As Cyclone Amphan makes landfall in India and Bangladesh around 16:00 local time on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, it is expected to bring heavy winds and severe flooding that threatens lives and property.
Preparations are in place to shelter large numbers of people even as both countries grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
India is said to have initiated one of the strictest lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus which has led to the displacement of millions of daily wage migrant workers – many bound to towns and villages in eastern India.
According to the Climate Action Network (CAN), the compounding risks of increasingly severe climate impacts amidst the pandemic puts at risk vulnerable people who are already suffering displacement, food insecurity and job losses on an unprecedented scale.
In a reaction, Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia, said: “With Cyclone Amphan, the ‘disaster season’ starts in Bay of Bengal. This year more people are going to get affected because of reverse migration due to the COVID19 lockdown and the loss of livelihoods. Thousands of workers have returned to their native villages tired, disappointed and with no security. Disaster response in India and Bangladesh will fall short of its capacity, with more people to be evacuated and social distancing rules to be maintained.”
Sara Almer, Humanitarian Director, ActionAid, stated: “Cyclone Amphan could be utterly devastating for the poorest and most marginalised people in Bangladesh and India, who are already battling the threat of Covid-19. Heavy rains, flooding, the destruction of homes and farmland, will increase the likelihood of the virus spreading, particularly in densely populated areas like the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. It will also undoubtedly increase the number of lives and livelihoods already lost to this pandemic.
“Now more than ever we must double our efforts to support the poorest communities currently facing a triple threat of hunger, disease and extreme weather.
“Covid-19 must act as a wake-up call to governments about the need to protect climate migrants and to ensure that climate resilience is built into long term response plans.”
Dr Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Independent University Bangladesh: “Cyclone Amphan is going to compound the COVID-19 pandemic as well as lockdown and social distancing measures. While Bangladesh has an enviable system of cyclone warning and cyclone shelters, it will be almost impossible to practice social distancing in those shelters.”
Risalat Khan, Social Justice Campaigner from Bangladesh: “When I turned one year old, a Bay of Bengal super cyclone had just killed 140,000 people. Since then, Bangladesh has made massive gains in managing cyclone risks and cutting down on the loss of life. But one thing has not changed – the poorest are still abjectly vulnerable to cyclones, Covid-19, and everything in between.
“Cyclone Amphan is the perfect example of how interconnected our crises are – with the poor having to cram into crowded cyclone shelters and put themselves at risk of catching the virus. Our solutions must be interconnected too, with a renewed and urgent commitment to end extreme poverty once and for all.
Rushati Das, CAN South Asia: “Here in Kolkata, I am in the path of Cyclone Amphan. I feel more vulnerable than before with the combined threat of coronavirus and the impacts of Cyclone Amphan.”