ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Odisha Managed the Phailin Disaster

A disaster, according to the National Policy on Disaster Management (2009), is “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence from natural or man-made causes, which is beyond the coping capacity of the affected community”. Odisha is no stranger to natural disasters with its long coastline adjoining the Bay of Bengal making it vulnerable to cyclonic storms and their aftermath of heavy rain and floods. The state experienced a disaster of great magnitude when a super cyclone struck it on 29 October 1999. The eye of the super cyclone struck the port town of Paradeep in Jagatsinghpur district, and its cost in terms of human lives was almost 10,000. The meteorological department had issued a warning to the state administration, but it was not taken seriously by either the officials concerned or the people. This resulted in lives lost and large-scale destruction, even in the capital city of Bhubaneswar.

The 1999 super cyclone exposed weaknesses in the state’s preparedness to face natural disasters and also its measures to mitigate their effects. It compelled both the state and central governments to rethink their policies on disaster management and take steps to prevent such tragedies in the future. Information technology was effectively pressed into use in weather forecasting and other disaster management programmes. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) were created at the national and state levels. Dedicated forces in the form of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) were also formed to provide trained manpower for rescue and relief operations. In short, the super cyclone of 1999 was an eye-opener for natural disaster management in India.

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