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Sunday, 21 April, 2002, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Orissa cyclone aid under threat
Homeless boy
The cyclone destroyed nearly two million homes
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Sandeep Sahu
BBC correspondent in Bhubaneswar
The World Bank is reported to have threatened to stop aiding relief and rehabilitation programmes in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

It follows a recent visit there by one of its teams.

Team members had reported slow progress in reconstruction work in the areas most ravaged by the cyclone of 1999.

The state government is now trying everything it can do to finish all pending work before the monsoon sets in to save a loan worth around $100m from lapsing.

Quality questioned

The World Bank team members are believed to have objected strongly to unexplained delays in the completion of restoration work.

They also expressed serious reservations about the quality of work at several of the projects.

Flood in Orissa
It was one of India's worst cyclones

Out of a total of some Rs2.3bn, the state has been able to spend barely Rs700m.

The Orissa Government has asked for further assistance to help it complete restoration work.

But this is now looking increasingly unlikely following the recent criticism.

State Revenue Minister Biswabhusan Harichandan admits there is "a problem".

But the head of a specially appointed body to overlook disaster management, Arabinda Behera, refuses to accept the reports that the World Bank is threatening to pull out.

He told the BBC that the team had actually recorded its "appreciation of the progress" in many of the worst-hit areas.

But the revenue minister readily admitted that the Bank has indeed threatened to suspend all further assistance.

He said his government is trying everything possible to persuade the Bank to reconsider its decision.

Thousands killed

This is not the first time the state government has been criticised for what some voluntary sector activists call an excruciatingly slow pace of reconstruction in cyclone-affected areas.

It has also been heavily criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Around 10,000 people and over half a million cattle perished in the cyclone that swept through large parts of the state in 1999.

Nearly two million houses were also destroyed in what is widely described as one of the worst cyclones India witnessed in the last century.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | South Asia
Orissa 'condemned to flooding'
04 Nov 99 | South Asia
Cyclone epidemic fears
20 Jul 01 | South Asia
Orissa flood victims trapped
22 Feb 00 | South Asia
Oxfam attacks Indian disaster policy
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