1. Executive summary
Cyclone Gaja, which made landfall near Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam in the wee hours of November 16, has claimed left 63 lives across the state, according to a statement released by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on Sunday. The cyclone, which went on to affect many other districts, including Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai, Dindigul and Trichy, created a huge loss of property. It left 12,298 cattle dead, Nearly 278,824 houses were completely damaged and the roofs of 62,996 huts were either fully or partially damaged. It uprooted about 1,132,686 forest and fruit bearing trees, which was the source of livelihood for agricultural labourers and small famers. The electricity was totally shut down in the worst affected districts of Nagapattiam, Thiruvarur, Puthukottai and Tanjore and would possibly need a month or more to restore power. However individual household connections could take much more time than predicted.
The affected people who mostly belong to the SC and MBC communities are forced to take shelter in the make shift relief camps, schools and cyclone shelters. After a gap of one week, as the severity of the disaster was brought to the knowledge of the common people, thanks to the social media, humanitarian aid began to flow though in a limited way from among the neighbouring districts and states. The aids materials keep landing in the villages on the national or state highways. The interior villages especially the Dalit colonies are still left without substantial support. Even the other villages the support is not sufficient
Against this background, IAG (Inter Agency Group) conducted a rapid assessment using the mobile technology – Kobo Collect. The survey covered all the worst affected six districts with nearly 200 - 240 households in each district. The total number of households surveyed was 1321 and 188 Community Leader were surveyed. Given the time frame and the availability of the human resources it was considerably a significant step in understanding the situation of the affected communities.
The survey brought to light the following key points:
FOOD: The Assessment reveals that 70% of people have two meals a day. Under the leadership of community leaders, preparation of food is taking place almost in all the affected villages, mostly in the relief camps. However the quality of food, hygienic preparation of meals and safe protection of cooked food remain a major concern. The children below the age of 5 are also eating the same food and it affects their health. As it continues to rain, the people are unable to return to their damaged homes and still depends upon the cooked food commonly prepared, so the stock of food materials are fast lessening in the relief camps. There is scarcity of baby foods. People drink water directly from the hand pumps. There is no facility or support for treatment of water for drinking.
WASH: In water, sanitation and health, there is a need to curtail possible outbreak of diseases and loss of human life resulting from diseases and hunger. People by and large have no access to safe drinking water because the water bodies or water sources have been either damaged or contaminated. Added to this is delay in restoring electricity despite the efforts put in by the government, the water scarcity still prevails. Besides the fact of 70% of households having no sanitation facility, the people staying in camps practice open defecation, which makes life harder for women. Moreover it will accelerate the outbreak of diseases. People’s awareness or knowledge in public health and healthy eating habits needs to be increased. The food which the people in the affected villages are left to eat is not wholesome or nutritious; they merely eat rice with some curry.
The children, lactating mothers, pregnant women have no safe place or security.
Shelter: With the wind speed of unimaginable proportion, the thatched or tiled houses bore the brunt of the wind power. People are unable to stay in their respective home as the roofs of their homes are fully or partially damaged. It has compelled them to take accommodation in the make shift shelters or in the homes of relative far away from their hamlets. The conditions in the shelter homes are not apprehensible as there is no adequate space for all who have taken shelter and there exists no private space for lactating mother or for pregnant women. As there is no electricity even in the relief camps, life is made miserable.
Livelihood: It will take years together to rebuild their livelihood. Most of the people who depend on horticulture and agriculture are left with no other option as their horticulture crops are 90% destroyed. The coastal belt is known for production of rare varieties of mangoes, tamarind and jamun. With the destruction of the horticulture crops, the people have not only lost their livelihood, but would need technical and strategic support from aid and research agencies to revive the lost variety of horticulture crops. The farmers and agricultural labourers in the coastal belt were seen as credit worthy due to the horticulture crops and now with the loss of the trees, the people have no means of livelihood. After tsunami, the fishermen were the most affected lot, as they lost their boats, nets and fishing gears.
Children & Education: The children from the affected revenue villages have not returned to school. Most of the schools are now functioning as make shift relief camps. The children too lost their learning materials. The children are currently undergoing huge trauma as their counterparts in the non-affected avenues continue to go to school. Non availability of electricity makes life harder for the children. The children are left to literally beg along with the adults for aids. The sight of the children waiting to receive aids along the road pains every one.
Markets: The local markets have literally collapsed. The people depended upon the petty shops and other village business establishments for making the basic needs available. With the collapse of the local markets, the people have nowhere to go. Thus, it remains a huge challenge for aid agencies to revive the dead local markets. Here again the delay in restoring electricity plays a crucial role
Government Support : The Tamil Nadu state Government has announced an emergency relief of INR 1000 crore. The Government has also announced INR 1,000,000 as compensation to the families of the people who lost their lives, INR100,000 to those who suffered serious injuries and INR 25,000 for those who suffered injuries in the disaster. The government is running the relief centres. Apart from this the government has also announced other compensation which needs to reach to the community. One of the major challenges is the inaccessibility to the affected area in view of the uprooted trees which hampered many processes.
Recommendations: As and such there is need for relief and recovery work. The affected communities need immediate support in terms of Food Items, Household item, alternate shelter,
WASH support. Livelihood is a major area of concerns and substantial inputs with sustainable approach need to be done to revive the livelihood and the local economy. It is also important to take into consideration on long term needs like disaster resistant shelters and infrastructures which also needs to be incorporated into the development processes