Kerala Model Floods- The Main Culprits
KERALA MODEL FLOOD-THE MAIN CULPRITS
Kerala has got a unique way in dealing with any fields which the people and the government come across. We generally call it as a “Kerala Model”. The state fought against the 2018 and 2019 floods valiantly-a “Kerala Model” where people of various religious, social and financial status stood as the “ONE” against the roaring floods. Likewise, a Kerala Model against both Nipah(which fought and won) and ongoing battle against Covid-19. These models were both nationally and internationally praised. Besides this “a Kerala Cult” in education- from “pallikoodams” (setting up schools near Christian Churches) to “aashathis” (specialized language tutors).
Despite all this, it is unfortunate that the state also has a “Kerala Model Flood”. The 2018 flood (flood of the century) and the 2019 floods are the best examples of it. The 2019 flood-affected all parts of the state which was left out by 2018 flood….a weird act of the nature!. All these floods are wake up calls for the people and the government. Everyone must ask questions-“Why do these recurring floods occur?”. Finding answers to the above question also shows the ways to tackle the same.
So before getting into it I would present you some facts and reports about the previous floods which struck Kerala in 2018 and 2019. These statements will clearly give a picture of how intense these floods were, by affecting the socio-economic and financial structure of the state.
According to the 2018 flood reports submitted by KSDMA (Kerala State Disaster Management Authority), fatalities were 483 (this is an official number), but unofficial reports sums up more than 500 people and a 140 missing. These numbers are huge as it states that within a span of 2 weeks of flooding more than 500 people were dead. The economic and financial portfolios were also affected as the flood produced a staggering revenue loss of ₹ 479635 lakhs(a value comparable with GDP of the state).(I don’t intent to point out the revenue loss in different fields like agriculture,… cause it may seem boring to you readers). https://sdma.kerala.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Memorandum2-Floods-2018.pdf
Visit the link given above to get a crystal clear idea of the revenue loss regarding various fields.
In a sense, when comparing both the floods I would say that 2019 flood was more dynamical because of a series of landslides in Wayanad. Many parts of the state lay on the belly of “geologically sensitive” Western Ghats. This means that within very less time(decades) it’s going to crash land on the state if the present situation continues.
Eye-watering photos of the 2020 landslides in Munnar may repeat every year. Unimaginable but true that a part of the hill got separated and slid over residents even making it difficult to retrieve the dead from mud and stones-“a mass grave by nature”. A clear statement by the nature that- “If you hurt me I will hunt you down”. We have to learn how to live with nature, not living over the nature.
After the 2018 floods there were debates (in news channels) on why these floods occur and how to tackle them. But the same repeated in the next year and those 213floods seems to be just news material for a fun-filled debate session. And even this year, big debates on floods are loading………
Questions on those debate sessions are the questions of common people and those who are deceased. An affected (like myself) may ask a simple question “Why do these occur?”. A high-school student would answer it and we all know the answers to it. Still it haunts cause the people to turn their faces against the truth basically for two reasons( to preserve the hidden agendas and also because people do not know the worse extent how it could affect the present and how worse it can be in the future).
Rain is assumed to as the main culprit of flooding. Considering this case, let me point out a fact that South West Monsoon has dominated Kerala for centuries. It is an integral part of the state’s climate system and it is known in Kerala as “Kaalavarsham”. From it the state receives an average of 204 cm rain.
On saying all this I wanted you to consider two periods of Kerala. Let’s say the year 2019 which received a rainfall of about 230 cm(a 12% from the normal). And likewise the year 1975 also received about the same value that of 2019. So while considering the two years 1975 did not have a flood while 2019 had to face flood. Readers, please don’t jump into the conclusion that rain is not a villain (Rain must be the secretary of the right hand of the main villain and that is of course “Us”).
Monsoon has undergone through a serious of changes in the past few decades. So what is that change? The rate and the intensity of the rain has increased like a 10fold. That is, the South West precipitation is distributed over 4 months of monsoon. (With June and July receiving highest rainfall following the next 2 months). This is the normal case. But now the situation has changed, as per the records the monsoon precipitates at its maximum in August and September preceded by conventional type of rainfall in June and July.(Its quite natural for you to think that” Monsoon just changed its months but what effect does that cause”). To clear that clutter let me clearly point it out with the records of IMD. Kerala receives its 1month rainfall in just a few days. That is August must receive 100 cm rainfall in 30 days. But now within 5 days, 100cm rainfall pours down.(which is close to be called as cloud bursts).
