Subject: Viridian Note 00111: The Orissa Super-Cyclone

Key concepts: Viridian disasters, Orissa, floods, net
activism, charity

Attention Conservation Notice: It's emotionally painful to dwell on massive unnatural weather disasters in hugely populated, poverty-stricken areas.

Entries in the Viridian Solar Switchplate Contest: This contest is now closed. A winner will be announced shortly.

Links: Situation reports by Indian disaster mitigation crews on the ground in Orissa. Mostly concerns plastic sheeting, candles, bags of rice and the endless gruesome labors of the carcass disposal crews. Amateurish disaster snapshots look like peasants wading at the seaside until you realize that the "sea" isn't supposed to be there.

The "Orissa Super Cyclone" of October 30, 1999 is now recognized as the worst Indian weather disaster in 100 years. The Indian relief efforts are well-nigh paralyzed by broken infrastructures and partisan bickering.

The Internet to the rescue!

"Our sponsors pay for your donation, which you can make once every day. REMEMBER! Your one click will save a life! Your click is precious, save it for a life!"

Imagine! Merely clicking some website and, at no cost to yourself, swiftly aiding and succouring some distant sufferer. Is this too good to be true? Well, yes, it is, basically.

Diverting revenue from Indian advertising into the hands of Indian charities is clearly an improvement on doing nothing. But the scope of this disaster is so huge that mere cash can scarcely get a grip on it. It's a titanic, heartbreaking mess in a place that was a titanic mess to begin with. They still don't even have a body count, though certain officials in Orissa publicly imagine it to be as high as 100,000.

The web volunteers who came forth with the innovative "click to save a life" pitch are from "Iridium Interactive." This Indian web design company apparently has nothing to do with the Iridium satellite phone. Among their other design efforts are a graphology handwriting analysis site and a site for a "pranic healing" health guru. I'm afraid we have to classify as a harbinger of things to come rather than a genuine solution.


From the e-commerce angle, one might pick up some groovy bhangra dance CDs and Bollywood videos at "Indus Live:"

"'Orissa Relief:' From now through December 31 1999, will donate all proceeds from the music store to the Orissa Flood/Typhoon Relief Fund. Please join us in aiding the efforts in Orissa."

Plus, Induslive features streaming with keening soundtracks from one's favorite Indian popstars. Consider this a mouse-clicking vote of confidence in the awesome creative vitality of the Indian people, who have historically shrugged off calamities that would obliterate ten lesser nations.

No Viridian Disaster can be complete without some uncanny, freakish tale of infrastructure wreckage.

"Research at ILS Hampered by Cyclone

"The Institute for Life Sciences (ILS) in Orissa is the only centre in the country where extensive research is being carried out on Molecular Biology of Malaria, Photosynthesis, Stress Biology and Heavy Metal Toxicity. But the cyclone and knee-high rain water which entered the laboratories has laid waste much of the research. (...) They were carrying out research on transgenic plants to develop drought resistant varieties which would have been useful for drought-prone areas of Orissa. (..)

"The scarce enzymes and chemicals which are stored at minus 20 degree centigrade and minus 70 degree centigrade were destroyed when the freezer did not function due to lack of power supply for more than five days. (...) The damage has pushed research back by eight years, said its director Prof. AP Dash. He said apart from research work, rare samples of fatal diseases and animals and plants had perished. (...) Meanwhile, the authorities have warned that if both the Centre and State Government do not immediately come to its rescue, the 18-year-old autonomous research organisation will cease to function."

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