Kerala is currently facing its biggest natural calamity since 1924. The incessant rain lashing the state since August 7 has so far claimed at least 38 lives while the resultant floods triggered over 200 landslides and displaced around 60,000 people. The damage to farms has been immense, around 10,000 km of roads have been wrecked and 444 villages declared flood-hit. In three days, August 8, 9 and 10, Kerala received 40 cm rain or 12 per cent of its average rainfall during the entire Southwest monsoon. That Kerala opened shutters of 27 dams almost back-to-back, 22 of them on August 9, points to the gravity of the situation, triggering a spate of flash floods and landslides.
The state swung into action with red alert declared in eight districts. Rescue efforts continue with the government working in tandem with the Armed Forces, the National Disaster Response Force and the Coast Guard, but disaster is best mitigated by avoiding it. Preliminary estimates show the aggregate losses stand at `8,316 crore. One positive takeaway though is Kerala has stayed together, not allowing mischief-makers to divide it on political or religious grounds. The Centre has already cleared `100 crore towards immediate relief against the demand of `1,220 crore.
With Central delegations taking stock, more Central aid is a given. The worry lines are getting deeper as heavy to very heavy rain, expected to last till Tuesday, is likely to continue at least till Saturday. The quantum of water released from some of the dams keeps changing almost every day as can be seen from the Idukki, Idamalayar and Malampuzha dams.
The result: Even places like Palakkad and Munnar are getting inundated. A couple of things are now clear. Tinkering with ecologically fragile regions in the name of development must stop. And two key departments, water resources and power, must work in tandem. Hydel power can be viable only if water as a resource is handled with utmost sensitivity in Kerala, its claim to being God’s own country notwithstanding.