Show More Sensitivity in Naming Cyclones

Published: 29th October 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th October 2014 11:12 PM   |  A+A-

Can a Lotus or a Water Lily bring destruction? Sounds impossible, but ever since it was formed, it is gaining strength at the Arabian Sea. Nilofar, a Persian word meaning Lotus or Water Lily, is also the name of the tropical storm racing towards India’s coast at a speed of 100km per hour. The name of a tropical cyclone is determined by sequential cycling through lists submitted by countries that are members of five tropical cyclone regional bodies. Cyclone Nilofar was named by Pakistan as it was the country’s turn in an alphabetical order, which may also bear the brunt of the cyclone. Oman had named Cyclone Hudhud, which slammed India’s coast earlier this month. It seems quite unfair that the cyclones should be named after such innocuous creatures as birds and flowers.

Tropical cyclones have officially been named since 1945 for a variety of reasons, including facilitating communications between forecasters and people when warnings are issued. But, there should be a stipulation that names for hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones mustn’t be culturally insensitive. India seems to have erred on the side of caution putting forward neutral and Sanskrit-centric names like Agni, Akash, Bijli, Jal, Lehar, Megh, Sagar and Vayu for the Indian Ocean’s cyclones, instead of more menacing alternatives such as Gabbar, Mogambo or even Don. These are, perhaps, more apt than Pakistan’s offerings of Bulbul and Titli that are totally harmless creatures.

Till 1978, only the names of women were used to designate hurricanes in the West. Katrina was one such, which devastated New Orleans in the US in 2005. It was the seventh deadliest ever recorded. In that year, there were two others, both named after women, Wilma and Rita. From 1979, the names of men were also used while preparing the storm lists, such as hurricane Andrew in 1992. But, apparently, these are sparingly used. Evidently, misogynists are not easily dissuaded.


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