In 1999, the super-cyclone in Odisha claimed 10,000 lives. Since then, the state has emerged as a role model in disaster preparedness and management. For its relief management, the government, NGOs, and civil society groups in the state received applauds from numerous international and national organizations.
A flawless system
When cyclone Phailin swept the Indian coasts, the government of Odisha took the largest ever evacuation, shifting over a million people into safety. Odisha stood strong though rains that whipped the landscape and death toll surged to 21. The very next year, when cyclone Hudhud slammed Odisha, the death toll was just two.
Tathagata Satpathy, Member of Parliament from Odisha’s Dhenkanal constituency, told Yourstory, “The natural disasters we get in Odisha are of different intensity. If we keep stepping on a thorn, again and again, year after year, the toe skin becomes thick; and we have to find a solution for it.”
Much before the Disaster Management Act was passed by the center, Odisha established its very own Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) in 1999. OSDMA was the very first disaster management authority center, established in the world, given its scale of work across the state.
Mohamad Farukh, CEO of Rapid Response, a disaster relief NGO tells, “Even today, Odisha, along with Assam, Gujarat, and Bihar are the only states with active State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs). These states have their own offices, management, and staff. In most states, SDMAs are still being run out of the State Revenue Department Office, which is a temporary arrangement.”
Odisha government also announced the State Institute of Disaster Management (SIDM) at Gothapatna to train personnel of the ODRAF, fire department and people in vulnerable areas in disaster management. On a 17-acre area and the project budget of Rs 49 crore, SIDM is initiated.
Odisha wants to create a network of weather forecasting doppler radars across the state. Doppler radars in Paradip and Gopalpur are already operational and more radars are established in Sambalpur and Balasore.
Sathpathy says, “There are radio announcements made a week prior to the onset of the cyclone. The moment the cyclone starts building in the Bay of Bengal, the government starts announcing — keep clear, keep clear!
Odisha also formed its ambitious Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS). With its mechanism, OSDMA is bound to activate sirens across 122 towers across Odisha’s 480 km coastline, alerting people at the press of a single button.