Odisha govt’s ‘efficiency’ in disaster management stands exposed

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 12:

While the Odisha government has made tall claims on its robust and efficient flood relief mechanism in the media, the fact remains that it has failed very badly in managing the exercise.

While three lakh people of 294 marooned villages still await relief and succour, the relief operation lacks drive and direction.
Odisha Flood
The state government has no clear information on the possibility of recession of floodwater in the villages. The government, which had informed the media on Sunday that the floodwater would recede in a couple of days, has revised its position on Monday and said it would take another two days.

The problem has, of course, been compounded by the fact that the discharge of floodwater into the sea has been affected due to the high tide in the sea during the full moon phase.

There have been serious lapses in the distribution of relief.

There are reports that relief rice was not distributed among most of the 2.30 lakh people of 273 flood-affected villages in Puri district for nearly a week. It was only on Monday that 4752 quintals of rice were distributed in these areas.

It was also on Monday that 1794 quintals of relief rice was finally distributed among 7 lakh people of flood-hit Cuttack district, after one week of the disaster.

Surprisingly, there has been no distribution of relief among most of the 1.36 lakh people of 114 marooned villages in Kendrapara district till date. On the other hand, the government has managed to distribute 131 quintals of relief rice in Sambalpur district that was least affected by flood, reports said.

Sources in the flood control room said Luna, Chitrotpala and Daya rivers were still flowing above the danger mark. Similarly river Subarnarekha is all set to wreak havoc in Baleswar district as the water level of the river was flowing above the danger level at Rajghat and Jamshola on Monday.

Pic- Biswaranjan Mishra
Pic- Biswaranjan Mishra

With the Jharkhand government releasing the floodwater of Subarnarekha from the reservoir on Monday and the Met office predicting heavy rains in the upper catchment of the river in the next 24 hours, the flood situation is most likely to get worse, the reports added.

On the other hand, the Odisha government has not been able to explain why the branches of Mahanadi river were still flowing above the danger mark till Monday evening although the inflow of Mahanadi water at Mundali barrage near Naraj has drastically come down to 7 lakh cusecs per second from 11 lakh cusecs per second two days ago.

While the floodwater of Luna river was flowing above the danger level at Pubansa in Salepur block of Cuttack district, floodwater of Chitrotpala was flowing over the danger level at Patkura in Kendrapara district.

Similarly, Daya river was flowing above the danger level at Kanti bridge near Ghoradia in Puri district.

Surprisingly, the Revenue and Disaster Management minister Bijayshree Routray has been completely sidelined in matters relating to flood management in the state so far. Barring one or two instances, the chief minister has not thought it necessary to involve him in the flood review meetings, which have been dominated by bureaucrats. As a result, the minister has chosen to stay away from the relief exercise.

Bijoyshree Routray, Revenue & DM minister
Bijoyshree Routray, Revenue & DM minister

Till date, Routray has neither visited any flood-affected districts and nor briefed the media about the flood situation.

The state government is banking entirely on the information provided by the top bureaucrats, who in turn depend solely on information from district collectors, while planning the ways and means of tackling flood situation.

However, reliable sources said that the collectors of the affected districts are not sincerely discharging their duties since they are aware that the government is planning a major reshuffle of collectors after the flood.

The slackness is reflected in the facts and figures that the state government has been providing daily on the flood situation. While the Special Relief Commissioner’s (SRC) office has been saying that the flood situation is improving rapidly, the number of affected people and areas provided them present an opposite picture.

Sources in the SRC’s office say, the reason why the number of affected people and villages grew at a time when floodwater was subsiding, is because of the delay by collectors of the concerned districts in supplying the relevant information.

This surely does not match with the boastful claims made by the state government after cyclone Phailin about its great ability to tackle disasters.

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