CYCLONE FANI UPDATE – NEWS FROM THE MANGRO PROJECT
We have at last had direct news from our MANGRO Project. It is in an area, right by the coast, and bore the full brunt of the storm – winds over 200 kmph and twelve-foot tidal surge. After the cyclone had passed, access to the area was impossible because of damage to the roads and fallen trees, and calls out could not be made because there was no power, mobile or internet connection. That is beginning to improve, though there is still long way to go. We are delighted that the areas protected by our mangrove plantation have fared relatively well. Local people recognise this, and it opens up the possibility of our partner playing valuable role in extending the work into other areas which were so badly affected, but where no one has been working on mangrove plantation. The following is an email from the Ranjit, the director of our local partner which runs the MANGRO Project:
Respected Helena Jee,
Thank you very much and lots of thanks to Gabriel for being so much helpful through WhatsApp for making communication possible, and thanks to everybody in IVDT and all our supporters, donors and well-wishers there for their kind concern. We are thankful to them for worrying about all of us here and standing by us so strongly and resolutely during these difficult times.
With all of blessings and well-wishes, things are slowly getting better. Some things have been done very quickly by the affected people of Odisha themselves, civil society organisations (CBOs, small and big NGOs). PRIs (local community councils), volunteers teams attached to the cyclone centres, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, National Disaster Rapid Action Force, administration – especially the state government (Navin Patnaik) and surely the contribution of central government petroleum, natural gas and skill development minister (Dharmendra Pradhan) who hails from Odisha.
Around 1,200,000 people from vulnerable locations were evacuated within 24 hours and arrangements in cyclone centres (mostly) were excellent and saved thousands of lives. The restoration of electricity and water supply to vital points (hospital, railway, water supply etc) were done in 3 days in spite of so many challenges. Petrol, diesel and kerosene supplies were restored in ravaged supply points one after another steadily and there was no dearth of that before and after cyclone, though in panic, people made long and crowded bee lines for the same and it took hours to get one’s turn. The roads are gradually being cleared.
However, electricity supply and water supply to common peoples’ houses and markets had not been restored for 7 to 8 days, even in the heart of Bhubaneswar and more than 70% of people are still struggling to have a normal electricity and water supply. (Ranjit has had to move from his house/office to his father-in-law because there is still no power in his area; and it has also taking longer to restore power in rural areas.)
You will not be surprised to know that villages nearer to river and sea in Kendrapara district have been badly affected, but the areas having mangroves and thick planting are much less damaged. In Balaram’s (one of the MANGRO activists) areas in Dangamal, Rangini, and Talchua GPs the damages were huge. (This is one of our newer project areas, abutting the Bhitarkanika National Park). Many people lost their katcha, tin and asbestos houses. Those areas near the river, sea, open paddy fields, prawn ponds and Kendrapara town got more affected. However the Koelpur, Kankadia, Tantiapal, Raj Nagar, Madanpur and Pattamundai areas were less affected even though these are in the middle of Kendrapara and Dangamal areas.
Once again people are realising and giving their opinion that, due to mangroves and massive plantation carried out in the areas since our intervention in 2006, the speed of cyclonic winds got so many breaks, disturbed and lost force and power to do much damage. The MANGRO Centre had some damage on the top of the thatch and had water pouring in the rooms, and that has been repaired very quickly in 3-4 days. (The thatch had only just been redone, so it was in excellent condition.) No plants were damaged at the MANGRO Centre, and no mangrove planting done by us or the Forest Department or naturally grown, has been damaged. The people of Kankadia, Barahapur, Koelpur, Praharajpur, Jagannathpur, Tantiapal and others are very much pleased because there was little or no damage to their lives, livelihoods and houses, though all of them with katcha and vulnerable houses had been shifted to Cyclone Centre. (These re villages where we have been working for the longest.)
The people are now requesting us to facilitate for more mangrove nursery and plantation works and convinced to make plantation in left-over avenues, private and common areas (though very little areas are left over). There are still massive areas suitable for mangrove and the villagers are showing a strong interest to even hand over their unused suitable land for mangrove plantation and also pressurize the local forest officials for carrying out mangrove plantation on government land, and to support us, if we can undertake mangrove plantation in left-over small patches of government land even.
There will be need of massive re-plantation programs in Khordha, Puri, Cuttack and parts of Kendrapara Districts since the damage of plants in these districts are huge and we can explore the possibilities to use our expertise and long experience of successful tree nursery raising and plantation in these districts by mobilising affected people for model creation in some areas and streamline the same with advocacy and lobby for plantation, plant care and maintenance of locally suitable varieties and that would be a great contribution.
Government is doing its best for relief, restoration and rehabilitation and we are wholeheartily supporting them by all means for proper implementation of the same along with other NGOs and networks and in our operation areas like in Dangamal and nearby areas. Plantation and re-plantation is a huge challenge, great need, and could be made as a people’s movement with our intervention in few strategic areas.
Thank you very much for all your kind concerns, supports and good wishes for improving our situation. Information and news are now more available in internet.
I will be in touch from time to time with ground situation. We are struggling to normalise our life and it has been a challenge for us personally to get normal electricity supply at our house.
Please convey my regards to everybody there.
With Kindest Regards