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Barak Valley wants to get rid of ‘Lilapsophobia’, ‘Pluviophobia’ and‘Antlophobia’

If we look back at the decade’s cyclonic episodes in the Barak Valley, it can be mentioned that on 2nd April, 2017, severe hailstorm, accompanied by heavy rain lashed Hailakandi and Karimganj districts of Barak Valley. Again on 1st April,2020, in Bagadahar area of Cachar district a young individual succumbed to lightning that was caused by thunderstorm. These references are sufficient to comment that the recent hailstorm that the valley is experiencing is not an unusual phenomenon, neither we can call it that is happening ‘Before the scheduled time’.

Of late, on 1st April, 2024, the storm that prevailed along the entire Assam affected at least twenty two districts of the state including three districts of Barak Valley. Beyond that, the valley has also experienced tropical cyclone with high gust on 25th April, 2024 (1.30 hours), 26th April,  2024 (21.30 hours) and again on 2nd May, 2024 (14.30 hours). (The last three records are from ‘Oiko-Hub’, the meteorological station of Assam University, Silchar). It goes without saying that, for us, many such storms are into the fray.

These are the records from the valley within recent years and within one decade time only. Historical records of hailstorm incidences in Barak Valley are not available to us at this moment, based on which it could be commented if there are early phenomenon, or otherwise.

These hailstorms are known by many names the world over. The tropical rain is named by the term ‘Cyclone’ in the Indian and the South Pacific Oceanic areas. It is ‘Typhoon’ in the Northwest Pacific  & the South China Sea, ‘Hurricane’ in the North Atlantic including the West Indies and in the Caribbean Sea and the Northeast Pacific. In Japan, these are known as ‘Taifu’, in Northern Australia, these are called ‘Wily willies’, people of Philippines call it as ‘Baguio’ and in US these are ‘Tornadoes’.

The classification of cyclone, however, varies from region to region. As per the Indian classification, if the wind speed (Kilometre per hour) is less than 31, it is called as ‘LOW PRESSURE’; if the hourly speed is between 31-49Kms, it is ‘Depression’; between 50-61kms is called ‘Deep Depression’; between 62-88kms is referred to as ‘Cyclonic Storm; between 89-118Kms is known as Severe Cyclonic Storm’; between 119-221kms is called ‘Very Severe Cyclonic Storm’ and if the speed is 222 Kms or above, that would be ‘Super Cyclone’. In the meteorological history of India during last quarter century, the 1999 super Cyclone of Odisha was one of the landmark eventsamong the natural disasters. Here, in Barak Valley, the wind speed seldom exceeds the speed of 88 or 118 kilometers per hour, thus it falls within the category of either ‘Cyclonic’ or ‘Severe Cyclonic’ categories.

If we have a look at the data of past 300 years of cyclone and death incidences in East and the north east India (undivided India – including present day Bangladesh), it can be mentioned that 1737 cyclone in the Hooghly (WB) took more than 3,00,000lives; 1876 cycle of Backerganj (Bangladesh) killed more than 2,00,000 people and the 1970 Bhola Cyclone of the same country took away lives of more than 3,00,000 people. Besides these, there are at least records of 20 cyclonic incidences, where the death and casualities were more than 10,000.

Devastations caused by 2022 flood is still fresh in our memories. Gust of the cyclone reaches us with the alarming note, ‘ Ek Ram e rokkha neiSugrib Dosor. With the onset on monsoon, here in Barak Valley, we develop ‘Lilapsophobia’(fear of cyclone/Tornedo/hurricane) and  ‘Pluviophobia(fear related to rain and storms) that lead to ‘Antlophobia’ (fear of flooding), and its symptoms are manifested here in the form of detachment of Rail, road and all sorts of connectivity for a couple of months. We are compelled to lead an ‘Island life’. The only difference is that the water that engulfs us is not salty!

Who, on this earth would be able to assure us if in near or distant future, we would be able to get rid of this Lilapsophobia, ‘Pluviophobia or ‘Antlophobia’

-Parthankar Choudhury is Professor and Dean, E. P. Odum School of Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar

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