Kerala disaster and the lessons learnt and ignored

Forty two dead and six missing. That’s the human toll of the rain disaster that unravelled in Kerala in the last few days.

Published: 22nd October 2021 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2021 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala has been witnessing heavy rains

Kerala has been witnessing heavy rains. (Videograb)

Forty two dead and six missing. That’s the human toll of the rain disaster that unravelled in Kerala in the last few days. Besides, there was extensive damage to properties, public infrastructure and crops. Every tragedy has a lesson, but only if we choose to learn from it. The 2018 floods that claimed nearly 500 lives, left lakhs homeless and caused a loss of Rs 30,000 crore should have prepared us for future disasters. Instead, the calamity was dismissed as a once-in-a-hundred-year event.

The fact is there have been floods and landslides every monsoon season since then. Kerala, its people and political leadership included, must wake up to the twin reality of climate change and the immense damage done to nature and the environment in the name of development and progress. The rise in surface temperature in the Arabian Sea due to climate change has led to a 52% increase in the frequency of cyclonic storms—the reason for sudden spells of heavy rain. And the senseless destruction of nature—deforestation, quarrying, unregulated construction and encroachment of rivers, backwaters and wetlands—has rendered most areas prone to flooding and landslides.

While Kerala can do little about climate change that is continuously altering the rain pattern, the state can do a lot in terms of minimising its impact and being prepared for calamities. Given how the weather will become more erratic in the coming days, increasing both the probability and severity of rain disasters, the state must put in place a modern weather forecast system that can make predictions more accurate and useful. There’s also an urgent need for flood and landslide warning systems. It must map areas prone to flooding and landslides, and strictly regulate developmental activities there. There must be a complete ban on quarrying in ecologically fragile areas of the high ranges and the government must take efforts to desilt dams, clean rivers and remove encroachments from water bodies. The way it managed water levels in dams this time around shows at least one lesson has been learnt. Climate change is real. Disasters are waiting to happen. We can ignore this reality at our peril.


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