The estimated cost of damage continues to grow in Southern India as flooding in Kerala peaked in August. For now, monsoon rains have decreased and rescue teams have been dispatched. Yet many in the state of Kerala remain stranded.
In the midst of this environmental disaster, echoes of government mismanagement and lack of preparedness are deafening. Officials and experts consistently point to non-environmental and social contributions to the human toll and suffering in Southern India.
Only a month prior to the flooding, a report prepared by the government had warned Kerala that it had been ranked as the poorest manager of water resources among southern Indian states. According to officials and experts, the flooding would not have been as severe if at least 30 dams throughout Kerala had been releasing water in preparation for the predicted monsoon rains. A water expert at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Himanshu Thakkar, states that if the water released from more than 80 dams contributing to the flooding had been done before monsoon rains, than the flood damage would not have been as severe.
Adding to the disaster is lack of flood forecasting in the area as the organization responsible, the Central Water Commission, failed to give any flood warning. It was further discovered that the lack of flood forecasting sites outside of Kerala had also been a critical factor in failing to take preventative measures to monsoon rains in the area.
Increased amounts of development have also made the area more vulnerable to flooding as environmentalists say that deforestation and the destruction of wetlands along with other human activity has reclaimed or re-purposed ecological resources responsible for naturally absorbing increased rain falls.
Even though there has been human contributions to flood damage in the area, it is important to understand that monsoon rains have also been exceptionally high this year. An adviser on water issues for the Kerala state government calls it a 1 in a 100 years event and that the required flood preparation to prevent this level of damage could have never been predicted.
In just under 3 months Kerala had recorded a 37% increase in rainfall over other monsoon periods, which usually last around four months, and more than double the average rainfall for August.
So far, more than 491 people are dead and over 1.8 million people have been removed from their homes in Kerala. The damage to infrastructure ranges from airports to highways and continues to grow. There is at least 3 billion dollars in damage, according to Kerala state officials.
Despite all of these human and social contributions to the suffering in Kerala, human factors in relief efforts are also a large part of supporting communities in their recovery. Fisherman in the area continue to rescue the stranded. Twitter and other social media has been used to distribute sanitary napkins, baby food, and other necessities. With increased awareness of government mismanagement and its contribution to failed disaster intervention, there are wonderful displays of the human spirit which helps their neighbours with entrepreneurial and community based solutions.
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