Odisha: Over Prepared or under prepared to face Hudhud?
Bibhuti Pati | 13 Oct 2014

Hudhud- a proxy tug of war. Hud Hud, the severe cyclonic storm is approaching the mainland India and is expected to have the landfall at Visakhapattanam, in Andhra Pradesh. This has relieved the government of Odisha to some extent but the state government is not taking any chance and is overseeing a fully fledged preparation. The present forecast has put eight districts on alrert namely Malkanagir, Rayagada, Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Kandhamal and Ganjam districts for windspeeds 80-90 kms and heavy rainfall. It also has been forecasted that at places the rainfall could be more than 250 mm. So the challenges for the disaster managers of the state has changed, on one hand they have to be prepared for a low intensity cyclone in the areas where it is unusual to have cyclones and on the other it also has to prepare for an emergent flood. Again the cyclonic storm is also expected to cause severe precipitation in Chhattishgarh and feed River Mahanadi. There is also a cause o

Chief Minister of Odisha Nabin Pattanaik has set the target of Zero Casualty during this calamity in the state. There has been heavy deployment of the Odisha State Disaster Response Force and (OSDRF)and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with the state Fire Brigade. Mock drills have been carried out in the cyclone shelters all along the coast, though Hud Hud is heading to AP. Schoold and Collegers have been identified for the evacuation of people in case of any eventuality. Relief materials have been stockpiles as per government information. Leave and weekly holiday of all government officials and teachers in the state has been cancelled. At the national level too Four Naval Ships of Eastern command are ready with relief and rescue materials as well as manpower. Air Force is in standby. There are frequent review meetings and more frequent media briefings by the State Relief Commissioners, Met officials, Police, District Collectors etc. It seems the state has taken the job seriously and is really prepared to face cyclonic storm and the accompanying elements.

But, there is no dearth of skeptics in the world. Now many have started raising questions on the zealous preparedness of the Odisha Government. They are wondering if the Odisha government is on a overdrive vis a vis the preparations of the cyclone now that it is headed south and only a portion of Odisha will be affected in  low intensity. But what is worrying them more is the intensions of such a high scale of preparedness. "Chief minster Navin Pattnaik has undergone a severe beating of his image due to chitfund scam, mines scam and series of land scams in the state where many of the ministers and MLAs of the ruling party are involved. Hud Hud has provided an opportunity for Nabin Pattanik give a fresh coating on these taints. He wants to prove it to the people of Odisha that he cares for the people of Odisha and is efficient. " says Sunder Mohanty of Khordha who is a part time political worker for the Congress party. But, Rajkishore Sethy a small shop owner in the state capital believes that the Chief Minister does not want to take any risk and wants to leave no stone unturned for such a calamity. He wants to leave upto the expectations and the praise that he has got from the international organisatioins. This also provides him an opportunity to prove that he is an efficient Chief Minister."  "Lest Modi will enter the disaster scenario, as he did in Jammu and Kashmir and he is scared of Modi " quips his companion and an ardent fan of Narandra Modi. Few suspect that despite the scalling down of the intensisty of the disaster, the state disaster response team is on a high due to the timing, Kandhamal Bye Election is on 15th of this month, and Nabin Pattanaik who is a bit unsure of winning this seat this time is banking on this.

Tapan Padhi, a social activist working on water and disaster preparedness puts the things in perspective "It is nice to seen that the state government is able to put the disaster response acts together . May be not the cyclone has taken a turn to AP, but there also will be flood and low intensity cyclone in the southern districts. It is better to be over prepared than under prepared. Because in the eventuality of a high intensity disaster it is the same people who are doubting the preparedness of the state as 'excessive' will work overtime to blame the state government. " At the same time Mr. Padhi is concerned about two factors –" the areas those normally do not face cyclones like Malkanagir, Rayagada, Koraput etc facing it. The administration has to be really sensitive, responsive and caring while working with the people of this area. The state also will face a lot of challenges in terms of safe shelters and other infrastructures here. And the other challenge is the sea side communities all along the coast who are facing the scourge of the high tide, which will turn more violent from 11th to 13th of October. And this time it may be a very difficult situation for them even though the cyclone does not hit their areas directly.  With insufficient protection against the sea, that is constantly threatening the villages like Satabhaya, the government needs to be responsive to the protection of the villagers as well as their villages and farmland"


While the debate is going on the efficacy of the extent of preparedness by the government of Odisha, a subtle tug of war is also around the weather forecasting. Indian Meteorological Department has been predicting that the wind speed will be between 140-165 kmph150 kmph and it may gust upto 190 kmph. So the wind speed in the district of Malkangiri could be to the tune of 150 kmph and in the rest seven southern Odisha districts the wind speed has been predicted to be 60kmph will be between 80-90.  But the American Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) has predicted that the wind speed during the time of land fall will be 180 and gusting upto 230 kmph.  JTWC also forecasted that in the rest of the districts in the southern Odisha the wind speed will be between 120 kmph to 150 kmph. Such types of differences between the Indian weathermen and the Western weathermen was also there in the pre-Phailin phase too. TJTWC had prediocted a much higher wind speed than their Indian counterpart and even the Indian weather men were hounded for not doing a good job. But the practical readings of Phailin proved that the Indian weathermen knew their job well. This time too such a tug of war is going in the local tea shop discussions and sidelines of media briefing events. After Hud Hud hits the coast people will be ansious to know which weathermen were exact- Indian or Western. But that also in a way explains the high level of preparedness by the Odisha government – because cyclone is such an unpredictable element.