Odisha After Fani
As Naveen Patnaik Takes Charge Rebuilding Cyclone ‘Fani’ Affected Areas and Restoring Lost Livelihoods’ of Communities Will be a tough Challenge
As 73-year-old Naveen Patnaik has started his fifth innings (continuous fifth term in Office) as the Chief Minister of Odisha after a resounding victory in State Assembly elections, held simultaneously with Country’s General Elections, the priorities are many. Sr. State Government Officials have already started churning to deliver the benefits as was promised by Chief Minister and BJD President during the election campaign to transfer direct transfer of remaining installments of money under KALIA (the farmer benefit scheme) for 42 lakh farmers (they have already received Rs 5,000) and the first installment of newly inducted 25 lakh farm households.
Amidst all these, restoration and recovery of Cyclone Fani affected areas would be the first priority, so is the rehabilitation of severely affected lot. According to the ground report of the extremely severe cyclonic storm FANI, at least 18388 villages of 159 Blocks besides 51 Urban Local Bodies spread over 14 of the 30 districts of the state have been affected and the total population impacted is 1,65,55,507. Of them 5,08,467 houses have been damaged and the total crop loss is estimated at 181711.4 hectare. At the time of writing this report, 64 human casualties have been reported. The severely affected district is Puri with 39 deaths followed by Khurdha with 9 and Cuttack 6. Maximum deaths were caused by falling of wall, trees and electric lines. Till date Rs 152 lakh have been distributed to families of 39 deceased ones.
Though many eyebrows have been raised over the much-talked about evacuation of at least 1.5 million (15, 57,170) people just before Cyclonic Storm ‘FANI’ approached, the state government has left no stone unturned to take credit of the act as UN agencies have showered praise on the Government of Odisha and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Despite tall claims by Odisha Government, Cyclone Fani survivors of State’s Puri district are still in distress. Their never ending ordeal is not going to end soon as government officials are still finding it hard to restore electricity lines and drinking water supply even after over one month, many in the rural areas are struggling hard to fetch drinking water as many water bodies in the district have been contaminated due to water logging. They can live without food for few days but how can they live without water, and electricity in this age? Amidst all these, to bring them back to normal livelihood has been the Herculean task as their means of livelihoods have been completely devastated.
According to the loss estimates prepared by various departments of Puri district, power supply network suffered a huge loss of 1110 crore, loss to educational institutions is about 305 crore, tourism sector 250 crore, water supply system 51.46 crore, health sector 30 crore, irrigation system 78 crore, roads & buildings 84 crore and forest department 39.59 crore.
Meanwhile, Government of Odisha, after a preliminary estimate, has calculated a loss of 12,000 crore and has submitted a memorandum to central team, which visited the state recently to estimate the losses due to Fani. Union Government had already released Rs 340 crore before the Cyclone, seeing its magnamity. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after his aerial survey on May 6th, had promised of another Rs 1000 crore. While a detailed assessment is waited –as per the preliminary assessments the losses to government properties is estimated to the tune of Rs 6,167.26 crore and the requirements for relief and restoration is pegged at Rs 6,767.56 crore.
“It’s good that government is busy calculating losses of infrastructure but how would you estimate the loss of livelihoods of lakhs of sea-going and Chilika dependent fishermen, fish traders and artisan communities, who are living in semi-starvation and have become jobless? Who is going to give back their livelihood?” questioned, President of Odisha Traditional Fish Worker’s Union (OTFWU) Prassana Behera.
Odisha, situated in the eastern sea board of India, has been exposed to periodic tropical cyclonic storms. During the last two decades, five major cyclones struck o the state leaving trails of devastation, causing irreparable loss to State’s economy. And during the last 50 years, 35 of such extremely severe cyclonic storms have hit Odisha. Almost 60% of the tropical cyclones, which take shape in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal regions also hit Eastern Coast and especially the parts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. The Bay of Bengal region is the 6th most vulnerable zones in the world as far as tropical cyclone storms are concerned.
“Because of the geographical location, 482 km-long Odisha coast is exposed to all kinds of tropical cyclones. Sometimes, they happen to be severe in nature”, says Managing Director of Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), Bishnupada Sethi.
The 1999 super cyclone, which caused death of 10,000 people, was the first major cyclone that brought state’s development to the grinding halt. It was first major natural disaster in post-liberalisation era, which took the state to fifty years back ,though the state had witnessed cyclones in 1956, 1971, 1977, 1982, floods in every alternative year in Mahanadi Delta, besides frequent droughts in its western districts.
Of late, an international delegation of 23 members consisting of representatives from organizations like UNDP, WHO, ILO, UNICEF ,UNESCO, FAO, besides representatives from World Bank and ADB, visited Fani-affected areas of Puri district and met with people, who were severely affected like slum dwellers, fishermen, farmers and especially those who were rendered homeless. They also visited heritages, wildlife sanctuaries, tourism spots. Apart from these, they also paid visits to betel vine, horticulture and poultry farms.
For lakhs of marine and Chilika dependent traditional fishermen Cyclone Fani has caused irreparable loss as many of them have lost their day-to-day livelihood because of the damages to boats and nets besides dwelling houses. Many are sitting idle and some of them have already started migrating to other states. Those who have come here to see their relatives from their workplaces elsewhere took their kiths and kins with them.
