My grandfather nearing 90 was evacuated this morning in Thrissur District. We stay close to Conolly Canal (named after HV Conolly, Malabar District Collector who built this in 1848). The canal which seems like a river flows about 100 metres from my house. After my grandpa reached my sister’s house, I spoke to him. What he told me stood in stark contrast to a message that has been circulating recently on social media.
The WhatsApp message floating in the social media says that Kerala ignored Gadgil Committee report regarding deforestation and building in hilly areas and that had its recommendations been followed the flooding would not have happened. This message is incorrect and only partially true.
Had Gadgil committee’s recommendations regarding flouting building norms in hilly tracts and sensitive areas been followed, yes some lives would have definitely been saved in those areas, where landslides occurred. But the rest of Kerala being totally flooded has NO relation to Gadgil Committee. Let me explain.
Our house is located in a village that has not seen much construction in the past 40 years because large tracts of land are held by one family who have allowed the land to remain untouched because they don’t require any income from the land. So there has been no encroachment in this area at all. During the conversation with my grandfather he revealed that he faced a similar situation in 1960 too. That time the flood waters had reached the house. He says it has now repeated after 58 years. Remember in 1960 there were no encroachments and no Gadgil Committee. Such a flood of this severity had come earlier too in 1924, when Mr. Gadgil was not born at all.
Then why did this flooding happen at such severity. The reason is heavy excessive rainfall that is far far greater than normal almost 200%, especially in the catchment areas of dams, forcing the dams to open up. That is the reason Kerala is flooded. Kerala has a relatively decent drainage system. Every year we do have some flooding in low lying areas and the problem compounds during high tides when the water flows inland.
Yes in few areas some people have encroached and built on drainage systems and they are paying a price for it. There is a huge mall in Ernakulam which has encroached on a drainage canal. They have been adequately punished by the rains now, with their cellar parking flooded completely. And so the excessive rains is the reason and not a displeased Lord Ayyapan, Bishop Franco or some Maulvi.
The rescue efforts from the Govt notwithstanding, it is the locals who have been organizing rescues on a massive scale with local resources. I have eye witness accounts how the local population has been rising to the occasion. Temporary relief camps in schools have been set up, and locals are ensuring that everyone is looked after. There are nearly 350,000 people already in shelters in Colleges, Schools, Temples, Mosques and Churches. But that is still inadequate compared to the catastrophe. They require clothing, food, medicines. The Govt require logistical support, boats, machinery, doctors, supplies and volunteers.
The devastation has been huge. The trauma even more. This is the time to stand together with our brothers and sisters in Kerala. Rather than discussing Gadgil report, now is the time to DO YOUR BIT by contributing to NGO’s or the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) https://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in and in case it doesn’t work for you then you may do it through https://www.oxfamindia.org/kerala-floods-2018 or https://goonj.org/contribute/ or https://paytm.com/helpinghand/kerala-cm-s-distress-relief-fund
Let us put our effort to rehabilitate the people who have lost everything. Let our little help make a mighty ocean of love.
Rise up India – This is the time!