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Report on Kerala floods recommends disallowing high-rises on steep slopes of Western Ghats, highlights lapses

Kochi: High-rise buildings should not be permitted on the steep slopes of the Western Ghats as the areas are prone to landslides, says a study on the recent Kerala floods.

The study conducted by a six-member expert panel appointed by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies (RGIDS) emphasised on the need for a new construction policy on resorts, both public and private, especially in the affected hill districts.

"Government may regulate the public from constructing huge houses and other buildings in areas of Western Ghats in general and to have strict restrictions in the ecologically sensitive areas. Reclamation of flood plains for dwelling sites is to be curbed," said the panel in its report.

In the relatively flat areas of the Western Ghats (Wayanad, Palakkad and Idukki), special attention should be paid given for farming vegetables, fruits and horticulture, said the report titled Kerala Floods 2018-The Disaster of the Century.

The flood was unprecedented and rainfall in hilly districts were three times more, and the State was also not prepared for such a mega scale of disaster, as it has not experienced a flood of this magnitude, except the recorded one in 1924.

 Report on Kerala floods recommends disallowing high-rises on steep slopes of Western Ghats, highlights lapses

Kerala had witnessed floods in August, which has led to many deaths in the state. PTI

While 483 people and thousands of livestock were killed, the disaster incurred immense losses on the state's infrastructure, as many roads, bridges and thousands of houses were damaged/washed away.

The report said reservoirs were already full in July end unlike other years and there was no place in the reservoirs to accommodate any more excess rain water.

“Considering the safety of dams, the water had to be released from all dams. The respective district administrations could not take adequate precautionary steps as they were also deprived of any information regarding the quantum of water release, duration and the likely places of inundation, etc," it said.

It alleged that lapses were many as the dam water scoured river beds and low-lying areas were flooded.

“The sea was also rough with high tide and wave setup not allowing water to flow out; all this added to the flood and related problems. The ecosystem damage is beyond an assessment”, it said.

Large quantities of agricultural produce were lost putting the livelihood of farmers at risk. The report said the flood has opened the vision on what the future development is to be.

The present development plan, with scant regard to the fragility of the environment, needs restructuring to withstand the frequent onslaught of disasters, especially in the light of climate change, it said.

“The deluge exposed the various deficiencies in the system. Flouting and violating the norms compounded the problems. The lack of coordination and timely decision making by responsible authorities aggravated the flood into a disaster.

“Apparently the authorities did not give adequate attention with the seriousness, it deserves to, the weather forecasts by agencies such as IMD”, it said.

The committee was headed by Michael Vetha Siromony (retired IAS officer and former Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala).

The members of the committee include Dr Oommen V Oommen (Former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board), John Mathai (Former Scientist, National Centre for Earth Science Studies), Muhammed Ali Rawther M (Former Director, Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd), and Thomas Varghese (Former Deputy Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Government of Kerala).

RGIDS Director BS Shiju said analysing the impact of flood across the sectors, the committee has put forth several suggestions and recommendations.

It has recommended a strategy to rethink operations of hydel power stations so as to maximise power generation, thereby avoiding opening of spillways to control flood situations, which needs to be developed, he said.

“The committee has called for institutionalising a proper strategy for opening of the major dams with advance information to district authorities concerned, local bodies and public, through all sources of media.” Shiju said.

“An appropriate water management system should be evolved for maximising usage of water storage in reservoirs for electricity generation/irrigation as well as other domestic purposes,” the study said.

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2018 14:51:37 IST

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