Kerala floods: A national calamity

The death and devastation suffered by Kerala in the recent floods is a national calamity and should be treated as such. Preliminary assessments have put the damage to crops and property at Rs. 8000 crore. (Kerala’s revenue budget for the current year is Rs. 88,000 crore). The death toll has already crossed the 400 mark. The whole economy of this small State has received a body blow. While enabling the lakhs of displaced people to return to their homes is the priority, there are several bigger tasks ahead: rebuilding their homes, preventing outbreak of epidemics, restoring road and rail communications and last but not the least, rebuilding the State’s devastated economy. Financial assistance announced so far by the Union Government and various State Governments adds up to around Rs. 750 crore only. Individual contributions are also pouring in.
It is assuring to see that despite the fact that two different political parties with opposing ideologies are ruling at the Centre and in Kerala, everyone has joined hands in reaching food, medicine and medical relief to the hundreds of thousands of marooned people. This is what it should be. Kerala is a national calamity that calls for a national response. That the Prime Minister and the Kerala Chief Minister flew together in a helicopter to make an aerial survey of the flood affected areas is assuring. It shows that in times of crisis it is possible for everyone to overcome political differences and work together for the alleviation of the sufferings of the people. Rebuilding Kerala is a stupendous task in which everyone has to lend his hand. Some contingency plans have to be made for tackling, on an emergency basis, such natural calamities in future. Usually, the first instinct of people in flooded areas is to take shelter on the dams. But when the dams are also washed away by the fury of flood waters, they just do not know where to go.
As floods have struck in varying degrees several other States this year, a longer range view of the flood problem has to be taken. It has to be first ascertained whether this year’s floods are just once in many years or they are going to be recurrent due to climate change. If we have to learn to live with the floods, then a holistic view of the problem should be taken and appropriate measures have to be adopted to minimize the effects of the floods in terms of loss of human lives, crops and property.

Monday, 20 August, 2018