Natural Disasters

Biporjoy: Saurashtra, Kutch highly vulnerable to cyclones

Gujarat, with the longest coastline in India and unique climatic conditions, is particularly at risk to cyclones according to the Gujarat State Action Plan on Climate Change

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Wednesday 14 June 2023
The Supreintendent of Police, Junagadh shared this photo on June 13. It shows a tree that had fallen on a road in Junagadh Taluka due to winds caused by Biporjoy. _

Cyclone Biporjoy is set to batter Saurashtra and Kutch, regions that are already highly vulnerable to cyclones, according to the Gujarat State Action Plan on Climate Change.

The IMD has predicted that the very severe cyclonic storm Biporjoy will cross Saurashtra and Kutch and the adjoining Pakistan coast between Mandvi (Gujarat) and Karachi (Pakistan) near Jakhau Port in Gujarat. The landfall is likely on June 15 between 4 and 8 pm.

Gujarat, with the longest coastline in India (1,663 km) and unique climatic conditions, is particularly at risk to cyclones. Some 9.9 million people reside in 40 coastal talukas, according to the 2011 census.

The Kutch region has a low population density, making it difficult for government services to reach these areas, Gujarat’s State Action Plan highlighted.

More than 120 cyclones had passed through Gujarat in the last century, the action plan noted. Saurashtra districts were particularly affected during Cyclone Nilofar in 2014, Vayu and Maha in 2019 and Nisarga in 2020.

Gujarat has seen more cyclones in India in June. Between 1965 and 2022, 13 cyclones developed over the Arabian Sea in that month. Of these, two crossed the Gujarat coast, one Maharashtra, one Pakistan coast, three Oman-Yemen coasts and six weakened over the sea, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Of the two cyclones that crossed the Gujarat coast, one made landfall as a severe cyclonic storm in 1996 and the other as an extremely severe cyclonic storm in 1998.

Rising sea surface temperatures due to global warming could be making cyclones in the Arabian Sea more frequent, intense and long-lasting.

Researchers have documented an 80 per cent increase in the total duration of cyclones in the Arabian Sea in the last four decades. There is also a 52 per cent increase in the number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea and a 150 per cent rise in very severe cyclones.

“Cyclone Biporjoy is now the longest-lived cyclone (192 hrs as cyclone strength) in Arabian Sea history, breaking the record of the June 1998 cyclone according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centres,” Vineet Kumar, post-doctorate researcher at Jeju National University, said on Twitter.

“Following landfall at the India-Pakistan border on 15 June late afternoon IST, the remnant of CycloneBiparjoy will continue to dump heavy rain in northern Gujarat & southern Rajasthan mainly on 16 & 17 June. In just 2 days, many places will get more than entire June’s rainfall,” Akshay Deoras, Research Scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

According to the World Bank, 19 of the 26 districts in Gujarat are at risk of becoming climate change hotspots by 2050 as temperatures are expected to rise by 2-2.5°C.

Further, the maximum sustained winds in Gujarat typically reach 64-90 knots, the highest on the west coast, according to a report from the Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management. Some 1,700 villages in the state have been classified as vulnerable to cyclonic winds.

Cyclones bring heavy rainfall, causing adverse effects such as damage to infrastructures and properties, disruption to transportation networks, water pollution, and threat to life. As north-western Gujarat is an extremely arid region, infrastructure managers face adaptation challenges.

Cyclones also increase the risk of storm surges, causing widespread damage to crops and livelihood.

They affect airports severely, damage water, sewerage and gas pipeline networks, damage electricity, telephone, and other communication networks, destroy railway overhead lines, and uproots trees.

During the 2019 Vayu cyclone, the state suspended cargo operations at Chhara, Pipavav, Swan Energy’s Floating LNG units, Reliance Sikka Jetties, Salaya, Okha, Porbandar and Deen Dayal Port (at Kandla).

Interruption in communication services leads to a delay of emergency health assistance.

Cyclones could also trigger chemical or gas leakage from distribution networks, affecting an entire population in an area. Storms, along with severe storms, also contaminate drinking water.

Another risk is to the economy of the state. They impact agriculture, animal husbandry, fishery, construction, electricity, ports and airports.

Mangroves, according to the state action plan, could reduce the impact of cyclones over the coastline. As per the Forest Survey of India, Gujarat mangroves covered an area of 1,140 square kilometres in 2017.

In addition to cyclones, Gujarat has been battered by other major natural hazards like droughts, floods, tsunamis, heatwaves, and lightning in the past due to its geoclimatic and geological features.

On June 14, 2023, IMD said the wind speeds due to cyclone Biporjoy are 65-75 kmph gusting to 85 kmph over Kutch, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Junagadh and Gir-Somnath.

On June 15, wind speeds could increase to 125-135 kmph gusting to 145 kmph in Kutch, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Junagadh and Morbi

Cyclone Biporjoy is expected to weaken after it makes landfall. But tides are likely to inundate low-lying areas of Kutch, Devbhumi Dwarka, Jamnagar and Morbi districts.

By the morning of June 16, the system will become a marginally severe cyclone storm. It will then move northeastwards and enter Rajasthan, according to IMD. By the morning of June 17, it will become a depression. 

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