BHUBANESWAR: As Odisha ranks fourth in the composite hazard index of Indian states, a joint study by the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) and Berhampur University has recommended the State government a slew of measures including provision of panchayat-level disaster management fund and committees to deal with the crisis.
According to the study, the maximum number of cyclones has made landfall in Odisha, which also maintains a unique record of managing the cyclones most effectively by minimizing the number of human casualties.
Along with the high risk of cyclones, Odisha is also highly vulnerable to floods, heat waves, drought and lightning. The 482 km-long coastline, the study says, exposes the State to floods, cyclones and storm surges due to poor drainage, high degree of siltation of the rivers, soil erosion and breaching of the embankments.
The Bay of Bengal coast witnesses a substantially higher (five to six times) cyclone frequency than the Arabian Sea coast. Out of the total 618 cyclones formed during 1891-2008, 78 per cent (pc) were over the Bay of Bengal coast. Odisha witnessed 19 cyclones between 1737 and 2021. The frequency has increased over the years as the State experienced nine cyclones, including two super-cyclones in the last 20 years.
The reader of NISER’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences Amarendra Das said though the number of casualties has drastically come down from the maximum of 50,000 in 1831 to double digits now, other disasters like a lightning, heat waves and snake bite deaths have posed serious threat to mankind. Lightning has claimed 3,218 lives in the last decade.
The researchers did a case study of two worst-hit blocks - Gop and Pipili in the Puri district - that were severely affected by Fani to ascertain the gaps. They examined the roles played by the Panchayati Raj Institutions and other local factors in disaster management and suggested necessary changes to strengthen the institutional architecture for disaster management.
The study, besides highlighting the gaps to be bridged, has suggested a few proposals for strengthening the local disaster management institutions. Assistant Professor Berhampur University Bibhunandini Das said a dedicated disaster management department should be created integrating all those wings like ODRAF to look after all disasters.
In line with the National and State Disaster Response Funds, a disaster response fund needs to be created at the panchayat level along with a Disaster Management Committee at the panchayat and village level, she said.
Though the State has strengthened its early warning, disaster forecast, relief, evacuation and rescue operations as well as post-disaster operation, the researchers said disaster management planning cannot be successful without a poverty alleviation programme.
“A comprehensive strategy is needed where human development, disaster management, and poverty alleviation programmes will be incorporated to mitigate the impact of natural disasters,” Das added.