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Biparjoy and India's Cyclone Preparedness

2023 JUN 28

Mains   > Disaster Management   >   Disaster mitigation   >   Disaster risk reduction


  • The country has done creditable work to minimise the impact of Cyclone Biparjoy, which swept through Gujarat and Rajasthan recently.
  • Though the cyclone did a lot of damage to infrastructure and disrupted power and communication links, the precautionary measures against it helped limit the loss of human lives to two.
  • The record of damage and loss is much less than what could have been caused by a cyclone in the "very severe" category.


  • The credit for minimising the impact of the cyclone goes to the enhanced prediction capabilities of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the ability of a number of agencies to handle a natural disaster of such a high degree and magnitude.
  • The IMD issued its first warning about the cyclone on June 8, and by June 11, it had issued an evaluation report that indicated that it would not bypass India as previously assessed. It was forecast that the trajectory would cover Saurashtra and the Kutch coast in Gujarat.
  • This gave enough time for evacuation and other parts of a disaster management plan to be implemented.
  • Fishermen were given advance warnings, and tens of thousands of people were shifted to safety.
  • The rescue and relief shelters were prepared with food, medicine, and other necessities.
  • All agencies involved in disaster management, transport, food, health, etc.—worked in coordination to ensure that the plan was implemented efficiently.
  • This is obviously the result of the nation’s experience dealing with cyclones and cyclone threats, mainly on the Odisha coast.

Odisha model

  • Odisha had seen a death toll of over 10,000 when a super cyclone hit the state in 1999.
  • But it has gradually reduced the losses over the years with efficient evacuation plans and other measures.
  • The Government of Odisha took up various cyclone mitigation measures which included installing a disaster warning system in the coastal districts, and construction of evacuation shelters in cyclone-prone districts.
  • Other steps were the setting up of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), conducting regular cabinet meetings for disaster preparedness, and building the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF).
  • The Odisha model has proved effective in other places, including Gujarat.


  • A cyclone is a system of winds which rotate inwardly to an area of low atmospheric pressure.
  • They are of types: Tropical cyclones and Temperate (extra tropical) cyclones.
  • A tropical cyclone is one that originates in the tropical region.
  • The ideal conditions for their formation are:
    • Warm sea surface, with temperatures > 27 °C
    •  Presence of Coriolis force
    • Pre-existing low-pressure cyclonic circulation
    • Small differences in vertical wind speed
    • Upper air divergence
  • Tropical cyclones form only over warm water bodies because the energy that drives these storms comes from the condensation of warm water within the cumulonimbus clouds surrounding the centre of the storm.
  • For extra reading on tropical cyclones:


  • India, having a coast line of 7500 kms and 40% of the total population living near a coastline, is exposed to nearly 10% of the world’s Tropical Cyclones. The region has the highest population density and shallowest coastal bathymetry in the world, making it highly vulnerable to storm surge.
  • There are 13 coastal states/UTs encompassing 84 coastal districts which are affected by cyclones. Of these, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, Pondicherry and Gujarat are the most vulnerable.
  • Although cyclones affect the entire coast of India, the East Coast is more prone compared to the West Coast.



  • National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP):
    • The National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) has been launched by the Ministry of Home Affairs with support from the World Bank to strengthen the structural and non-structural mitigation efforts towards reducing the risk and vulnerability of the coastal districts to cyclone-related disasters.
    • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been designated as the implementation agency.
    • The Project development objective of the NCRMP is to reduce vulnerability of coastal communities to cyclone and other hydro meteorological hazards through
      • Improved early warning dissemination systems
      • Enhanced capacity of local communities to respond to disasters
      • Improved access to emergency shelter, evacuation, and protection against wind storms, flooding and storm surge in high areas
      • Strengthening DRM capacity at central, state and local levels in order to enable mainstreaming of risk mitigation measures into the overall development agenda.
    • The Project has identified 13 cyclone prone States and UTs, which have further been classified into two categories:
      • Category I: Higher vulnerability States, which includes Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
      • Category II: Lower vulnerability States which includes Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • IMD’s colour-coded warning system:
    • The IMD has four colour-coded warnings that it flashes depending on how intense or violent a weather system is at a given point in time. The four colours are green, yellow, orange and red.
      • These alerts are universal and are not used exclusively for cyclones but for a range of natural calamities including floods, heavy rainfall, snowstorms and other dangerous weather events.
  • Storm Surge Early Warning System:
    • The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services also set up a Storm Surge Early Warning System for the Indian coasts, in collaboration with the India Meteorological Department, to forecast cyclone-induced storm surges and inundation extent.
    • Under its second phase, the National Disaster Management Authority, in collaboration with the India Meteorological Department, has developed a web-based tool for forecasting the expected damage associated with the landfalling cyclones over coastal districts.
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP):
    • Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) is a World Bank-assisted project implemented by the GOI with the purpose of protecting and conserving the coastal and marine environment of the country.
    • Some major components of the project include the mapping of the country’s coastline and the demarcation of the hazard line, conservation of mangroves etc.
  • Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ):
    • Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms ensure the protection of mangroves and coral reefs, which act as a shield against cyclones.