On 07/08/2020 from 10 30 hrs to 11 30 hrs I placed 3 rain gauges around my house within a radius of 10 meters. And I could record a rainfall of 2.56 cm for just one hour. These numbers are so alarming. Because a 10 fold of rainfall must have fell on the forest and mountains. (Athirapilly and Ezhatumugham).
To understand the effect of it I will ask you to do an experiment. Make 2 models of small-scale mountains(identical) using mud and stones. Let it set for some time. Now take a bucket of water and within 10 secs pour down the whole water on to a model.
Then make small holes at the base of the same bucket and now let it rain over the other model from the same height.
Please comment your inference. Use old buckets……and I also prefer funny inferences.
This is what happens in a landslide and as a result, flood caused by the same. The cloudbursts are caused due to changes in the cloud structure. Clouds start to develop vertically above the normal(due to pollution-induced aerosols) and later it grows so heavy to pour down gallons of water in few time spells and over a specified region supersaturating the land surface and pushing down the slopes of the hills. No one can even imagine, a village being swept away by a part of the hill.(This is what happened in Wayanad(2019) and Idukki(2020).
Now rain has reached the surface and the next thing is the flow of collective water(rain) over the surface. Riverine flooding is a natural phenomenon. Comparing with the number of rivers in Kerala(44) riverine flooding is quite natural. The 44 rivers and all its tributaries make a well-defined riverine system in Kerala. But “How is it dangerous to people?”.
How many of you believe that more than 60 per cent of various tributaries do not exist any more and many of them have are on the verge of disappearing. Intrusion by people have killed many tributaries and small streams blocking a well-defined outflow system of flooded river. “This blockage is not as tall as the sky”. Water flows over it washing off villages and residents. ”Nature takes back what is taken away from it”. But here the most extreme condition is when the river tends to change its course due to a block in its normal flow. This is what happened in 2018 where Chalakudy river changed its course and flowed over a village.
Now, what if the rain pours over urban residential areas? There should channels only created for disposal of rainwater or a more efficient way of rainwater harvesting. What if both are absent or what if the existing drainage system is inefficient? That is where water gets logged and causes flood. The extreme condition is flooding in Chennai. Waterlogging in urban areas will prolong for more time as water can’t surpass through huge cement basins. Now what if huge discharge of rain over urban areas happen? A large swimming pool over houses and people……? Maybe…..
Besides all of this, there are many low lying areas in the district of Alappuzha. For many decades embankments prevent it from flooding. But failing of these embankments are common as for earthen embankments. Flooding is so common in these regions of yearly failing in those which prevent flooding.
Next question arises what if dams get filled? Yes, the obvious answer is to open the shutters.
The 2018 flood was also influenced by mismanagement in operating dams. Kerala has 33 dams and reservoirs. Dams get easily filled when there is an above-average rainfall which is mainly concentrated in the infields of forest which is the source of dams. So what if there is communication gaps between the forecasting department and dam management authority. A serious threat to super flooding.
The best example is the 2018 flood. An active monsoon over residential areas were followed by another active monsoon over the forest areas. The later was least excepted which forced dams to be opened.
But this year dam management was better as many dams were opened before it reached its maximum level.(A proper communication between forecasting and dam authorities.)
So now let’s deduce the main villain for the Kerala Model Flood. From the above points, it is clear that the humans are the supervillains. Many would deny it. But the truth is that the root cause of floods are humans themselves. But the fact is that we are unaware of it, because it is our life processes which become a direct and indirect cause.
What we should learn is that we are both heroes and villains. What the Keralites did during the floods were undeniably heroic. But the real fact is that we caused all the problems and solved it. So what if we do not become the cause of it or we could mitigate our deeds which causes flooding, then we will have a more heroic part in us.
I personally believe that these floods have cheated their entrance time and came early. It really must have come in the future when we are fully equipped for it. We are the accelerators but we can do way more than that(in a good way). We are the game-changers.