Odisha: Prelimnary flood damage assessment by Rayagada Collector Pramoda Behera

Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: Incessant rains had not deterred the top bureaucrats of the district including Sri Pramoda Behera, District Collector, Rayagada moving physically to the ground zero. Be these the most interior villages like Derigam of Gudari block or Khamapadar of Padmapur block, which were inundated due to incessant rains recently, Behera walked through the gushing water and interacted with the communities and took instant decisions then and there. Not only he was drenched & quick to move to few affected villages, but also despatched his team of officers namely Sri Amrit Ritiraj, IAS, PD-DRDA, Rayagada, Dr Bondar Siddeshwar Baliram, IAS, Sub-Collector, Gunupur, Sri Gorachand Gomango, PA, ITDA, Gunupur to most affected blocks like Gudari, Gunupur, Muniguda, Kashipur, K. Singhpur, which were worst affected. These committed officers alongwith the BDOs and Tehsildars of these blocks alongwith the supporting staff monitored the situation at the grassroot and managed the disaster so effectively that not a single human casualty took place.

Behera updated the State Relief Commissioner on an hourly basis and interacted with the media to pass on the message to the villagers not to get panicky. As a part of disaster management plan, one ODRAF Unit, five fire units, three boats, 23 medical teams, 11 veterinary teams were deployed.

3128 persons residing near Nagavali, Kalyani, Jhanjabati and Vansadhara rivers, which were in spate, were evacuated as a preventive measure to 21 relief centres where free kitchens got immediately operated after the evacuation. According to the information from the district emergency office, this havoc affected 14645 persons from 145 villages in 69 gram panchayats 3 wards from three urban level bodies(ULB). Flattened rice, molasses and other dry food items were distributed in the affected villages. Fortunately not a single village was marooned. There was a casualty of 67 livestock animals. Approximately 531 hectares of crop area including vegetables affected. In many areas the crops are either marooned or heavily sand casted causing severe damage. 18 houses were severely damaged where as 34 fully and 358 got partially damaged. Damage to infrastructure like breaches on embankments, roads cut-off is estimated to be Rs.296.15 lakhs.

“Though the situation has become normal now, the field functionaries along with the senior officers are camping at the vulnerable points to monitor and tackle any eventualities. The assessment of damage is still in progress & the final damage assessment related to public and private properties will be done and sent to proper quarters at an earliest”, said Collector Behera.

“Behera took charge as Collector hardly four months ago and he could handle this disaster quite well. The damage could be much more than the preliminary assessment. Now the rehabilitation measure is certainly a challenge for Behera. Taking into consideration his vast experience, it will not be a difficult task for him. The way he barged in to the affected & inundated villages with slippers and umbrella amidst heavy rains, it has made him People’s Collector. He took every inch of opportunity to serve the community during the disaster even serving food to the affected in the free kitchen. We have seen collectors in this district with feudal characteristics like a body guard with a gun and somebody holding an umbrella over the head of the collector. Behera says he is capable of holding an umbrella at any point of time and for this he does not need any assistance from anybody. He believes in inclusive development and asserts that community is the real protector of the persons providing service to them. So, he is of course an officer with a difference”, said Sri Gopinath Kandagari, a tribal farmer from Mukundapur village of Rayagada district.