As we drove along the east coast off the Visakhapatanam main roads to reach the fishermen’s villages in Bheemilipatanam, the second town to have municipality in the country after Chennai, Srilakshmi, a community worker from the Visakhapatanam area shares on a woeful note “Visakhapatanam used to be a much cooler place with a good amount of tree cover in the city. In the last twenty years the city witnessed rapid, mindless industrialisation resulting in hotter summers and rise in day-time temperatures. Overnight, the cyclone Hudhud left several thousand trees uprooted, turning the entire green-stretch along the coastline into a graveyard”.

11 November 2014 Broken link roads to fishermen villages,Boya Veedhi, Bheemilipatanam.

(c) Harsha Vadlamani


As we reached Bheemilipatanam, a township located on the shore 30kms away from the city, the extent of damage caused by the cyclone began to unfold—link roads to fishermen villages completely cut off, shattered colonies, people longing for assistance dispersed in front of their broken houses and boats. It was a heartbreaking sight! As we walked into Boya Veedhi, a colony home to 300 fishermen families, one can witness men weaving their fishing nets, rebuilding and repairing their boats and women cooking supper right off the non-existent streets.

Sattiraju, a fisherman from Boya Veedhi colony shares as he continues to knit his lost nets "I lost my boats, nets and my paddles in the storm on the 12th. My house has been blown off and I had no hope that any of us would survive. We left everything and ran in search of shelters. I am struggling to survive as it has been three weeks since I’ve gone to the sea, I am living on borrowed money as of now and the Govt has provided us with no financial assistance at all. I have lost 2-lakh rupees worth of boating and fishing equipment and this does not include the cost for rebuilding our lost homes"

11 November 2014 Kasarapu Sattiraju (38) photographed on the beach at Bheemunipatnam (Bhimili), near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, India.

(c) Harsha Vadlamani


Bonga Parvathi, a wife of fisherman and a resident of Boya Veedhi. On Saturday night most of the electric poles and buildings started collapsing. The water from the sea rose several feet high, flooding our entire colony. My husband and my father in-law go fishing everyday and we cook and feed our kids fish on a regular basis too. It has been many days since they went fishing as our boats and fishing nets got carried away in the storm. The Govt has not offered any financial assistance so far, a whole lot of NGOs have been supporting us with relief shelters and other necessities.

06 November 2014

Bonga Parvathi, a wife of fisherman and a resident of Boya Veedhi. (c) Harsha Vadlamani


While we documented the cyclone impacts on the fishing communities, what was also important to note was the fishermen’s observations over the years on the changing climatic conditions and how it has been the cause of their deteriorating economic stability. –

Kaddhira BhaviReddy, a 40-year-old fisherman from Bheemilipatanam has also lost all his belongings in the cyclone. He first went fishing when he was 7-years-old along with his father and grandfather. According to him, the weather conditions at the sea have become unpredictable for the last two years “we use to be able to look at the sky and predict the rain. I have now lost that capability and I am completely dependent on the metrological department’s data”. He also shared that the amount of fish available for the fishermen to catch has reduced to a great deal and that the reasons for this could be many - increase in the number of trawlers and big boats in the sea or even growth of industries which manufacture chemicals in and around the sea and other reasons that are beyond his knowledge. 

11 November 2014

(c) Harsha Vadlamani


Most of the fisher folk depend solely on the sea for their survival; India has a coastline of 7,517kms with more than 300-million people directly dependent on it. The 2014 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report indicates an enormous increase in global warming since 2007 and warns of increased flooding and changes in crop yields leading to ” severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts" .

While extreme weather events such as cyclone Hudhud act as a gross reminder of what lies ahead, in the light of the IPCCs findings, one needs to focus on climate change mitigation by phasing out fossil fuels, the primary culprit behind global warming and parallelly re-visit policies on industrialisation by keeping climate change as a top priority. The former union power secretary EAS Sharma feels “The destructive changes to the local ecology in and around Visakhapatanam such as chopping of the mangrove forests and violation of CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) norms has costed the environment in the city dearly. In the light of the IPCC’s latest findings, Mr.Sharma calls for a greater level of preparedness from the governments to tackle climate change.   

Aishwarya Madineni is a climate & energy campaigner