Cyclone Michaung wreaked havoc on Chennai, bringing intense rainfall and exposing the vulnerabilities in the city’s infrastructure. Beyond the natural disaster, the city’s preparedness, power infrastructure, and long-standing issues such as unplanned construction and public indiscipline played crucial roles in exacerbating the impact.
GS – 01, GS – 03 (Physical Geography, Disaster Management)
Discuss the implications of climate change on cyclone intensity and the importance of addressing long-term issues for sustainable disaster management. (150 words)
- Cyclones, characterized by rapid inward air circulation around a low-pressure area, bring about violent storms and adverse weather conditions.
- Originating in warm tropical or subtropical waters, cyclones are classified into tropical cyclones and extratropical cyclones.
- Violent storms originating over tropical oceans, tropical cyclones move towards coastal areas, causing extensive destruction with violent winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges.
- Favored conditions for their formation include a large sea surface with temperatures above 27°C, the Coriolis force, small variations in vertical wind speed, a pre-existing low-pressure area, and upper-level divergence.
- Tropical Cyclone Stages:
- Relies on the transfer of water vapor and heat from warm oceans, resulting in the formation of massive cumulus clouds
- Mature Stage: Involves intensification with vigorous thunderstorms, generating a warm ‘eye’ at the center and highly turbulent cumulus thundercloud bands.
- Weakening occurs when the source of warm, moist air diminishes, especially after landfall or passing over cold waters.
- Nomenclature of Tropical Cyclones: Cyclones are named under the World Meteorological Organization’s guidance, involving contributions from countries in the region. For the Indian Ocean region, a naming formula involves eight contributing countries, including India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
- Worldwide Terminology: Tropical cyclones are referred to differently globally, such as typhoons in the China Sea, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and tornadoes in West Africa and southern USA.
- Extratropical Cyclones:
- Also known as mid-latitude depressions or temperate cyclones, extratropical cyclones form above mid-latitudinal regions where polar and tropical air masses meet and create fronts. They are less violent than tropical cyclones and move from west to east.
Cyclones in India:
- Tropical cyclones originating over the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea impact Indian coastal states.
- These cyclones cause destruction through strong winds, torrential rains, and storm surges, affecting states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, and Gujarat.
Management of Cyclones:
- Effective disaster management involves both structural and non-structural measures.
- Structural measures include cyclone-resistant infrastructure, while non-structural measures encompass early warning systems, coastal zone management, and awareness campaigns.
- The National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) addresses these challenges with World Bank assistance.
- A common weather phenomenon in India, a western disturbance is an extratropical cyclone originating in the Mediterranean region. It brings winter rain to northwestern India, impacting agriculture and contributing 5-10% of India’s annual rainfall.
Dimensions of the Article:
- Infrastructure Woes Exposed
- Climate Change and Urban Planning
Infrastructure Woes Exposed:
- As the rain intensified, power was cut off as a precautionary measure, revealing vulnerabilities in the power infrastructure.
- The need for such drastic measures indicates long-standing issues of inadequate investment in maintenance and repair of essential facilities.
- The aftermath saw toppled trees, waterlogged roads, and disrupted transportation, underscoring the broader impact on the city’s functionality.
Climate Change and Urban Planning:
- Cyclone Michaung’s Attribution: While the direct link between climate change and the cyclone is a matter for attribution science, warmer seas are acknowledged as contributors to stronger cyclones.
- Chennai’s vulnerability is heightened by years of unplanned construction, zoning violations, and public indiscipline, particularly littering.
- Managing the aftermath of such issues requires a sustained effort, challenging the unrealistic expectation of immediate solutions from a single government.
- Chennai’s ability to weather the storm was partly due to improved warnings, better civilian infrastructure, and collective memories of the 2015 floods.
- Post-Michaung, the focus shifts to addressing social issues, starting with the fair treatment of sanitation workers, predominantly comprising Dalits and Adivasis.
- Urging for a swifter pace in addressing underlying problems to prevent resorting to extreme measures like cutting power for safety.
- As Chennai recovers from the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung, it becomes imperative to address the root causes of its vulnerabilities.
- The city must learn from its past and embrace sustainable, long-term solutions to build resilience against future calamities. In doing so, Chennai can not only mitigate the impact of natural disasters but also foster a more inclusive and resilient urban environment.