Over one million trees that once stood tall and provided green cover to the Odisha capital have been felled by the raging winds of Cyclone Fani, the uprooted trunks and bare branches testimony to the intensity of the storm that barrelled through the state last week.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm on May 3 did not result in major casualties but the environmental damage in the city is immense and it will take more than a decade to recover, officials said.
Uprooted trees and fallen electricity poles can be seen through the city, which is picking up the pieces from the storm that killed 29 people, mostly in the coastal town of Puri.
Over one million trees have fallen in this city, adding to the herculean clean-up task. Many in Bhubaneswar had an emotional attachment with the trees, carefully tended for over two decades.
“We were in tears seeing these trees lying on the roads. We raised them like our kids. We are now working hard to rehabilitate the remaining trees. Our 40-member team has rehabilitated 800 trees in last 4 days, ” Ashok Mishra, divisional forest officer, told PTI.
“It is impossible to assess the environmental damage as of now. The entire greenery has gone. In just Patrapada locality, one lakh trees have been destroyed,” he added.
Shipra Mohanty, a resident of Nayapalli area, is mourning the loss of the mango tree planted by her grandmother.
“It will now take 15 to 20 years to grow new trees to that height. it was my grandmother’s memory. We are feeling like we have lost her again. We could not eat anything the day our tree fell,” she said.
The challenge ahead is to initiate a large-scale plantation drive. The forest department wants to plant cyclone resistant trees given the recurring instances of natural calamities in the state.
“We have nursery stocks of more than two lakh saplings but the plantation can be done in phases only. We are planning to start this as soon as the monsoon hits the city,” Mishra said.
Truckloads of green garbage are being transported from temporary transit stations (TSS ) to Bhuasani, the designated waste dump yard of the city.
Thousands of workers from civic organisations as well the fire service, the National Disaster Response Force and the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force have joined hands to bring the city back on its feet.
The civic body has deployed 445 sanitation staff in 10 wards and agencies have deployed 2,306 staff in 57 wards, said government sources.
The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation has also set up a cyclone control room to address the concerns of the city residents. One representative of each department is receiving calls and most calls are related to fallen trees, officials said.