KOCHI: The recent floods in Kerala has exposed the failure of state government in alerting local bodies about the impending disaster, said Amita Singh, professor and chairperson of Special Centre for Disaster Research, JNU in Delhi.
Singh was in Kochi recently to release the ‘Report of Kerala Floods-2018’. The report, which was earlier released in Delhi, accused the state government of its gross dereliction of duty and handling of the entire flood situation.
Prof. Amita Singh - Chairperson of Special Centre for Disaster Research, JNU
“It is a failure of Kerala state disaster management authority (KSDMA), headed by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and power minister M M Mani. They never took local bodies into confidence. The disaster was on the horizon for long. Kerala is the first state in the country to form KSDMA after Central Disaster Management Act came into existence in 2005. But they didn’t have an updated hazard vulnerability map, which should have been readied at the district level ,” said Singh.
Singh said that the data provided by India Meteorological Department was available with the state government. It was the duty of the state to understand the situation and take a call accordingly.
“The most common excuse to the August deluge was that it was unprecedented. Our team, which has been looking into the state of environment and ecology in Kerala since September 2015 to the post-flood scenario, had said that intense rainfall-related disasters were not uncommon in Kerala. So, the argument that the deluge was unprecedented and hence, the lack of preparedness falls flat,” she said.
“Our research team had captured much of what happened in all those months on video. We had interviewed several panchayat leaders. The team members who went to meet the chief secretary and KSDMA member secretary were mocked at, insulted and sent away. They wanted to get some questions answered as part of the research report finalization,” she said.
Despite having a literacy rate of above 95% in almost all taluks and towns, the government did not make them partners in their online or offline alerts, warnings and post-disaster rescue efforts. Most of them were found working on their own social capital from the neighbourhood, the report said.
She said that the report is now being expanded into an institutional study.
“Kerala’s loss is a long-term one and it would not be over in a few days,” she said.