The World Bank has praised India’s evacuation of nearly 10 lakh people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, which ensured minimal loss of human lives, before the cyclone Phailin made landfall and attributed it to its years of disaster management preparedness.

“Successfully evacuating a million people is not a small task. This cannot be merely achieved by kicking the entire state machinery into top gear for three-four days following a cyclone warning,” the World Bank said, days after the cyclone Phailin hit the eastern Indian shore.

“This has taken years of planning, construction of disaster risk mitigation infrastructure, setting up of evacuation protocols, identification of potential safe buildings and most importantly, working with communities and local organisations in setting up volunteer teams who all knew exactly what needed to be done,” it said.

“The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) and the Government of Odisha need to be given full credit for their unwavering commitment to disaster preparedness and risk mitigation,” the Bank said.

Following the disaster in 1999, Odisha set up the OSDMA, the first state agency focused exclusively on disaster management in India.

The Bank said the state has also kept investing in building cyclone shelters, evacuation routes and strengthening coastal embankments. Mock drills have been conducted in Odishas coastal districts every single year.

“Communities have also come to respect and act according to instructions set forth by the OSDMA and state authorities at the time of an emergency,” the Bank said, adding that these efforts bore fruit when Cyclone Phailin made landfall.

The World Bank is financing the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP—Phase I) under implementation in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

The $255 million project which started March 2011 is financed by the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest.

The project is mainly focusing on enhancing the early warning system down to the “last-mile” community level and building cyclone risk mitigation infrastructure, including multi-purpose cyclone shelters, evacuation roads and strengthening of existing coastal embankments.

“This was the Bank’s first “ex-ante” disaster risk management project in India. It is encouraging to witness that these investments are contributing to the Government of India’s larger efforts in helping communities become more resilient to the impacts of natural disasters and a changing climate system,” the Bank said.