By Tenzin Dharpo
Crops destroyed by Cyclonic storms at Phuntsokling Tibetan settlement
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 16: Tibetan refugees in the Indian state of Odisha are faced with a rude awakening in the aftermath of the destructive cyclone ‘Titli’ that made land fall in Gajapati district on Thursday where the Tibetan settlement is located. While days ago Tibetans there were faced with the threat of life and limb, now the hazard has shifted to that of livelihood and sustenance.
Settlement officer of Phuntsokling Tibetan settlement Chonor Samdup told Phayul that 90% of the year’s crop has been destroyed in the agriculture-reliant Tibetan community there. He said, “The Tibetan farmers who cultivate corn and some millet is especially devastated as the crops after months of labor was to be harvested in little over a month’s time.”
A representative from the Central Tibetan Administration’s Dept. of Home has visited the settlement to inspect the destruction of crops and infrastructure there. Samdup said that Deputy Secretary Dhondup Tsering from the Department of Home’s Agriculture Division has promised to initiate fundraising and donation channels for the settlement. However, the affected Tibetans are now rebuilding their homes, recovering from the devastation of Titli with a virtually non-existent aid and relief assistance as of now.
Uprooted trees on a two - wheeler at Phuntsokling Tibetan settlement
Six days after the storm, the community is without running water, electricity or Internet connection. Many houses including that of an old-age home have their roofs blown away and uprooted trees have fallen everywhere due to the severe winds. Mud-clogged lanes and roads caused by incessant rain add to the grim situation there.
Despite the absence of basic amenities, the community school opened on Monday and kids have been put in their routine to bring a sense of normalcy.
“The month of October has especially been ominous for us. All the last three major cyclonic storms that occurred since 2013 have been in the first two weeks of the month,” Samdup said. Cyclone Phailin (2013), Cyclone Hudhud (2014) and Cyclone Titli (2018) have all made landfall in either the first or the second week of October.
The 440 households of the Phuntsokling Tibetan settlement now stand vulnerable to economic challenges as the agriculture reliant community’s savings from the previous year’s harvest are at their lowest right now and crop salvage measures are futile at this point.
State-wide crop destruction in Odisha is estimated to 1.48 lakh hectares. Government sources put the death toll to 26 and estimate that 57 lakh (5.7 Million) people have been affected by the Cyclone Titli.