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Drought grips Kerala

Lush green Kerala, with 44 rivers, thousands of water bodies and world-famous backwaters, is facing a drought. Ramesh Babu tells more...

india Updated: Mar 14, 2010 01:03 IST
Ramesh Babu

Lush green Kerala, with 44 rivers, thousands of water bodies and world-famous backwaters, is facing a drought.

Rainfall was short in 2009 by a little more than 18 per cent. Kerala received 230 cm of rainfall last year, against the annual average of 280 cm. The groundwater level has dipped 28 per cent.

In northern Palakkad (north Kerala), the temperature soared to 42 degree Celsius on Thursday, 9 degrees above normal. Already, almost a dozen people have been hospitalised for sunstroke — unheard of in Kerala at this time of the year. A similar situation is prevailing in the Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

Humidity levels in Kerala are high — and with summer approaching — the situation could get worse for people as well as for livestock.

“North-westerly winds, which bring rain in February-March, are weak. That is the main reason for the consistently above normal temperature. Dry conditions are likely to continue for some more days,” Regional Meteorology Department Director K. Santhosh said.

The government has rushed a team of experts to the affected districts to study the phenomenon and suggest remedial action.

“We have never seen such climatic conditions. We have given instructions to regulate the working hours of labourers in the affected areas,” Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said.

Water levels in reservoirs and rivers have dipped. Some parts of Sasthamkotta Lake, the fresh water body that supplies drinking water to large swathes of south Kerala, have dried.

Many areas in the state are facing an acute water and power crisis. Hydro projects meet 40 per cent of the state’s power needs. While hydel power costs 80 paise per unit (kilowatt-hour), thermal power is priced at Rs 4.40.

Power generation at the Idukki hydel reservoir is down to 25 per cent of its capacity.

Ruthless exploitation of natural sources like sand mining and tree-felling are responsible for this sorry state of
affairs,” poet and green activist D. Vinayachandran complained.