“Leave aside the devastation caused by Fani to the basic infrastructure like electricity, water supply system, schools and government buildings, it completely washed away the basic livelihood sources of farmers, fishermen, small traders and artisan communities. People have no option but to leave this place for an alternative livelihood”, says Secretary of United Artist’s Association (UAA), Mangaraj Panda
Sukanti Bhoi, 43, a widow, was staying in a makeshift house with her old parents and daughter along the Ring Road of 1200 square kilometer – Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon Chilika spread over three adjacent districts of Eastern Indian State of Odisha. To her utter surprise, extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani struck on the morning while they were sleeping on May 3 and within few hours the wind speed engulfed the entire area with more than 220 kmph (as said by the fellow villagers) leaving a trail of destruction in entire Puri, Khurdha including capital city Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore and Ganjam (all oastal districts).
Sukanti’s only dwelling thatched house with mud walls and clay collapsed. Finding no other option, she still lives there with her father, busy in reassembling the household items. Escorted her only daughter and grandson to a relative’s house in a nearby village, she had a narrow escape during the devastating Cyclone sheltering on ring road. Many in her village–Morada village– under Krushnaprasad Block in Puri district were worst affected. Even after over one month of the the cyclone she still is struggling to rebuild her dwelling house.
In the neighboring Jamuna Badasahi village with 170 households, people waited for at least 10 days to get the first installment of relief of Rs 2000 and 50 kgs of Rice. The Cyclone Shelter set up by Government of Odisha under Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project on World Bank assistance had saved life of people, who have been shifted here but they suffered huge losses as their only source of livelihood, summer crop damaged, Groundnut cultivation in almost 100 acres inundated with saline water ingression from Bay of Bengal. Those who have no land they were depended upon Chilika to earn their livelihood through fishing in Chilika waters.
For the fishermen of Olanda Patna under Krushnaprasad Block of Puri district in South-Eastern Chilika, area where the landfall was expected in first phase when the cyclonic storm Fani moved towards Odisha- it was horrifying to witness such storm as they had never experienced this before, it was almost double the wind speed what they had in Phailin in 2013.This fishing hamlet with 96 households was surrounded by Chilika from three sides. They lost everything boats, nets, household items and the entire area was water logged, even for drinking water women of the village have to stand in queue at the single tube well, the village has. While men are sitting idle for days together, women who were engaged in dry fish processing and leaf plate making have lost their source of income. The 10 women Self Help Groups who were active have become jobless as the SHG building completely damaged.
“Not only the boat, net or house damaged, our hope and aspirations got shattered because we had thought of something big to process the fish, prawn available here to sell them in Sukhua (dry fish) market in Ganjam”, says Malli Das, a women SHG leader.
She further added that Fani also destroyed our godown (Temporary ware house) where tons of dry fish was stored.
Supriya Das of the village while narrating the ordeal they faced after Fani, said that even after a week government officials have not reached us, only before the landfall they came here and handed over few packets of rice and vegetable for two days.
At least in the time of severe disaster like this, Government authorities are showing a lackluster attitude as if they have mercy for us says a fishermen leader Bijaya Kumar Das.
Das, president of fishermen society further added that we got polythene sheets to wrap on the roof of damaged hoses seven days after the Cyclone and Rs 2000 + a bag having 50 kgs of Rice after 10 days.
The problem here is despite the threat of devastation of Cyclonic storm Fani, we didn’t move to the nearby Cyclone Shelter as we feel insecure there because of the age old conflict between them and us owing to the encroachment of Chilika Land and fishing Zone demarcated for us”, said Ali Karan, a women of the village.
Karan further added that it is the discrimination all the way, we are not allowed to go to the nearest market even students have been discriminated because we belong to lower caste and fishermen community. Government and politicians have never taken these issues seriously.
Karan is among 1.75 lakh large fishing community whose regular livelihood depend on Chilika, living adjacent in lake area spreads over 146 villages touching three prominent districts Ganjam, Puri and Khurdha. These districts are among the affected districts.
When asked about the means of restoration of livelihood of Chilika dependent fisher people, Harihar Behera, community leader and President of Primary Fishermen Cooperative with 168 active fishermen members said that 35 fishing villages in almost 27 primary fishermen cooperative societies across Eastern Chilika have been affected by Fani. To get them back to their normal livelihoods government should announce an interim assistance for each society and each member, otherwise they will migrate to other states in search of jobs.
“It’s been a double-whammy for all of us because of siltation and weed deposits, we were unable to go into deep side of Chilika, and whatever were the catches non fishermen have already encroached our demarcated land than the recent Cyclonic storm snatched our livelihood”, quipped Raj Kishore Behera a villager.
Of late, Government of Odisha has announced compensation package, which, according to fishing community, is grossly inadequate. As per the government announcements financial assistance of 50% of Rs 80,000 for a new FRP boat on replacement basis and 50% of Rs 20,000 for net will be provided for fully and partially damaged boats and nets (6,000 boats & 3,000 nets) to the affected marine and Chilika fishermen. Similarly, packages have also been announced for inland fishermen and assistance for freshwater and brackish water fish farming. Over a million SHG members/households will be enrolled under Aam Aadmi Bima Yojan in the affected areas.
While Government officials have assured that Chilika and marine fishermen like any cyclone victims will get compensation as enlisted in Odisha Relief Code. Besides this, Chief Minister has already announced the compensation packages.
By Sudarshan Chhotoray from Bhubaneswar