After Amphan, Nisarga sounds a warning bell
The developing severe tropical cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea — Cyclone Nisarga — is expected to make landfall in Raigad district, south of Mumbai, by Wednesday afternoon, India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. The IMD has sounded a red alert for June 3 and 4 in Mumbai and Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. Like Amphan, which battered West Bengal and Odisha last month, Nisarga is expected to submerge low-lying areas, uproot trees, destroy uncemented houses and critical infrastructure, and worse, kill people and animals. The aftermath of the storm will be challenging too. Nisarga comes at a time when Maharashtra is already in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, and there is severe strain on the health care system and personnel.
Both Amphan and Nisarga are trailers of what the future is going to look like for India’s eastern and western coastlines, thanks to the climate crisis. The climate crisis is making these cyclones stronger and more destructive by increasing the sea surface temperature and rainfall during the storm; raising sea levels, which increases the distance that a storm surge can reach; and allowing storms to gain strength quickly. Indian cities need to adapt quickly to this new reality. A top-down climate adaptation and resilience policy will not suffice; the climate crisis will need micro-level planning and adaptation and resilience plans.
To do this, city governments must be politically and financially empowered; and have adequate personnel who understand the climate crisis. On their part, government departments must stop working in silos; to develop a long-term resilience strategy, they need to work together because the climate crisis affects all sectors. For centuries, cities have been centres of commerce, culture and innovation. They must now develop the ability, the capacity, and the will to take on the climate crisis.