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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 24, New Delhi, May 29, 2021

After the Supercyclone | Barun Das Gupta

Saturday 29 May 2021, by Barun Das Gupta

Supercyclone Yaas made a landfall between Balasore and Paradip on May 26. Under its impact extensive damage to property, public as well as private was caused in both Odisha and the southern part of West Bengal. The Government of West Bengal undertook a massive evacuation of 1.5 million people from the areas which were to bear the main brunt of the storm. The districts most severely affected were Jhargram, West and East Medinipur and South 24-Parganas. Fourteen thousand relief camps were set up. But the effect of the storm was felt in almost all districts in southern, western and central West Bengal. Dams were burst, allowing sea and river water to flood human habitations and farm land.

The saline water of Bay of Bengal flooded agricultural land extensively. No cultivation can be done as long as the soil is not desalinated. About a crore of people have been affected. As the supercyclone hit on a full moon’s day the situation was further aggravated. The old stream of the Ganga that flows through south Kolkata and is known as Adi Ganga or Tolly’s Nullah inundated large areas on both sides of its bank. Fortunately, loss of human life was minimal, thanks to the evacuation of people before the storm hit. Only two deaths have been reported so far. But the damage to property has been extensive. More than three lakh houses have been damaged or destroyed. Many are standing in a precarious condition. These people, far away from the area of the impact of the storm, are living in their dilapidated houses because they have nowhere to go.

The State Government and the municipal bodies had taken adequate measures to remove fallen trees from the roads so that vehicular traffic flowed without interruption. Electric connections were switched off in areas where electric poles carrying live wires had fallen so as to avoid accidental electrocution.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee camped in the State Secretariat at Nabanna for two days and two nights at a stretch and personally directed the relief and rescue operations. Control rooms were opened in every district. The Prime Minister is expected to make an aerial survey of the cyclone-affected areas on Friday and later hold discussions with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The frequency of cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea underlines the need for putting in place a disaster management machinery to be put in place. Also, scientific investigations need to be carried out to find out whether the frequency of cyclones is due to climate change taking place due to global warming. The climate change is accompanied by the steady fall in the level of ground water. The need to harvest rain water is being emphasized but in practice very little has been and is being done for rain water harvesting.

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