,000 hectares of agricultural land with crops and orchards were damaged in the cyclone.
Cyclone Fani (May 2019): Almost 100 people were killed when the strongest cyclone to hit India in five years, named Fani, made landfall in Odisha and affected West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh as well. Nearly 1.2 million people were evacuated during the cyclone. It severely affected lives and livelihoods of more than 28 million people across 3 States, according to the UNICEF report. According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, more than 30 per cent of the crops were damaged in Odisha due the cyclone and more than 1,00,000 hectares of agricultural land was severely affected in 14 districts of the state.
Cyclone B0B 06 (1999): In 1999, Odisha witnessed great damage due to Cyclone B0B 06. About 1.67 million people were left homeless as 275,000 homes were destroyed. Some 1,535 square kilometres of crops were destroyed and 90 million trees were ruined during the cyclone. Additionally, 2.5 million domesticated animals were killed with 406,000 of those being livestock. The human death toll is believed to have been as high as 15,000, though only about 10,000 were confirmed dead. The storm affected more than 20 million people across 14 districts and caused $4.5 billion in damage.
CYCLONE AFFECTS LIVELIHOOD AND HUMAN HEALTH
Anil Gupta, Head of the Department, Policy Planning, National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), Ministry of Home Affairs, said that cyclones do not only damage houses and other infrastructure, they also disrupt transportation, power, and communication services. Besides, a cyclone’s direct impact is on the livelihood of people, Mr. Gupta said.
A cyclone’s effects are primarily felt through damage to homes and loss of life, which can cause disruptions in vital services like healthcare, power, and water supply and sanitation. In addition, cyclones can disrupt transportation systems and damage crops, leading to shortages in food supply.
Mr. Gupta explained that a cyclone affects a local economy, which further affects the national economy – disruptions to infrastructure, road networks, communication systems, and public properties. This further leads to the evacuation and displacement of several marginalised people settled in the coastal areas, which also has a huge effect on the livestock. Fisheries are also severely affected as the fish ponds are filled with silt and saline water, and their recovery takes time.
Sundarbans is a prime example. Known as the cyclone capital of India, Sundarbans has been battered by several cyclones, including Aila, Amphan, Fani, Yaas, etc. in the span of 15 years. This has led to the increase in the salinity of water of most of the rivers and ponds in almost all areas of the Sundarbans. These ponds filled with saline water have become the primary source of water for the people living in the area in the absence of fresh water. This further leads to all kinds of infections and other challenges to human health.
Here, people are primarily dependent on agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture including crab, prawn, shrimp seeds collection and honey collection for food and livelihood. Due to the increase in saline water, the mangroves which primarily grow in the freshwater are depleting, further affecting the birth of the species to live around and affecting livelihood.
Another point that Mr. Gupta raised is of the perpetuation and ¡¿ of the structural inequalities, such as those between women and men. This is prevalent, especially in the parts where women rely on climate-sensitive work like agriculture and manual labour to make a living, he informed.
Mr. Gupta further said that heavy rainfall also leads to drainage damage, which hampers the water supply and increases water sanitation problems. He said that drainage damage leads to an increase in the number of water-borne and vector diseases, such as Malaria, Dengue, Filaria and Kala-azar, among others, and the people who have been displaced and moved are unfortunately vulnerable to these diseases.
There are also the highest chances of an increase in the spread of skin diseases that people may contract from the shelter homes they are shifted to during cyclones, he added.
MEASURES TO MITIGATE IMPACT OF CYCLONE
Mr. Gupta said that there are several scientific approaches that the national disaster management system adheres to, to mitigate the effects of cyclones and other natural disasters. One such approach is the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which helps in identifying the sector wise impact and needs.
It also helps identify new lessons that we get from every natural disaster, so we can strengthen future preparedness, Mr Gupta said.
The department is also working towards improving recovery programmes such as the Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning, by working towards the non-structural aspects (health, education, healthcare services, livelihood, food security, water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutritional security), apart from the structural aspects such as improving infrastructure.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.