Yesterday, Sunday 12 October, on the eve of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, powerful cyclone Hudhud struck the east coast of India with winds approaching 125 miles per hour. The strength of the winds together with torrential rain is reported to have uprooted trees and power pylons and caused widespread destruction of property. The city of Visakhapatnam, which felt the full force of the cyclone, experienced extensive damage to major infrastructure, including the city’s airport, and power supplies across the city were completely cut off.
This event did not make international headlines – perhaps due to the number of other events taking place at the same time, but perhaps too because of the relatively small loss of life. The number of reported fatalities currently stands at six, as the cyclone moves inland and lessens in intensity. In the days prior to the cyclone making landfall, authorities in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa evacuated close to 350,000 people in order to minimise any potential loss of life. This event is almost exactly a year on from another powerful cyclone in the region, cyclone Phailin, and highlights how imperative investments in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and effective disaster relief operations have been in the region. The vital importance of DRR in saving lives was highlighted in the aftermath of cyclone Phailin last year, when 47 people lost their lives. While tragic, there was a significant reduction in fatalities when comparing this event with a cyclone of similar strength (cyclone Odisha) in the region in 1999, where 9,843 people died.
India’s susceptibility to cyclones of this scale and other major hazard events (eg earthquakes, flooding and landslides) has resulted in significant domestic spending in both disaster relief and DRR. Analysis from the latest GHA report estimates total spending by the Indian government on disaster relief and DRR at US$9 billion between 2009 and 2013. The majority of this spending (72%) has gone towards disaster relief; however, the US$2.5 billion DRR spending shows a significant investment. Also to note, this domestic spending on disaster relief and DRR eclipses international humanitarian assistance – it was 51 times higher (US$7 billion versus US$137 million) between 2009 and 2012.
The vital importance of these investments is being demonstrated as regions on the east coast of India respond to the destruction left by cyclone Hudhud – destruction that could have been so much worse without investment in prevention and preparedness. Across the world, there is a need for much greater understanding and better data on the significant role that domestic governments can and do play in DRR, and this is something that we at DI will continue to investigate over the coming year. At the same time it is clear that in many settings without India’s level of resources, domestic governments need significant support. International actors, development and humanitarian, government and private alike, should combine their efforts to provide this in the most effective and coherent way.
Domestic disaster relief and DRR resources, India, 2009–2013
Source: Development Initiatives based on Ministry of Finance, ‘Union Budget’, Government of India; Government of India Press Information Bureau; and Chakrabarti D & Prabodh G, UNISDR, 2012 data.
Note: Data includes a combination of budget, actual and revised figures, depending on the year and due to conversions from fiscal to calendar years. Data may include international assistance channelled through the public sector.
Today (October 13 2014), is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, an annual event that aims to promote a global culture of disaster reduction and to celebrate the achievements of people and communities in reducing risk and raising awareness of disasters. The focus this year is the need for greater involvement of older persons in disaster management efforts worldwide.