Kerala's Elite Guilty of Flagrant Environmental Mismanagement

The Government and the oligarchs that drive the State economy have been tried and found guilty for the recent flood losses 

October 9, 2018, Arattupuzha, Aranmula Village, Kerala
There has been a lot of soul searching in Kerala and elsewhere as to the causes of Kerala’s recent floods. The Kerala Govt was ‘very ill-prepared’ to handle (the) Kerala Floods and ignored safety regulations, says a recently released report from the Special Centre for Disaster Research (SCDR) and the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

“The report titled; KERALA FLOODS: GOVERNANCE AND LEGAL COMPLIANCE castigates both the current and previous governments of Kerala and itemizes areas that need to be rectified. The response of the government has been to shift the blame onto aberrant rainfall patterns without taking responsibility for poor management and the culture of environmental permissiveness and neglect that resulted in almost 500 lives lost and a million homes destroyed.

The investigative team for the study visited areas where no government assistance reached. The survey concluded on September 11, and found that:

-       The “government has been very ill-prepared to encounter a disaster.
-       Dam safety rules assisted by flood inundation maps and early action plans were ignored.
-       The O&M Manuals of 61 completed dams were not prepared.

The report continued that the lobbies which govern Kerala were responsible for the disaster:

-       “The fragile zones are under big estate owners who not only control hills and forests but also mangroves which are Kerala’s wall against coastal disasters.”

The team observed that since hills are often concretized and constructed upon river catchments, backwaters and estuaries which provide livelihood to a large fisher folk community are deleteriously impacted.

-       They said the post-disaster affects are fatal, as the quantum gush of dam water blasted the aquifers and now much of the state’s fresh drinking water flows into the ocean and is lost.

“With the top soil lost and aquifers blasted out, water table has already started sinking down by almost 4 to 5 feet in the Alapuzha upper Kuttunad region,” the report highlighted.


Watch this home get submerged. At this point you can see people standing around

Same house fully submerged with no signs of life in the area!

Experts that the researchers met also told JNU researchers that the ‘future of Kerala is 'scary' with 'increasing symptoms of drought and lower productivity'.

Four districts, namely Alappuzha, Idukki, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta bore the brunt of the flood. These districts accounted for 20 flood affected taluks and closely interacted with the 11 taluks which were the worst affected in terms of losses both in property and the loss of human life.

The research team visited and surveyed these four worst affected districts but inexplicably left out Ernakulam District. The Aluva area of Ernakulam District had been flooded out by the rambunctious Periyar river rendering Nedumbassery Airport unusable.

 This team of researchers, which had been working on environmental devastation and community resilience in Kerala since 2016, said in the report: “Such a calamity was not a surprise. What was surprising was the lack of preparedness, the intransigence of administrative authorities and the neglect of panchayats including people living in villages.”

Environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, in a 2011 report on saving the Western Ghats, had also alleged that man-made factors such as unchecked quarrying and the unauthorized levelling of hills had contributed to the disaster.

Vindicating Gadgil’s report, the JNU researchers averred in somewhat dubious language, “Kerala’s prime resource to sustainable progress passes through its highly rich and pristine ecology. The government has acted against nature, environment and ecosystems so unique to Kerala. One disaster could push Kerala to many years behind.”

The SCDR(Special Centre for Disaster Research) is a new academic research Centre at JNU and is also JNU’s first trans-disciplinary research Centre. Their report was prepared by professor Amita Singh, faculty at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Dr Sunita Reddy, Assistant Professor at the Center of Social Medicine and Community Health, and Dr Manika Kamtham and Dr Gaurika Chugh, Research Scholars in the study of Law and Governance.

Experts told JNU researchers that the future of Kerala is “scary” with “increasing symptoms of drought and lower productivity”. The growth rate could fall lower than 2 per cent as predicted by experts interviewed, said the report.

“There is no policy of a coordinated preparedness with other government departments which can extend to relief work if disaster strikes. Government had been absent from providing relief or even disbursing an amount as low as Rs 10,007 promised by the chief minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) as an ex gratia interim grant to affected households.

With more than 12.5 per cent of the population above 65 years in age, the population also consisted of further vulnerable sections like single women as well as the disabled and children who need special care. These groups were not provided for.

Accusing the Kerala government of abusing human ethics, the researchers from JNU mentioned in the report, “The most heartrending abuse of human ethics as instructed through Article 48 A and Article 51 A of the Indian Constitution and DMA 2005 was the manner in which Kerala government watched the brutal death and drowning in captivity of their animals – birds in the cages, leashed pets at home, strays on the road, and pristine wildlife which has fed the tourism industry including religious tourism, in the state since the time when Kerala had no industry or technology to earn from.”

“The Early Warning systems were non-existent and as people shared, they would go off after the ceremonial installation and newspaper publicity and photographs. Floods have a great dependence on early warning to people for timely evacuation. Despite a CAG Reported warning the EWS were neither repaired nor was the private company indicted for not completing agreed maintenance", said the report said.

An expert panel's deliberations were summarized by Prof. Inder Mohan Kapahy (Educationist),

The aftermath of the flood and the posturing of the government indicates that Kerala politicians are looking to do business as usual under the delusion that the flood was an isolated aberration. It is important that the citizens of Kerala understand the implications of both this recent report and the Gadgil report and insist that systemic changes be implemented immediately and without further obfuscation, both in terms of early warning and environmental sensitivity.  

Edited by Pravin J P Arapurakal with some great material provided by C. Balagopal, IAS                                  

No comments:

Thanks for stopping by and caring enough to comment.Anyone with a Google account can comment.

Also, please subscribe to this blog if the content pleases you.

Powered by Blogger.