P. Samuel Jonathan

‘No budgetary allocation to PR Department for last two years'

There are 123 shelters in seven mandals identified as prone to cyclones

Panchayat Raj Department submits proposals to repair 62 shelters

GUNTUR: The 45-km-long coastline in Guntur district may have been spared as cyclone Laila crossed the coast at Bapatla Thursday last. But the spotlight remains on the vulnerability of the people and the consequent loss to properties.

In the aftermath of super cyclones in November 1977, May 1990 and 1996, which crossed the coast at Nizampatnam, Machilipatnam and Kakinada respectively leaving a trail of destruction in coastal districts, the government identified seven mandals in the district as prone to cyclones and constructed 123 cyclone shelters.

But as years rolled by, these shelters continued to be neglected and some of them lay in dilapidated condition.

Most of the high-rise structures are in a fragile condition with weakened walls. Dangling rods shooting off from the concrete and coats of paint peeling off the walls greet visitors at the cyclone shelters located in Murthy Rakshana Naghar and Pandurangapuram. Many of them linger on without power or water, and when not in use the shelters become safe abodes for illegal activities.

For instance, in Bapatla mandal, located at a striking distance from Suryalanka beach, there are 20 shelters, most of them in bad conditions.

Even as high tidal waves kept pounding Suryalanka village Thursday last, some 50 families were moved to the guest house of the Panchayat Raj Department as the cyclone shelter was declared “fragile.” The situation was similar in many coastal mandals, as people were kept in private and government school buildings.

Surprisingly, the Panchayat Raj Department, entrusted with the task of maintaining the cyclone shelters, feigns ignorance about the task. “We have not received any budgetary allocation for the last two years.

The last time we received a grant of Rs.32 lakhs was in 2008,” said a senior official of the department.

But Laila seemed to have spurred the PR Department into action.

Fresh proposals to undertake repairs to “62 badly damaged structures” at a cost of Rs.6.7 crores were sent to the government.

NCRM project

The department is also banking on grants from the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) designed to minimise vulnerability to cyclones by improving the infrastructure through a multi-hazard mitigation plan.

Under the first phase, three cyclone shelters would be built at Nizampatnam harbour, Nakshatra Nagar Colony at Repalle and Mallaguntavaripalem in Repalle mandal at a cost of Rs.2.5 crores. Proposals to lay 18 approach roads were also sent to the National Disaster Management Authority.