More relief is on the way for the over one million people living in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, who face the wrath of cyclones year after year.

India and World Bank on Friday signed an agreement through which the latter will provide a credit of $255 million for the first phase of the national programme to mitigate the impact of cyclones.

The programme, which would ultimately cover all the vulnerable areas along the eastern and western coasts of the country, is slated to begin with Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

The project will aim at upgrading the early warning and communication systems in the coastal areas, boost the ability of the communities there to respond to disaster, and improve their access to emergency shelters. It will also seek to strengthen the disaster risk management capability at Central, State and local levels.

A press release from World Bank said that in the first phase, among other things, an early warning system would be installed in 1,740 villages — 760 in Andhra Pradesh and 980 in Orissa — within five km of the coastline. The warnings, customised by State and district emergency centres, would be broadcasted through public address systems in the villages using CDMA/GSM-based remote public alert and communication systems. The remotely-triggered system would eliminate the need for a round-the-clock physical monitoring at the village level.

In addition, 148 multipurpose cyclone shelters and 22 new bridges at critical crossings would be constructed in Andhra Pradesh and 155 shelters in Orissa.

Further, in Andhra Pradesh, two tidal banks of about 35 km would be restored or strengthened, 800 km of all-weather roads would be constructed or strengthened, and in Orissa, 263 km of access roads would be either strengthened or upgraded and 23 saline embankments with a total length of 160 km over six districts would be strengthened or rehabilitated.

Noting that it was the first Adaptable Programme Loan taken by India, the release said that after the first phase in the two States, it would be expanded to other States and Union Territories in phases. The phased approach is to help incorporate lessons learned as well as new ideas and advancements in technology in the management of risks.

The credit is provided by World Bank's fund for the poorest, the International Development Association, and has 35 years to maturity as well as a 10-year grace period. The project would be implemented by the National Disaster Management Authority [NDMA].

The agreement was signed by Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, on behalf of India and Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director in the presence of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, World Bank group President Robert B. Zoellick, and NDMA Vice-Chairman Shashidhar Reddy.

Mr. Mukherjee said the project assumes importance given that about half the country's total population lived in the 13 cyclone-prone States and Union Territories.

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