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Description of the Amphan Storm Disaster in India Report

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Updated: Aug 13th, 2022

Background

A powerful storm Amphan destroyed the city in India and Bangladesh, taking the life of 84 people. The main blow of the storm fell on coastal areas with strong wind and rain. Thousands of trees were hardened, driven power lines, and destroyed at home. In the Indian city of Calcutta, most roads were underwater, and 14 million people were without electricity. The storm was the first supercyclone that formed in Bengal Bay in 1999 (BBC News Staff, 2020). Despite the fact that the strength of the storm weakened by the time of impact, it was classified as a very strong cyclone. The first strike of the storm fell on Sundarban, the largest mango forest on Earth, which is on the border between India and Bangladesh. About 4 million people live in the region (BBC News Staff, 2020). Then the storm headed to the north and northeast in the direction of Calcutta.

Environmental Health Issues in Cyclones

The most devastating effect tropical cyclone brings in coastal zones, lowlands, mouths, and river delta. The zone of flooding of the sea coast reaches tens of kilometers. This is due to the loss of a large amount of precipitation, as well as the release of rivers from the shores in the lower reaches and the merging of the zones of the river and sea floods. Cyclones arising in tropical latitudes have to speed up to 64 nodes (74 miles per hour) and are able to cause destructive winds, abundant precipitation, and floods, which can end with huge damage to the infrastructure of human settlements, private property, and human victims. Cyclone on the strength of environmental impact is not inferior to earthquakes: the buildings, masts of power lines and communication, transport highways are broken and turned with the roots of trees, maritime ships, and road transport (Ali et al., 2019).

Timely alerts about cyclones from weather forecasters may not do. The lack of a storm warning leads to colossal material damage, human victims, and sometimes to significant humanitarian crises. To effectively resolve the crisis situations, coordination and concentration of resources are necessary, which will provide the provision of timely and relevant assistance to countries in need and people (Ali et al., 2019). The destructive power of cyclones lies primarily in the colossal wind speed, which affects the land and causes rough seas. The destructive effect of cyclones is associated with the turbulent, vortex movement of air particles. Destruction during cyclones is associated with low pressure in the center of the eye. The related crucial environmental health issues that are to be dealt with are destroyed buildings, a substantial amount of pollution, a plethora of injured persons, disrupted properties, societal chaos, surface damage, and the possibility of floods (Ali et al., 2019).

Environmental Health Management of Public Health Issues During Amphan in India, 2020

Cyclone Disaster Management Overview

Given the diversified impact of cyclones, the institutional framework is to be advanced and coherent, as well as to ready to address various issues and conduct an appropriate risk assessment. Generally, disaster management institutional structure is presented in Figure 1. It involves the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), National Executive Committee, National Institute of Disaster Management, National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Management Authority, State Executive Committee, Advisory Committee, and District Disaster Management Authority.

Disaster Management Structure in India
Figure 1. Disaster Management Structure in India (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2011, p. 60).

At this point, it should be noted that the risk assessment framework is an essential element of the structure presented above. However, there are no particular and formally expressed guidelines in this regard, which might be considered as a substantial flaw within the scope of environmental health in India. Nevertheless, usually, the Ministry of Home Affairs and India Meteorological Department (IMD) are responsible for the mentioned assessment, and the process might be depicted as it is in Figure 2.

Systematic Representation of the Methodology that Applied in Cyclone Vulnerability, Hazards and Mitigation Building for Assessing Cyclone-Risk Areas
Figure 2. Systematic Representation of the Methodology that Applied in Cyclone Vulnerability, Hazards and Mitigation Building for Assessing Cyclone-Risk Areas (Ali et al., 2019, p. 4).

The above figure implies a significant extent of intersection between Indian data-processing agencies. The latter ones are to provide the cyclone risk map of the highest to the other governmental organizations so that the upcoming issues could be averted and resolved.

Prevention and Mitigation Phase

IMD may be defined as a nodal organization in India, the primary aim of which is to monitor and forecast the cyclonic fluctuations, as well as to provide warnings and pieces of advice. It should be noted that IMD in New Delhi operates as a specific institution that provides tropical cyclone consultations to the World Meteorological Organization and a number of other organizations. This institution adhered to the following framework during Amphan. “The cyclone warning are issued to State Government officials in four stages: i.e., 1) re-cyclone watch issued 72 hours in advance, 2) cyclone alert issued at least 48 hours in advance, 3) cyclone warning issued at least 24 hours in advance, 4) as post-landfall outlook issued at least 12 hours in advance of the expected time of landfall” (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2011, p. 107). IMD followed the roadmap for cyclogenesis and onwards intensification; it monitored and predicted the possible situation. Given this, local and federal authorities had the necessary information to be ready for Amphan in advance.

Preparation Phase

The Prime Minister held a meeting with a number of crucial officials on 18 May in order to examine preparation and evacuation plans. Teams from National Disaster Response Force took positions across the districts of Odisha and West Bengal so that they could help in preparing for the disaster and rendering aid; there were also some additional units nearby. They would be willingly airlifted to the stricken areas by using the facilities of the Indian Air Force. The NDMA claimed that the mentioned crews, as well as other first responders, could require protective equipment due to COVID-19 (Ghosh, 2020). The diving teams of the Indian Navy were located at Kolkata to provide aid relief. There were a number of non-governmental organizations that did their best to coordinate with the Cyclone Preparedness Programme. Then, the Department of Public Health Engineering provided sanitation supplies and designed fifteen water treatment facilities. During Amphan, there were about 1900 medical teams operating around Bangladesh (Onmanorama Staff, 2020).

