Local fisherman help flood victims in the outskirts of Alappuzha district, Kerala.(Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
Local fisherman help flood victims in the outskirts of Alappuzha district, Kerala.(Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

Congress, BJP accuse Kerala authorities for ‘man-made’ floods; demand probe

The Congress said the Kerala floods was a man-made disaster and sought a judicial probe into circumstances that led to it and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the unplanned opening of sluice gates of the dams.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
UPDATED ON AUG 22, 2018 06:43 PM IST

Opposition parties in flood-ravaged Kerala on Wednesday accused the government of abruptly opening the shutters of the state’s 40-odd dams and said a little planning and warning would have helped people cope with the disaster better.

The Congress said the worst floods in a century to strike the state was a man-made disaster and sought a judicial probe into circumstances that led to it and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the unplanned opening of sluice gates of the dams.

“The situation could have been different if dam management was done properly. Leave alone scientists, even common people pleaded dam authorities to release the water gradually but they kept on waiting to generate maximum power,” opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said as he sought action against electricity and dam officials.

He also accused the government of sitting over forecasts of the meteorological department.

Congress leader and former power minister Aryadan Mohammed said the damage could have been limited if authorities had acted on time.

“During the south-west monsoon in 2013 Idukki dam was full but we anticipated danger and opened shutters of small satellite dams. But now we waited till the eleventh hour and opened all dams together,” he said.

The BJP’s state unit president PS Sreedharan Pillai said the impact of the floods could have been minimised if the government had done its homework properly.

Experts have also questioned whether the water should have been discharged earlier than before and gradually from the bulging Idukki, Cheruthoni and Edamalayar dams. Water levels at several dams touched the brim by July-end but Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), which manages most of these dams, chose to open the shutters by mid-August, they said.

Well-known environmental scientist Madhav Gadgil has scoffed the statement of some leaders that another dam across the famous waterfall in Athirapally should have contained the damage in Thrissur and Ernakulam districts.

“In Kerala, water is managed most unscientifically. Sadly, many leaders still seek more dams,” he said.

 

The government has, however, maintained there were no flaws in opening the shutters and the state electricity board’s chairperson NS Pillai denied there was any delay.

“We managed the situation till the last minute but torrential rains were beyond any control. At one point, we even feared some of the dams would burst but we effectively contained such a situation. It is highly improper to blame SEB officials,” Pillai said.

State Dam Management Authority’s chairperson Justice CN Ramachandran also said officials took all precautions before the shutters were opened.

A senior revenue official said the clearance to opening shutters will now be given on the basis of the request of the dam in-charge after gauging the seriousness of the situation. He added that both district collector and police chief will be also informed about it.

The Centre has declared the devastating floods in Kerala a “calamity of severe nature” as the state braced for the gigantic task of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitation of people rendered homeless.

More than 370 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes.

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