State to be included in the risk mitigation project
By next year, the coastal districts in the State will be better equipped to face storm surges, high velocity winds, and flooding caused by cyclones.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has identified Kerala as one of the coastal States to be included in phase II of the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation (NCRM) project. The World Bank-funded project involves the construction of cyclone shelters, establishment of early warning systems, and training of officials in handling disasters.
NDMA member T. Nandakumar told The Hindu that phase II of the NCRM project was scheduled to be up in about four to five months. He said the project would significantly enhance the capacity of Kerala to handle cyclones and other extreme weather conditions. The focus would be on coastal districts which bore the brunt of cyclone fury, he said.
The proposed cyclone shelters would be multi-purpose structures designed to house people displaced by cyclones, flooding, and other natural calamities. The facility is expected to obviate the need for schools to be converted into temporary relief camps every time a cyclone unleashes its fury on the State.
Mr. Nandakumar said Odisha and Andhra Pradesh were already covered under the NCRM project. “Post- Phailin, we are trying to scale it up with more shelters and better shelters. Ultimately, all the coastal States will be equipped with the same facilities,” he said.
Mr. Nandakumar said the project would also provide the last mile connectivity that would enable the district administration to reach out to villagers as soon as a cyclone warning was issued. “It is important for people to voluntarily move into the shelters. You cannot force them,” he said.
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are also to be included in phase II of the project.
Mr. Nandakumar said the disaster management operations in Kerala were slated to become more efficient and streamlined with the establishment of a centralised Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) by the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA). The proposed centre would be equipped with a database on disaster vulnerability and an online facility for monitoring weather conditions.
The EOC will act as a command and control system, enabling officials of various departments to monitor the situation, work out strategies and launch relief operations during crises triggered by natural calamities. It will also feature alternative communication systems that can be used when conventional means are disabled. The proposal also seeks to decentralise the EOC at a later stage, with smaller units at the district-level that can be networked to enhance the efficiency of the mechanism and reduce response time.
“The EOC will receive all alerts and warnings. For example, in the event of a storm surge, the database can be used to work out which areas will get inundated, which places need evacuation, so that decision making will be based on scientific assessment rather than on historical knowledge,” Mr. Nandakumar said.
The NDMA, he said, was not suggesting a model for any State. “Each State has to design and devise its own system because the hazards they are going to deal with are different; the data and communication requirements are different,” he said.