The World Bank has approved a $255 million assistance to India to help mitigate the risks and vulnerability of people to natural disasters.

The first phase of India’s National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Programme is financed through a credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, and has 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period. It is complemented with $64 million from the Indian government’s budget, the Bank announced Tuesday.

The aim is to improve early warning and communication systems; enhance capacity of local communities to respond to disasters; improve access to emergency shelters, evacuation, and protection against cyclone related hazards such as wind storms, flooding and storm surge in high risk areas; and strengthen disaster risk management capacities at the central, state and local levels.

The programme is expected to include at least three phases. Phase I includes the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Phase II will be open to the remaining high risk states or other coastal states that are ready to join. Rest of the coastal states will be covered under phase III.

Each of the new phases will be appraised and approved separately to confirm the implementation readiness. This phased approach will help incorporate lessons from the earlier phases as well as include new ideas and advancements in technology in the management of risks, the Bank said.

“As climate change and variability become more pronounced, hazard events are set to grow, both in terms of frequency and intensity. Globally, the understanding of the role of disaster risk mitigation and preparedness initiatives in reducing the overall impacts of a disaster, has grown,” said N.V.V. Raghava, World Bank Senior Infrastructure Specialist and Project Team Leader.

India is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, particularly earthquakes, floods, droughts, cyclones and landslides, the Bank said. Studies indicate that natural disaster losses equate up to 2 percent of India’s GDP and up to 12 percent of federal government revenues.

About 5,700 kilometres of India’s coastline is exposed to severe cyclones and approximately 40 percent of India’s population lives within 100 km of the coastline. Analysed data for the period 1980-2000 indicates that on an average, annually, 370 million people are exposed to cyclones in India.

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