Cyclone GAJA

A Disaster that has taken Lives and destroyed Livelihoods in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has been the epicenter of disasters throughout recent history. From floods to droughts, natural and manmade, one disaster after another has wreaked havoc through this State year after year.

Already in distress, Tamil farmers along with thousands from fishing and other occupational communities, faced yet another life shattering disaster on the night of 16 November 2018. A depression that formed in the Bay of Bengal, as part of the North Indian Ocean Cyclone Season, intensified and lashed across Tanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Cuddalore and Ramanathapuram Districts of Tamil Nadu, and Karaikal in Pondicherry.

The cyclone aptly named Gaja, was truly a mammoth of a disaster. The winds at over 120kmph (unofficially said to have exceeded 170kmph) followed by a deluge of rains, smashed homes to the ground, uprooted lakhs of trees, sank thousands of boast into knee deep slush and reduced lives and livelihoods to nothing, all within a matter of a few hours.

The losses are so high and widespread that the Government of Tamil Nadu, several weeks since, is still in the process of enumeration. As on 22 November, 63 people had lost their lives to Cyclone Gaja and over 4 lakh people were taking shelter in relief camps. Close to 1 lakh electricity poles were destroyed and water had reached up to two kilometers into land in some parts of the coastline. All public services came to a standstill for several days and the economy of the Delta region is set back by at least a decade.

Members of our collective reached Nagapattinam District, which is at the heart of the destruction, as soon as the deluge subsided. The past several weeks we have spent time visiting some of the most devastated villages, conducting consultative meetings with marginalised communities that are most affected, enumerating losses through citizen participation, collecting and distributing relief and developing a robust dialogue around rehabilitative measure with the Government and Administration.

The below link is a report we have prepared outlining our work, observations from the field, and suggestions for livelihood rehabilitation made by us to the Government of Tamil Nadu and Administration of Nagapattinam.

Gaja Cyclone ā€“ Observations and Way Forward