Cyclone Risk Assessment – cas eof Andhra Pradesh

A disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. Though often caused by nature, disasters can have human origins. The combination of hazards, vulnerability and inability to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk results in disaster.

The Disaster Management Act of India defines disaster as: “A catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area arising from natural or man-made causes or by accident or negligence, which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to and destruction of property or damage to, or degradation of environment and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.

Andhra Pradesh is the second most vulnerable state to cyclone after Odisha. The state risks being battered by cyclones of moderate to severe intensity every two to three years. In the past 40 years, there may not be a single year in which the state did not experience either a storm, a cyclone or heavy rains and floods. The deadliest cyclone in the past 40 years was the one that struck Andhra’s coast in November 1977, killing about 10,000 people. About 250,000 cattle heads perished, one million houses were damaged and crops on 1.35 million hectares (ha) were destroyed that year. According to the State Disaster Management Department, about 44 per cent of the state is vulnerable to tropical storms and related disasters. Vulnerability to storm surges is not uniform along the coast of Andhra. The stretch between Nizampatnam in Guntur district and Machilipatnam in Krishna district is the most prone to storm surges. East and West Godavari districts, with vast stretches of paddy fields and irrigation, drainage canals always bear the brunt of cyclones accompanied by strong winds and pounding rains. In the aftermath of cyclones, these areas get flooded, leading to huge crop losses besides other damage. More than one cyclone in the same season is not unusual for Andhra Pradesh. The vulnerability also increases manifold given its location and the demographic structure of the state. The decrease of alertness in disaster management that often occurs after a few years’ lull in occurrence of cyclones, known as the “fading memory syndrome,” also contributes to increases in loss of lives and property damage.

Proneness or to be prone means ‘likely to do’ or in this case, the districts most likely to be affected by cyclone. Out of 9 districts prone to cyclones, 4 districts i.e., Nellore, Guntur, East Godavari and Srikakulam fall in the category of very highly prone to cyclones. The remaining 5 districts i.e., Prakasam, Krishna, West Godavari, Vishakhapatnam and Vizianagaram fall in the category of highly prone to cyclones. It can be noticed that the coastal districts range from very highly to highly prone to cyclone without any in-between.  Apart from these, the non-coastal districts such as Chittoor and Cuddapah also at times experience the wrath of cyclones in the form of heavy and torrential rainfall or the landfall of cyclones.

All the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh except one fall in the very highly vulnerable category, which is not a surprise given the density of population in the districts. The density map of Andhra Pradesh shows that out of 9 coastal districts, 4 districts i.e., Srikakulam, East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna fall in the category of high density of population; 3 coastal districts i.e., Vizianagaram, Vishakhapatnam and Guntur fall in the category of moderate density of population. The reasons for low density districts such as Nellore and Prakasam still being highly vulnerable can be due to high rate of poverty, transport and infrastructure vulnerability.

The density map of Andhra Pradesh shows that out of 9 coastal districts, 4 districts i.e., Srikakulam, East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna fall in the category of high density of population; 3 coastal districts i.e., Vizianagaram, Vishakhapatnam and Guntur fall in the category of moderate density of population. The reasons for low density districts such as Nellore and Prakasam still being highly vulnerable can be due to high rate of poverty, transport and infrastructure vulnerability.

Over last few decades, NGOs have become important players in the development process across the globe, engaged in wide ranging activities starting with community development to training, policy research, and advocacy. Their organisational flexibility, informal work style, and close engagement with grassroots communities enable them to deliver services to people at lower costs.  Their ability to mobilise people and understand people’s concerns enables them to better articulate problems encountered by people. Thus, they play a very important role in preparedness and mitigation process. For instance, Indian Red Cross Society – New Delhi and other charitable organisations were involved in helping people in Titli cyclone-affected areas. As per the article in The Hindu, IRCS has distributed relief materials, including 1594 kitchen sets, 800 saris, 700 dhotis, 440 buckets, 400 towels, 700 mosquito nets and 405 tarpaulins in selected villages, according to IRCS Srikakulam wing chairperson P. Jaganmohana Rao, Further, after studying the severe damage in 1,145 villages, IRCS-New Delhi, IRCS-A.P. and Telangana units sent relief material worth more than Rs. 62 lakhs. Given such an important role played by voluntary organisations, APSDMA is developing a database of interested volunteers from various governmental and non-governmental agencies and offer them training programs on interesting aspects under Disaster management, preparedness, mitigation and awareness building. This will provide the volunteers with an on-ground experience of the situation and also provide them with an opportunity to learn and teach others what they have observed.

It is equally important for risk assessment to take from time to time so that it comes to light where the improvement is needed the most, where are the loopholes as regular risk assessment will enable to support the development of effective cyclone mitigation policies and implementation of specific measures. Studies have suggested that new developments in the terms of embankments, cyclone shelters, and roadways should be in the places with high and very-high-risk zone. Though successful early warning system reduced the loss of life, false information and lack of awareness claimed many human lives. It has been recommended that Incorporating the spatial distribution of vulnerable people in warning messages may increase trust of people to the warning signals. One of the studies brought in the “fading memory syndrome” in which not being the target of cyclone and cyclonic storms for more than a couple of years makes people forget about the disastrous affect and a reduction has been observed. Thus, the government needs to focus on this aspect too and conduct mock drills among the coastal population at regular intervals, keep them aware about the impact and train the evacuation process. It is equally important to impart education to the population regarding the same. With the proper involvement of the civil bodies and local people, a vastly informed citizens can be placed.

References:

Ahameed, B. K. (2019). Coastal Social Vulnerability and Risk Analysis for Cyclone Hazard Along the Andhra Pradesh, East Coast of India. KN-Journal of Cartography and Geographic Information. doi:DOI: 10.1007/s42489-019-00029-9

GOI-UNDP. (n.d.). Severe Cyclone Storm Titli’s Impact on State of Andhra Pradesh .

Government of Andhra Pradesh. (Accessed 2021). Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority. Retrieved from Google: https://apsdma.ap.gov.in/

Raghavan, S. &. (2003). Trends in Tropical Cyclone Impact: A Study in Andhra Pradeh, India. American Meterological Society, 635-644. doi:10.1175/BAMS-84-5-635

Rao, A. D. (2005). Vulnerability from Storm Surges and Cyclone Wind Fields on the Coast of Andhra Pradesh, India. Nat Hazards, 515-529. doi:10.1007/s11069-006-9047-4

Image Credit: Google