  • Inadequate focus on aspects other than evacuation:
    • There is an issue of inadequate focus on response aspects other than evacuation, such as measures to minimise crop damage, assistance for quick harvest, adequate relief, and timely distribution of post-cyclone assistance, such as for damaged houses, etc.
  • Climate change:
    • Indian coastline becoming more vulnerable to intense cyclones due to climate change.
    • For instance, it has been reported that cyclonic storms over the Arabian Sea are becoming more frequent and severe under the influence of global warming. The same study also found that cyclones were persisting for longer periods in Arabian Sea, increasing the chances of more severe storms.
  • Relief-centric approach:
    • Despite the emphasis on a paradigm shift to a preparedness approach by the government, most parts of the country continue to follow a relief-centric approach to disaster management rather than a proactive prevention, mitigation, and preparedness path.
  • Timely communication of disaster warnings:
    • One lacuna associated with cyclone management is the timely communication of disaster warnings, as the earth sciences ministry admitted in 2019. "This lacuna was severely felt during the Ockhi cyclone in 2017 when fishermen went out for deep-sea fishing before the onset of the cyclone and could not be informed about the developing cyclone," the Ministry of Earth Sciences said in a press release in 2019.
    • This communication gap resulted in loss of life, serious injuries to those rescued, and severe damage to fishing boats and fishing gear.
  • Damage to infrastructure and livelihood:
    • Though the reported death toll from Biparjoy has been in the lower single digits, much more needs to be done to minimise the damage to infrastructure, loss of cattle and other animals, and livelihoods of local populations.
  • Ill-prepared coastal population:
    • Around 40% of the population of India that lives in the coastal area is poor and marginalised, which makes them more vulnerable as they are ill-prepared and unable to cope with a disaster.
    • Lack of awareness among coastal communities makes the problem more severe.


  • Evacuation cannot be a permanent strategy:
    • Frequent evacuation cannot be implemented as a permanent policy intervention, and efforts must be made to ensure that coastal-regulation-zone norms that prescribe the kind of structures permissible at specific distances from the shoreline are strictly implemented.
  • Cyclone resistant buildings and structures:
    • Buildings and other structures should be made resistant to cyclones in vulnerable areas.
    • For instance, disaster-resilient power infrastructure in the coastal districts, providing concrete houses to poor and vulnerable households.
  • Address the issues with India's Early Warning Systems (EWS):
    • The country has modern, sophisticated early warning systems for floods and cyclones.
    • But the lack of impact-based forecasts that identify risks, poor dissemination of information to people, lack of scientific data on the effectiveness of warning systems, and lack of localised action plans to follow warnings are some issues that plague India's Early Warning Systems (EWS) that need to be addressed. 
  • Cost-effective, long-term mitigation measures:
    • Also, adopting cost-effective, long-term mitigation measures, including building cyclone-resilient infrastructure such as storm surge-resilient embankments, canals and improving river connectivity to prevent waterlogging in low-lying areas, is important.
  • Natural bulwarks:
    • Natural bulwarks such as mangroves at wetlands must be buttressed for improved resilience. These should become part of disaster management plans.
  • Coordination between the Centre and the States:
    • Healthy coordination between the Centre and the States concerned is essential to collectively design disaster mitigation measures..
  • Odisha model
    • Other states vulnerable to cyclones must learn from and follow the successful practises of Odisha in cyclone disaster preparedness and mitigation.
    • The Odisha model has proved effective in other places, including Gujarat.
  • Adopt a collaborative approach:
    • India needs to adopt a collaborative approach where the roles of the government, corporations, academia, civil society, and communities are recognised and all actors work hand-in-hand towards achieving disaster resilience.


Q. "While India’s disaster management has been commendable, it’s time for a more proactive strategy". Discuss the statement with reference to the country's cyclone preparedness.