“The administration is responsible for the denuded green cover. We’re now spending sleepless nights with the cyclonic storm expected to hit our village on Saturday evening,” said Mahadev Swain of Noliasahi. Other villages in dread of the cyclone are Noliasahi, Polanga, and Gadakujang. The trees and foliage surrounding these villages were felled by the Odisha government for the Posco steel plant about two years ago.
With Phailin funneling in towards Odisha at a wind speed of around 200 kmph, memories of the 1999 super cyclone are back to haunt the people here. The surging tidal waves had then killed more than 10,000 people in nearby Kujang and Ersama blocks. With the government sounding the alert, hundreds of villagers from coastal pockets moved to safer places, including cyclone shelters, on Friday.
Sources said the cyclone was likely to reach within 400km of the Paradip coastline. “We had then protested against felling of the trees. But the administration paid no heed and felled 1.70 lakh trees and 2,500 betel vine farms over 2,700 acres at the project site. Now, we are left in the open to face nature’s fury,” sarpanch of Nuagaon gram panchayat Bhaskar Swain said.
“The thick casuarinas and other trees in this area protected us against cyclone, storm and tidal waves. There was not a single casualty at this village in 1999,” said Pabitra Swain of Nuagaon.
“With the green cover and sand dunes gone, the villagers could face the worst of tidal surge,” Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (an anti-Posco outfit) Sisir Mohapatra said