Response Phase

The local authorities of Odisha sent the magistrates of four districts to provide shelter homes for potential evacuees. The government promptly indicated about 400 potential cyclone shelters in zones that could be affected by the disaster. However, it should be noted that these shelters could be occupied to one-third in order to adhere to the principles of social distancing due to COVID-19 (Express News Service, 2020). Unfortunately, in West Bengal, environmental health professionals were forced to reduce evacuation capacity due to the pandemic as well. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation – in collaboration with NDMA – located schools and community establishments in order to utilize them as temporal shelters so that the evacuation capacity could be compensated to an exact extent (Ghosh, 2020). It seems reasonable to note that the interactions between local authorities and national agencies are quite significant in terms of environmental health issues, which is essential for a response phase.

About 4 million people were involved in the evacuation in coastal India, as well as in Bangladesh. Then, about 4000 employees from the SDRF controlled and guided this evacuation (Onmanorama Staff, 2020). Magistrates were sent so that the evacuation of residents from vulnerable buildings in Odisha could be started. The local government followed a more intensified evacuating policy for Amphan if comparing with storms that had happened before. It shows that the Indian institutions responsible for environmental health in the region have the necessary degree of flexibility within the scope of disaster management affairs.

Recovery phase

On 22 May, the government undertook an aerial assessment over Kolkata, right after the cyclone stopped. The Prime Minister claimed $132 million relief compensation for West Bengal and $ 2million for Odisha. Then, it was stated that the relatives of people who died during the disaster would get about $2500 compensation, and $660 should be provided for every injured individual (Tripathi, 2020). It was also announced that three or four days are needed to appropriately evaluate the damage.

Twenty disaster relief teams were sent in order to launch search operations, as well as to rescue people. Then groups of health environment professionals were dispatched by West Bengal so that recovery could be conducted properly, in addition to the NDRF groups that were pre-positioned before the disaster started (Sarkar, 2020). The described approach allows assuming that both at the federal and local level, the authorities and the particular organizations demonstrate an advanced interdependence and intersection – this is critical in the framework of disaster management.

Moreover, it should be stressed that about 1000 ground groups operated to recover infrastructure. Nevertheless, again, the pandemic put several restrictions on the teams, and only 25-30 employees could be staffed. The results were quite disappointing within this scope – there was a slow restoration of power, and even a number of protests took place in West Bengal (France 24 Staff, 2020). Several restoration operations were negatively affected by these protests – they were delayed and disrupted. It should be emphasized that the government had to deal with many environmental health problems’ outcomes. First, the issue of energy supply is already mentioned. Second, there was a great extent of work done in the framework of removing the pollution that occurred due to destroyed buildings and other material objects. Third, treatment for many individuals – both physical and mental – was required. Finally, there was a necessity to properly manage environmental-health-related recovery activities, given the pressure of Covid-19 restrictions.

Regulatory Framework

National Disaster Management Act is the primary regulatory document that defines order within the scope given. It determines events that are dangerous to life, properties, and the environment. Then, it considers Disaster Management as “a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for the prevention of danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences,… rehabilitation and reconstruction” (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2005, p. 2). The Act creates a three-tier mechanism for disaster management in India. First, it is NDMA; second, it is State Disaster Management Authority; third, it is District Disaster Management Authority. In 2009, the mentioned document was accompanied by the National Policy on Disaster Management, which provides comprehensive policy guidelines on all the aspects of addressing environmental health issues in India.

Then, the crucial document on cyclone disaster management in India is National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Program. It consists of four crucial components that are aimed to address all the possible issues related to cyclones (Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management, 2020). It is funded by the World Bank, which implies its adherence to the international law provisions and the development under the surveillance of globally recognized institutions, such as WHO. This program aims to “minimize vulnerability in the cyclone hazard prone states and Union Territories of India and make people and infrastructure disaster resilient, in harmony with the conservation of coastal ecosystems” (Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management, 2020, p. 73).

Conclusion and Recommendations

It seems reasonable to state that the Indian approach to disaster management is significant and convincing. During the Amphan issue, all the agencies operated coherently, which is due to the developed legal and institutional framework. The related mechanisms operated excellently at all the presented phases. However, it is recommended to advance the process of energy recovery as it is the only flaw that was identified during the study. Nevertheless, it should be admitted that this problem occurred mostly due to the lack of a working force because of the pandemic restrictions.

References

Ali, S. A., Ahmat, A., & Khatun, R. (2019). Earth Systems and Environment, November 2019, Web.

BBC News Staff. (2020). Amphan: Kolkata devastated as cyclone kills scores in India and Bangladesh, BBC News, Web.

Express News Service. (2020). The New Indian Express, Web.

France 24 Staff. (2020). France 24, Web.

Ghosh, S. (2020). Scroll.in, Web.

Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management. (2020). Web.

Ministry of Home Affairs. (2011). Disaster Management in India. Web.

Onmanorama Staff (2020)., Onmanorama, Web.

Sarkar, S. (2020). Mongabay, Web.

Tripathi, A. (2020). , Hindustan Times, Web.

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