On 16 May 2020 India and Bangladesh faced a crisis within a crisis. A super cyclone formed in the Bay of Bengal, first of its kind after 1999. It was named Amphan (pronounced Um-Pan), a name given by Thailand which is a member of World Meteorological Organisation/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific or WMO/ESCAP that names cyclones in the region. Last cyclone Fani, meaning snake was named by Bangladesh.
In West Bengal at least 75 people succumbed to this disaster, most of them electrocuted or killed by trees uprooted by winds gushing at a speed of 185 km per hour. In Odisha 44.80 lakh people and 85 million livestock have been affected, paddy fields and crops destroyed. Millions across WB are left without power and communication lines, making it hard to carry out relief work. The houses, trees and other infrastructure have been completely shattered and in some places, entire villages were swamped by the winds. the process has become even more complicated due to COVID precautions and restrictions. The cyclone has caused a damage of $13.2 billion in West Bengal alone.
South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas in South West Bengal are the worst-hit districts. Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem are spread across these two districts. Embankments in Sundarban delta were breached as the surge whipped up by the cyclone inundated several kilometres of the Island. It is home to more than four million people who are already amongst the most marginalised in both India and Bangladesh.
Inhabitants of Sunderbans are small agriculturalists, fishermen and honey gatherers. With seawater entering agricultural land, officials now fear more 2 lakh farmers could be severely affected. The agrarian economy of Sundarbans is mainly based on rice-based farming on fallow land throughout the year (News18). Beetle Vines, a source of livelihood for the majority of people in Sunderbans settlements, has been destroyed majorly. Beetle vine would yield 5000 rupees per month for an individual.
The DRR team of IGSSS, as usual, responded to this disaster immediately and started establishing contact with local partners. Whereas, in Odisha, the Community taskforce were informed to be on high alert and prepare for the disaster. Till now IGSSS placed for procurement of WASH and shelter kits for 560 families. This is being supported by internal funding. On 28 May 2020, relief material reached South 24 Parganas.
A crowdfunding campaign has already started where 1,40,000 have already been collected. These funds will be used for the following:
• Immediate WASH Needs: Water purification tablets, Safe drinking water, Hygiene Kit with COVID 19 protection [Soaps, Sanitary napkins, washing powder, Reusable Mask, Bucket and mug]
• Emergency Shelter Kit: [Tarpaulin, Ground Sheet, Mosquito Net, Bed Sheet], Solar Lantern, Cooking utensils, CGI sheets, Shelter Tool kit.
• Immediate Livelihood Needs: Cash for work for immediate support to re-establishing their livelihood
Medium Term Recovery:
• Repair of Houses and Restoration of Livelihood