Kerala Floods Part 2: CWC’s Role

Every year hundreds of people in India die because of floods; millions of the people are relocated and thousands of crores are flushed in floods and yet nothing changes or perhaps it is made sure that these things keep on happening every year. Kerala’s worst flood in the century should have brought a bevvy of questions but surprisingly voters are more interested in pacifying some feminists ego. Mainstream Media’s murky film of misinterpreted information did succeed in creating colossal obscurities. You could read here as to how they pulled off this stunt but why did they do it or what was in it for them is upto the readers to think and decide.

Having said that the media manipulated the viewers, it is also a fact that there was water everywhere. Where ever the camera went, the place was submerged in water.  How did this happen? There has to be a reason for Kerala being flooded with 2346 mm of rainfall during the south-west monsoon where the average annual rainfall during this period is supposed to be within 2250-2500 mm. Central Water Commission of India, responsible for water resource management released their report on Kerala Floods.

The report is made to look like a work of an amateur or a student or an intern. The report used normal rainfall and expected rainfall interchangeable at several places, made some comparisons on a whim. They called 1649 mm of rainfall expected rainfall instead of normal. The rainfall of 1500 mm that is only 150 mm lesser than the so-called normal was called drought in 2012. Knowing this fact the report compared the floods of 2018 with the floods of 1924 where the rainfall than was 600 mm more than the rainfall this year. Normal Rainfall is a mathematical term and expected rainfall is an English one. The report has extensively tried to defend the water resource management or whoever was responsible for managing the dams.

The CWC report implied this:

“The dams in Kerala neither added to the flood nor helped in reduction of the flood”

For a moment, imagine that you are a millionaire and contracted a security agency to protect you from anti-social elements. Unfortunately, you get robbed, and you see that the security officers did nothing to stop the robbery, they just stood by and saw it happening. Frustrated you complained at the agency headquarters. They replied, “we will conduct an internal inquiry”. After a couple of days, they come up with their report “The security officers cannot be held accountable because they neither helped the robbers nor helped you”.

How would you feel? You paid for the services, you should have been protected right? At least I would have thought like that. The different dams were built with the taxpayers’ money, they were an investment.

Around 7-10 lac litres of water was released per second by Idduki dam during August 14-17. If this massive amount of water would not cause flood then what will? If only the dams were emptied to the required level in time, barring a few exceptions, the reservoirs had sufficient capacity to store the access rainfall. The report provides with in-detail the reservoir capacity and the excess runoff caused by the rainfall during that period. For instance: The Periyar sub-basin received 1925 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) of runoff water. The gross reservoir capacity of Idukki Dam on Periyar river is about 1997 MCM at Full Reservoir Level (FRL). The live storage between FRL and Minimum Drawdown Level (MDDL) is about 1460 MCM. On 10 August 2018 at 00:00 hrs, the reservoir was almost full and the extra flood cushion available (below FRL) was about 40 MCM only. The Idamalayar Dam is located on the Idamalayar river, a tributary of the Periyar river in Kerala. Its live storage is about 1018 MCM. The reservoir was nearly 97% full in terms of live storage by August 8, 2018 leaving a flood cushion of 60 MCM.

The flood crisis that happened during Aug (14-16) was caused as the dams were already full. There were several days available to gradually empty the dams. Why wasn’t the water from the dams released gradually during these days? Did the officials trust their guts or instincts after the first few storms and concluded that it would not rain anymore this season as has been the pattern for the past few years? Did they simply ignore the weather forecast? Because the weather forecast would have definitely hinted the rainfall. Or is there no such thing called as weather forecast in Kerala and weather forecast is just a myth? Is the government job attitude (“chalta hai, sab theek hai, ho jaega”) responsible for this disaster?

Of course, mismanagement of the dams is not the only reason. As per July 2008 report of Planning Commission, the water carrying capacity of the system (affecting Pamba sub-basin) is reported to have reduced to an abysmal 0.6 BCM from 2.4 BCM as a result of land reclamation. This is where the Gadgil Committee report comes into the play. But Pamba Sub Basin received only 894 MCM of runoff water against the combined capacity of all the reservoirs of 719 MCM, which unfortunately was not usable as the dams were full. There would still have been floods in this case but the damage would have been comparatively smaller.

Shouldn’t a third party investigate this instead of CWC investigating it for themselves? It is like I wrote the exam and then I checked the copy and when someone pointed out, I rechecked the copy and concluded that I did well. CWC managed the water resources the way they did and when the mess happened, they themselves investigated and concluded they did fine.

If all this is my paranoia then why are the news of drought-like conditions in Kerala coming now? It is too small a time frame between a flood and a drought at the same place, especially when there are massive reservoirs in place. We live in a fully functional democracy and the issues raised by a majority of people would be taken forward. In Kerala this time the people prioritized the entry of women into a temple over the lives of several hundred people. Moreover, when there is enormous money involved, things are not as straightforward as they appear on the surface.

Some questions people should be asking now:

  • Is this money (several thousands of crores transferred in the name of floods) a bailout package for the Kerala Government to recover from the economic mess they are in?
  • How is the Kerala Model of Development (or simply the Kerala Model) related to the Gadgil Committee report?
  • How is the Kerala Model forcing the state to stare at a bigger disaster in the future?

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