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Unpopular Opinion, India and Cyclones

Destruction caused by Amphan Cyclone
The landfall process started around 2:30 IST and continued for about 4 hours

Crops gone, Houses, bridges, small dams destroyed. Livelihoods in danger. The Cyclone Amphan left behind a massive trail of devastation.

At the time of writing this piece, two weeks have passed since the devastating Cyclone Amphan (pronounced: Um-pun, a Thai name) ravaged across the northern part of India’s Eastern coast: the coasts of West Bengal and Odisha. This time around the state of West Bengal bore the maximum brunt of the cyclone in terms of the impact caused to both men and material. An advance Cyclone warning issued by the IMD enabled nearly 3 lakh (300,000) people to be evacuated by the Government of West Bengal from districts adjacent to the sea such as Purba Medinipur, South 24 Parganas and also from the Sunderbans (the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to Royal Bengal tigers) and from low-lying areas to safety.

However, the cyclone hit. And it hit hard. From the afternoon of the 20th of May, the cyclone started making landfall between the seaside resort of Digha in West Bengal and Bangladesh's Hatiya Island. Footage that emerged on Social media in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone showed how tin roofs blew off of houses and trees notwithstanding the sheer force getting uprooted. The visuals showing electric poles on fire accompanied by the howling sound made by winds traveling up to 150 kmph were enough to scare the living daylights out of me. At the receiving end of Amphan’s onslaught was India’s fourth-largest metro city, Kolkata. The city of joy suffered substantial damages both in terms of life and property.

The last time around a large Indian city was damaged in this scale was back in 2014 when the Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Hudhud struck Visakhapatnam on the coast of Andhra Pradesh. So what relationship do cyclones have with the Bay of Bengal, exactly? Does one of the largest seas in the world have some sort of an affinity for cyclones... Well, statistically 26 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones have occurred in the Bay of Bengal as per Weather Underground.

A recent BBC Report on Cyclone Amphan, noted meteorologists saying the worst places for storm surges, tend to be shallow, concave bays where water, pushed by the strong winds of a tropical cyclone, gets concentrated or funneled as the storm moves up the bay, as meteorologists say. The Bay of Bengal has this type of geography. And to make matters worse the high sea surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal can trigger extremely strong cyclones. Be it the 2009 Cyclone Aila that deposited such high amounts of saline water in the soils of Sunderban that farming was almost rendered impossible for years after that or Hudhud that brought immense destruction to Visakhapatnam and the coastal Andhra Pradesh or Gaja in 2018 that left 45 people- mostly in the districts of Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, and Pudukkottai dead, one lakh electric poles, 1,000 transformers, 201 electricity substations, and 5,000 boats destroyed, thousands of cattle and birds dead, about 18,000 hectares of Coconut trees damaged- mostly uprooted- and 56,000 hectares of crops and trees destroyed, or the 2019 Cyclone Fani that left 64 people dead in Odisha and caused economic damage equivalent to 12000 crore rupees, cyclones in India have always left a trail of destruction and brought in much sorrow to the lives of the people it impacts.

“Cyclone Amphan hits Bengal” isn’t merely breaking news. It means 88,000 hectares of paddy gone! It means 1 lakh hectares each of vegetable and sesame crops destroyed. It means a dangerous possibility of the famine-like condition in the worst-affected districts. Finally, it also meant 14 lakh people in the 21st century went without electricity for days, after the cyclone struck.

With many kaccha houses (mud houses) lost, people living in abject poverty, especially in the Sunderbans have been rendered homeless, and without food, drinking water, and electricity. Many of these villagers have witnessed dams made of mud and bridges built of poor-quality cement and wood, even, at certain places gone. Washed away. The going ahead is surely going to be very, very hard for them.

So, why is then the title called “Unpopular opinion” you’d ask? Well, going by the coverage (screen-time) on the National media and the lack of a Twitter trend even when unimportant things have often trended well, in the past, I am certain that a lot of people aren’t perturbed by Amphan as they weren’t during the past iterations of this destructive natural event, as well.

However, as someone residing in a city, in a house that’d have most-likely withstood the impact of Amphan, and as someone who thinks this country’s farmers for the 2 and sometimes 3 to 4-course meals that I get to have morning and evening each and as someone who feels deeply for the poor whose lives are the first to fall into disarray when tragedy strikes, all I can appeal is please do whatever you can.

As the chief of NDRF, SN Pradhan said in a TV interview about the recent cyclone that “all hands on deck is the best way we can help our community come out of the crisis”, please consider donating food, materials or any amount of financial donation to the CM of West Bengal’s Relief fund. If you live anywhere near the affected areas then please considering reaching out to those who may need help, if your time permits. Your active participation in this cause will certainly go a long way in rebuilding the lives of many.

#PrayForBengal and Pray for every single place and the people that have ever been affected by Cyclones, floods, and other forms of natural calamities.

Few links to donate:

9830096888 PayTM number to donate to Kanti Ganguly’s Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani that is carrying out some outstanding relief work in the Sunderbans.

7292013690 GPay number to donate to the Quarantined Student Youth Network.

Also, donate to (Bengal Emergency Relief Fund PayTM) and (Bengal Emergency Relief Fund).

About the Author

Mourya Biswas
Mourya Biswas

Here is Mourya Biswas. He is a knower of Four Indic languages. He has lived in four large Indian metros for extended periods of time. He also is a promoter of free and open knowledge and a Wikimedian.

চারটি ভারতীয় ভাষা লিখিতে, পড়িতে এবং কহিতে সক্ষম। ভারতের চারটে বিরাট নগরসমূহে একটি দীর্ঘ সময় ধরিয়া বাস করিয়াছি। বাংলা আমার ধর্ম।

దేశ భాషలందు తెలుగు లెస్స

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