Monday, October 15, 2018

Titli Update: Storms and aftermath - pollution of the Sea - Ranjan Panda

(Image: FB page of Special Relief Commissioner, Odisha)

The Very Severe Cyclonic Storm "Titli" has done a lot of damage to Odisha coasts, with high speed wind and the extreme rainfall that followed.  Titli crossed the coast near Palasa in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh to the southwest of Gopalpur with estimated maximum sustained surface wind speed of 140-150 kmph gusting to 165 kmph between 0430 and 0530 hours IST of 11th October 2018.

Like the Phailin in the same time of the year, back in 2013, the rainfall in the aftermath caused floods and other devastation that the government had not anticipated well.  About 24 human deaths and more than 24000 livestock casualty recorded so far.  The actual figure may be more.  There is no estimate available for the casualty suffered by wildlife. A television news channel report this morning showed how elephants were being washed away due to heavy floods in Mahanadi but I could not confirm the details as yet. 

The heavy downpour that followed the landfall of Titli flooded the Rushikulya and Vanshadhara rivers affecting 16 districts of Odisha.  As per reports shared by the Special Relief Commissioner of the state, more than 5.7 million people in 7229 villages of these districts have been affected by the rainfall and the floods.  Agriculture in these villages has received a heavy jolt as more than 2.3 hundred thousand hectare of crop fields have been damaged.    

Going beyond politics, some real questions need to be asked -

Odisha's opposition parties are already criticising the state government for not being able to keep its promise of 'zero casualty' but the government seems to have given more attention to the relief and rehabilitation works, rightly so. 

The political debate will not settle soon. We will all participate in that, to understand where the failure lay and how to change our plans in future. Did the weatherman fail in proper predictions of the aftermath? Did the government fail to gauge the gravity of the predictions?  Did the local administration not act in line with the Disaster Management Plan? Did the local Disaster Management Committees (supposed to have been formed and trained by the government and other agencies) failed in carrying out the due procedures?  All these questions will haunt the state of Odisha that's currently engaged in relief and preliminary rehabilitation efforts.

The Debris that go into the sea –

In this post I am trying to flag an important issue that is normally not discussed as a major issue in such storm stroke aftermaths.  I am talking about the debris that is washed away from the inlands to the sea.  Today morning Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP twitted to me a video that shows how the mouth of Rushikulya river has received loads of garbage and other debris due to Titli and floods. 

(Image: Screen shot of YouTube Video by Times of India)

We often forget that our rivers are carriers of all our wastes into the sea throughout the year, more so during the monsoon months.  Disasters such as this add to the force of the water that go into the sea and bring along more of our wastes into the sea.  Earlier I have already written extensively how plastic pollution of the sea is causing huge damage to the oceans as well the earth.

(Image: Screenshot from my article published in

Time our disaster planning factors in these menaces along with other damages being done.  Climate change is already causing more storms and aggravating the damages.  Some studies point out that the frequency of storms in the Bay of Bengal is increasing, more than any other bay, due to climate change. 

We need to combine our brains on this and have more discussions, studies and action plans. 

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader

Tweets @ranjanpanda
Tweets @MahanadiRiver  


  1. Thanks Ranjan bhayya for the very relevant and timely article. Even the sea has limited absorbing capacity. Once it crosses that, even the sea will reject the waste and again dump into the coastal plains just like the aftermath of recent cyclone brought loads of garbage and plastics onto the streets when the flowing floods subsided.
    It seems clear that the weather man could not predict the rainfall reasonably accurately, thus deviating widely from the actual. Similarly, our country needs to invest in R&D of weather and climate much more and devise reasonable rainfall prediction models short, medium and long term for proper planning of agricultural operations and other planning purposes. We have gone to the moon, but not prudent enough to invest where it is more needed.

  2. Thanks , good article ,govt should do something ,subas,sendh