The devastating cyclone Fani caused the death of 64 people and ruined properties worth crores of rupees. As Odisha lies tattered by the fury of cyclone Fani, the people of Odisha are making all-out arduous efforts to rebuild their lives from the scratch. In this crusade, people all across the sections of the society have geared up and joined hands together to take every possible measure to remake Odisha. After the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had warned the state of the relentless cyclonic storm, panic gripped in among the residents. But, given the ferocity of the cyclone, the Centre and the state administration should be applauded for their preparedness and the people in cooperating with the authorities to contain the human loss at a smaller level. It is a national calamity of humongous proportion, therefore, keeping aside politics of any sorts in providing relief and rehabilitation and restoration of infrastructure measures, the whole nation rose as one force, and set a fine example of humanity. The Centre released an assistance of 1,341 crore rupees to Odisha. Also, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have extended a helping to Odisha and assured CM Navin Patnaik of assisting in every possible relief and rescue work. Having said this, it is inevitable to mention here that most big cities in vulnerable coastal states have not yet fully aligned with Model Building Byelaws of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. And its fallout was seen in Puri and Bhubaneswar. And this situation arose because of the absence of proper regulatory and compliance framework and mechanism. Keeping this view in mind, the Odisha government will have to work hard for the repair and rehabilitation work of the affected people in the state, as the Monsoon season is coming soon. Houses must be quickly repaired and then permanent houses should be built, which could withstand the situation witnessed during the Fani cyclone. To materialise this, the government will have to adopt a holistic and integrated approach towards disaster management with emphasis on building strategic partnerships at various levels with checks and balances. Against this backdrop, it is worth mentioning what the National Policy on Disaster Management maintains. According to it, India is vulnerable, in varying degrees, to a large number of natural as well as man-made disasters. 58.6 per cent of the landmass is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity; over 40 million hectares (12 per cent of land) is prone to floods and river erosion; of the 7,516-km-long coastline, close to 5,700 km is prone to cyclones and tsunamis; 68 per cent of the cultivable area is vulnerable to drought and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches. In the context of human vulnerability to disasters, the economically and socially weaker segments of the population are the ones that are most seriously affected. Within the vulnerable groups, elderly persons, women, children are rendered destitute and children orphaned on account of disasters and differently-abled persons are exposed to higher risks. Keeping all these aspects into consideration, the Government of India, on December 23, 2005, took a defining step by enacting the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which envisaged the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs), headed by the Chief Ministers, and District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs), headed by the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner, as the case may be, to spearhead and adopt a holistic and integrated approach to disaster management. The government claimed that there would be a paradigm shift, from the erstwhile relief-centric response to a proactive prevention, mitigation and preparedness-driven approach for conserving developmental gains and also to minimise losses of life, livelihoods and property. Lamentably, the ground reality in this regard, before Fani cyclone, where IMD had issued a timely warning about the cyclone and the resultant preparedness by both the Central and state governments saved thousands of lives, appeared to be quite contrary to what the government claimed. Therefore, it is noteworthy that prompt and effective response minimises loss of life and property. A caring approach for the special needs of vulnerable sections is also important. The existing and the new institutional arrangements need to ensure an integrated, synergised and proactive approach in dealing with any disaster. This is possible through contemporary forecasting and early warning systems and anticipatory deployment of the specialised response forces. A well-informed and prepared community can mitigate the impact of disasters, which was witnessed during the cyclone Fani.
By Deepak Kumar Rath