As if the flooding in Andhra Pradesh following the severe cyclonic storm ‘Nilam’ was not bad enough, the State government and the Indian Meteorological Department are now arguing over what actually happened. Was the flood just the aftermath following the landfall of ‘Nilam’ or did a fresh low pressure system ravage coastal Andhra? The State administration has taken on the IMD for not warning it about the low pressure in the Bay of Bengal immediately following the storm but the met office says it did not have any information to share. The other point that has come up is that the department is better equipped to handle the Southwest monsoon and not the Northeast. But the damage has been done and at least eight districts of Andhra Pradesh — with Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam bearing the brunt — were left floating for days before the flood waters drained off. More than the warning or the rains, it is the lack of a proper drainage system along the east coast that led to such a tragedy, claiming over 20 lives and causing extensive damage to property and crops alike. And this damage can be prevented.

This is the sort of question the National Disaster Management Authority should start grappling with. NDMA teams visited the coastal States ahead of the monsoon and reviewed the preparedness of the administration in each of them. When the floods were in full flow, special teams of trained experts were there to rescue people and provide relief. The entire coast along the Bay, from Tamil Nadu to Odisha, and even parts of West Bengal, are vulnerable to storms and cyclones every year. The super cyclone that hit Odisha in 1999 and the 1977 floods that played havoc in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh ought to have taught enough lessons to the authorities. Unfortunately, neither the Centre nor the States seem to have responded in the way they should have. Instead of spending thousands of crores every year on compensation and flood relief, the Centre and the coastal States would do well to invest in permanent solutions, which include a proper drainage system for the flood waters to empty into the sea. All natural avenues for drainage have been blocked over the decades and must be reactivated. The Monsoon Mission that the Centre cleared about six months ago must be implemented at least before the 2013 season. The blame game and haggling over compensation does not help anybody. The NDMA has already laid down the basic framework that must now be implemented.

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