The August 2018 floods wreaked havoc in Kerala and the next year around the same time, the State witnessed yet another flood of near similar devastating circumstances. Scientists, who gathered at the Rebuild Kerala meeting in Thiruvananthapuram late last month, feel a flood of similar magnitude cannot be ruled out this year too.
But what is shocking has been the response of the State Government to the floods, especially when all and sundry came together to the rescue of the marooned people, and very little has been done to be prepared for another disaster.
Surprisingly, when the State Government went about saying the 2018 floods caused a damage of more that Rs 40,000 crore, RTI documents prove that the total damage assessed by the State Government, as submitted to the Centre says it was Rs 4,796.35 crore. The documents are in the possession of Pennews.
In the reply received recently by social and RTI activist Sunil Kumar PG of Koothattukulam in Ernakulam district, this very much contradicts public statements by the Ministers, including the Chief Minister. "The Centre has to be appraised of the matter. There can't be any fudging of figures. Facts presented in the memorandum to the Central Government do not match with what has been projected in public. This can simply prove damaging to not only the tall claims made that the Centre ignored the pleas, but also the attempts made to garner support from outside," he says.
According to the reply he has received on the basis of the RTI query he submitted, the claims for ex-gratia payment was Rs 1,356 lakh. Ironically, there are still several people yet to get the benefits, a year after another floods and landslides swept the State and the next spell of monsoon is three months away.
While the Government stopped quarrying for a few days after the 2019 landslides, activities were resumed with greater vigour immediately. Most of the landslides were reported in areas that come under highly sensitive zones marked by the Madhav Gadgil committee on Western Ghats, little is still being done to protect these areas.
The Kerala Government asserted it was going into a Rebuild Kerala mission mode. Some of the scientists who attended the recent meeting said practically nothing seems to have been done in the last one and a half years to ensure tackling floods in the coming years.
Massive deforestation, illegal quarrying and large-scale encroachments did see the rivers take their course when the dams were opened in 2018 and along with it the illegal constructions that stood in their course
According to the memorandum submitted, the claims for desilting land that was flooded were to the tune of Rs 13,122.22 lakh. Animal and poultry loss was Rs 3,893.73 crore. The claim for damages roads, both National and State Highways at the rate of Rs 1 lakh per km was Rs 9,538.45 lakh and that for fully damaged or destroyed houses was Rs 10,520.22 lakh.
According to the letter from the Central Government, copy of which is available with Pennews, the total amount granted was Rs 3,048.39 crore. It has also told the State Government that some of its claims in the memoranda were outside the purview of the SDRF/NDRF and in some cases the scale of assistance sought was "at a much higher rate than what is permissible as per norms".