It is as though God has forsaken his ‘own country’. Kerala is witnessing nature’s fury on such a massive scale that nearly half of its area is on a red alert. Shutters of 23 dams across the state have been opened to let water flow downstream because the dams are receiving water from the torrential rains in their catchment areas at a rate they can hardly hold.
The Idukki dam, for the first time since its construction, has opened all its five shutters and still the water level in the reservoir is showing no sign of letup. The water gushing down has taken a heavy toll of the area it is passing through by uprooting trees and devouring everything coming in its way, including roads and constructions along the banks. Keralites have not experienced such flood fury since 2013. And old timers have likened it to the ‘Flood of 99’, denoting the year 1099 in the Malayalam Era calendar, corresponding to 1924, when similar floods ravaged the state in the wake of non-stop rains.
While this year’s monsoon fury may be part of the global phenomena of climatic changes, the ferocious manner in which rain water has crashed down the slopes is nature’s own way of retribution for human greed, the most vulgar form of which has been visible throughout the length and breadth of Kerala. The state has virtually been taken over by mafias of all hues, encroaching on river beds, forests and rocks, shaving off vegetative cover on massive stretches of lands and devouring hills to make way for settlements and mine materials to run those constructions.
The wild fury of the flood has reclaimed much of the riverbeds, encroached by the real estate and construction mafias. Land being a scarce resource in Kerala, the encroachments have enjoyed political patronage, irrespective of which party or combination has been in power. And now it is nature’s turn to show the usurpers their place. Hopefully, those who are in charge will learn a few lessons.
But it is a matter of great satisfaction that the relief and rescue operations have managed to limit loss of lives to the minimum. The casualties were mostly due to landslides, which occur in a flash that there is no scope for any precaution. So far, the toll has been fewer than 30, but the brute force of the downstream flow would have suggested much larger numbers. Teams of Army and National Disaster Response Force have done a creditable job, rescuing affected people and fending for them. Above all, people in the effected areas have shown a rare sense of accommodation and fortitude by taking matters in their stride. That has been a striking feature of the crisis, the depth of which will take some time to be known.