‘Casual handling of people’s lives’ and poor dam management by state government led to Kerala Floods, reveals research study

The government has been very ill-prepared to encounter a disaster. Dam Safety regulations assisted by flood inundation maps and early action plan(EAP) was ignored, says the report by the Special Centre for Disaster Research in JNU.

The Special Centre for Disaster Research (SCDR) and National Institute of Disaster Management at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in its report on Kerala floods titled ‘2018 Kerala Floods: Governance and Legal Compliance’ has blamed the state government for the devastation that has occurred in the state.

“The government has been very ill-prepared to encounter a disaster. Dam Safety regulations assisted by flood inundation maps and early action plan(EAP) was ignored. Such a casual handling of people’s lives and an irresponsible release of water led to the devastating deluge,” the report states.

The report asserts, “The dam safety authority during its press brief on August 7 defied any plan to open the dams and exactly one week later, when the rainfall was at its highest and people were already facing a highly water saturated ground, the authorities opened all 38 big dams in Kerala together”.

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As per experts, the devastation caused by the floods is not surprising considering the unpreparedness of the administration. “As the research team had already been working on the environmental devastation and community resilience in Kerala since 2016, such a calamity was not a surprise, but what was surprising was the lack of preparedness, the intransigence of administrative authorities,” Amita Singh, faculty at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, said.

The researchers further said, “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 researchers then pointed out that there were certain lobbies that governed Kerala and these lobbies are to be blamed as well, “The fragile zones are under big estate owners who are not only controlling hills and forests but also mangroves which is Kerala’s strongest wall against coastal disasters.”

The report also states that though the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority was constituted in 2007, it had only come up with one plan, that too in 2013, which had already become redundant. It also highlights that the Fragile Lands Act, 2003, was dumped as an outdated law and the Western Ghats were thrown open for construction activities, devastating its ecosystem.

The Kerala floods wrecked havoc in the state in August. Hundreds of lives were lost when vast areas in many districts were flooded. NASA had also confirmed that delayed opening of the dams was one of the main reasons behind the deluge.

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