Orissa Cyclone + 10: Revisiting Nature’s greenbelt protection…

Satabhaya sand dune
Life saving sand...
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the deadly cyclone that hit India’s eastern state of Orissa.

The 1999 Orissa cyclone, also known as Cyclone 05B, and Paradip cyclone, was the deadliest Indian Ocean tropical cyclone since the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, and deadliest Indian storm since 1971. The storm made landfall just weeks after a Category 4 storm hit the same general area.

A tropical depression formed over the Malay Peninsula on October 25. It moved to the northwest and became a tropical storm on October 26. It continued to strengthen into a cyclone on the 27th. On October 28, it became a severe cyclone with a peak of 160 mph (260 km/h) winds. It hit India the next day as a 155 mph (250 km/h) cyclone. It caused the deaths of over 10,000 people, and heavy to extreme damage in its path of destruction.

In 2006, during the production of TVE Asia Pacific‘s TV series The Greenbelt Reports, we visited the coastal village of Satabhaya, located on the edges of the Bhitara-kanika National Park in Orissa. A giant sand dune separates the village from the Indian Ocean.

The dune is the source of regular sand storms that force people to stay indoors for hours. Each storm can cover their houses with several inches of sand. Yet, they are not complaining. They remember the super cyclone of October 1999 – it was the natural sand dune that reduced the impact of that super-cyclone. The Satabhaya people know that it’s their only protection.

After the cyclone, they have devised traditional methods to trap the sand and create dunes to protect their village.

The Greenbelt Reports series It looks at how communities, researchers or environmental activists are trying to find a balance between conserving coastal greenbelts – coral reefs, mangroves and sand dunes – and deriving economic benefits for local people.

Watch The Greenbelt Reports: Surround Sand on YouTube:

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

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