Special Report

Recouping after Hudhud

March 2015
An investment of Rs.20,000-30,000 crore will take place in Vizag over the next five to six years.
It took Vizag by surprise. All we could do was stand by our doors and windows, and see trees being uprooted and electric poles falling. In some apartments, the furniture blew out from one window into the other. Once the reverse action of the cyclone started, cars were moving sideways because of the wind. There wasn´t a single building that didn´t suffer damages.´ These words of Sandhya Godey, Principal Consultant, Phoenix IT Solutions Ltd, and a resident of Visakhapatnam - the only urban area in India that suffered the wrath of the Hudhud cyclone - gives some idea of the devastation.

Despite all the precautions and evacuation processes, the cyclone affected human life on a scale unimagined. ´The government did a great job and relied on better sources,´ adds Godey. ´The disaster management team was on its way as the storm started. It was the first urban area hit by the cyclone.´ Although lives were saved, the destruction of basic infrastructure such as roads, transport facilities - the roof of the airport blew off - and buildings hampered relief work and brought life to a standstill in the city. Now, it is recovery time with a slew of development initiatives on the anvil.

Gauging the damage
Visakhapatnam was the most affected city by Hudhud, with Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts also battling the calamity. A total of 130,613 houses were damaged in the rural part of the city, while the urban part saw 43,832 houses being damaged. Also, 1,895 private industrial units were damaged while at the APIIC´s industrial park, 1,538 units were damaged; 15,303 pucca houses developed under urban housing projects were affected with 48 buildings damaged there and a total of 425 roads in the urban and 534 roads under Panchayat Raj were damaged.

Of all the destruction suffered, almost 90 per cent of the insurance claims from Andhra Pradesh, worth Rs 2,700 crore, have been settled, according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India. Despite all that it lost, Visakhapatnam Airport proved to be the silver lining amid the thunderous clouds; it resumed operations on October 16, 2014, with continuous and sustained efforts from the airport authorities, National Disaster Response Force personnel and the Indian Navy. ´The airport roof was planned for wind speed of 100 km per hour but during the cyclone, it witnessed 170 km per hour,´ shares Pravin Kumar, Commissioner, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation.

The way forward
´Although we have suffered losses, we are trying to build the city,´ affirms Kumar. ´We are strengthening our physical infrastructure and have been rectifying road damages.´ In fact, power rectification has already been completed. Almost 50 per cent of street lights have been switched to LED lighting. ´The rectification of power was critical. Hats off to the team, they worked day and night, and systematically. Citizens were informed in advance about the rectification works to avoid any reverse power flow. They stuck to the schedules,´ adds Godey. She also shares that all the light poles that went down are being replaced by LED lighting, which are connected to Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) with surveillance cameras and CCTVs. They can be switched on and off depending on sunrise and sunset. ´The authorities have also realized that in a cyclone prone area like Vizag, underground cabling is a better option,´ adds Godey.

Apart from the redevelopment and rectification of existing infrastructure, the Andhra Pradesh Government has a host of plans for development in the state. According to K Dhananjaya Reddy, Director, Disaster Management & EODy Secretary to Government, Revenue (Disaster Management) Department, ´There will be a change in building norms to make stronger buildings. There are plans to make pucca houses for people residing in a 5-km radius of coastal areas.´ The following steps are also planned for Andhra Pradesh:

  • 131 disaster centres under construction and 84 planned.
  • Some industrial houses and
  • companies have come forward to build model houses.
  • A disaster centre will be developed in the capital city, Vijayawada.
  • Coastal areas will get a cyclone shelter.

Further, Vizag is among the three Indian cities to receive financial assistance for its development as a smart city by CISCO. ´We are planning for PPP (Public Private Partnership) in a big way as part of the master plan for the smart city,´ says Kumar. ´We are not going for the rectification of big assets currently.

We are awaiting fresh proposals for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and are currently focusing on wastewater management and solid waste management. Also we are benchmarking international cities.´ The corporation will also undertake road projects once the blueprint of the smart city project is prepared.

Also, for a city that is recovering from a natural disaster, connecting the citizens with each other and the government becomes of utmost importance. ´ICT is the easiest way to connect to people.

