A message from India’s coastline
A week after Cyclone Tauktae wreaked havoc across the west coast of India, Cyclone Yaas made landfall in Odisha on the east coast on Wednesday. It then moved northwards and lay centred over northern coastal Odisha, but affected parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Like Tauktae, Yaas also intensified rapidly. This, meteorologists and climate scientists said, can be linked to the climate crisis. Indian seas have been exceptionally warm, much warmer than usual, this year. Yaas and Tauktae were preceded by high sea surface temperatures reaching 31-32°C, making atmospheric and ocean conditions favourable for the frequent formation of cyclones and their rapid intensification. This phenomenon, which will become a lot more frequent this century due to the climate crisis, will impact rainfall, cause destruction due to floods and gusty winds, and affect the scale and pace of the evacuation process needed to rescue lives.
The impact of the climate crisis on India is well-documented in scientific literature, and the spate of extreme weather conditions — heat/cold waves, floods, cyclones — that the country has witnessed in the last few years only confirms these warnings. India was the seventh most-affected by the devastating impact of the climate crisis globally in 2019, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021. India must focus on nature-based solutions (for example, restoring mangroves to reduce the impact of waves and storm surge on the shoreline to prevent flooding and preserving wetlands, forests and floodplains) to reduce disaster risk. It must also ensure that both existing and new infrastructure is climate-resilient. This means mainstreaming efforts to strengthen the resilience of urban systems by identifying disaster risks, enhancing structural resilience, and improve regulation and governance processes to manage risks.
At the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, a multi-stakeholder partnership of governments, UN agencies, multilateral banks, private sector and knowledge institutions that aims to build resilience into infrastructure systems. This is a bold step in building resilience. But now, this has to proceed at a rapid pace. Year after year, month after month, week after week, and with every passing day, the climate crisis, in diverse forms, is extracting ever-increasing human, social and economic costs. As Tautake and Yaas have shown, both the State and citizens have to be prepared at all times.