By Sanjay Jena
While there is rush of investors to exploit natural resources of the state, nature has proved to be hostile to Orissa over the years. While natural calamities such as flood, drought and cyclone are hitting the state at frequent intervals, new disasters like heatwave and lightning have also started taking a heavy toll in the recent years.
With a long spell of heatwaves in the current season, Orissa lost 132 lives, as per the government estimates, though unofficially the figure went beyond 400.
Hardly three days after the heatwaves cooled down, Baiatarni river was in spate putting more than one lakh people in Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur in the midst of flood after few days of insistent rain in the catchments.
The heatwaves have proved to be disastrous for the state. While 91 people were killed in 1999, 29 died in 2000, 25 in 2001, 41 in 2002, 67 in 2003 and 43 in 2004. The state government has admitted that 132 have died as a result of the heatwaves this year.
After the 1999 super cyclone, which killed more than 10,000 people in the state, natural disasters have visited the state frequently. After super cyclone, super flood and super famine in alternative years have played havoc in the state.
Apart from natural form of disaster, new forms of disasters have also been affecting the state. According to government records, 278 persons were killed in lightning in the state during 2004. This year, there have been 60 deaths due lightning by June 8, despite scanty rainfall in the initial months and an inordinate delay in the arrival of monsoon.
The issues relating to different natural disasters were discussed threadbare at the state-level Natural Disaster Committee. Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal reviewed the natural disasters and government preparedness. The meeting also underlined the need for amendments in the state government'srelief code to give adequate compensation to the farmers who lose their crops due to hailstorm.
While the state government talks of preparedness to meet the natural disaster, it has perhaps downplayed the reality that the state environment is heading for the worst. A white paper on the drought that hit the state in 1992-1993 said: ?For the last few years sudden changes in the ecology have been contributing to multiple occurrences of these tragedies every year, creating more and more problems for our people in the matter of relief and rehabilitation.?