ICT is an integral part of life and is here to stay,´ highlights Godey. She adds that Phoenix IT Solutions has launched a website where citizens can create a group, share problems and also connect to the government. ´We will also request the commissioner to appoint an officer for these issues posted online.´

Apart from this, Visakhapatnam is set to witness some key developments:
Plans are being made for surveillance cameras and WiFi and traffic signalling through PPP.
Singaporean scientists will help fight beach erosion.
96,000 solar streetlights will be set up in the city.
A 4,000-MW thermal power plant in Pudipadaka will be set up by NTPC. There are plans to develop Vizag as an IT sector.
A new airport will come up in the state. For the existing airport, tenders have been issued for the painting of the New International Terminal Building (NITB) and powerhouse.
There are plans to develop the city as a railway zone; the city is tipped to become the headquarters. Tenders have been issued for new floodlight towers and repairs of floodlight tower structures at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant siding, reception yard, despatch yard, ore exchange complex, old steam loco shed area, etc.
A lot of facilities will go underground, such as underground cabling.
There are lot of economic activities happening in Vizag. Two of the four nodes of Vizag-Chennai Industrial Corridor will pass through the city. For IIM-Vizag, the corporation has handed over the land and the institution will be completed in one year; tenders will be floated for it.
As Kumar sums up, ´An investment of Rs 20,000-30,000 crore will take place in Vizag over the next five to six years. Tenders will be issued in a big way.´ A fine example, indeed, of resilience in the face of adversity.

What Vizag Wants?
The existing infrastructure in any city can be utilized for further development, keeping this in perspective, here are a few steps that Vizag can adopt.

  • Focus on quick wins with low investment.

  • Creation of micro groups as small colonies to take up ownership.

  • Sensitise people to the fact that change evolves over time and there is a need to be patient for change to show, but change needs to begin ´now´.

  • Need to develop the spirit of volunteering since Government cannot do everything.

  • Exclusive land for industrial use with rail, highway and air connectivity synchronization for maximizing last mile connectivity.

  • Risk sensitive land use planning needed. Safety buffers zones should be created in all industrial areas.

  • Smart grids and smart metering with local power generation and distribution to lower losses in distribution and utility.

The takeaway from the Odisha Disaster Management Plan

Another cyclone prone state in the country, Odisha has an impeccable disaster management plan. Below are a few steps, which Vizag can benefit from.

  • Identified vulnerable road stretches in cyclone prone areas should be designed or constructed to ensure that damage from storm surge or flooding or winds is minimized or totally alleviated.
  • In case of failure of bridge or road pavement during a cyclone event, alternate routes should be identified for evacuation or rescue and relief on these maps.
  • Roads to be constructed should be at least 500 m away from seashores or coastal regulation zones (CRZ). Intensive protective works to prevent erosion towards the seashore side of the road should be planned.
  • The most important consideration for the construction of a road in the cyclone-prone area would be its alignment avoiding inundation of the road under cyclonic rain. Adequate cross drainage works should be provided to prevent such occurrence.
  • Rigid pavements are preferable over flexible pavements as there is no appreciable variation in temperature to cause significant thermal stress and resulting distress. Cement concrete pavements withstand flooding or water-logging in a better manner than bituminous pavements. Techno-economics of adopting cement concrete pavements vis-a-vis flexible pavement needs to be undertaken before making a final choice.
  • The material used in embankments, sub-grades, earthen shoulders and miscellaneous backfills shall be soil, moorum, gravel, a mixture of these or any other suitable material approved by the engineer. Such material shall be free from organic materials like logs, stumps, roots, rubbish or any other ingredient likely to deteriorate or affect the stability of the embankment or sub-grade.
  • Geo-synthetics can be used as components of coastal and waterway protection measures in two different ways: Filters within coastal and waterway protection structures and to create revetment systems (containers) to act as mass-gravity protection works.
  • Geotextile tubes, large cylindrical structures made using high-strength woven geotextile material that are then filled with dredged material in-situ, may be used for a range of coastal and waterway protection applications where barrier type and mass-gravity structures are required.
<-------------------modal ends----------->