For Kerala, Getting Back on its Feet is the Biggest Challengeby Opinion Express August 21, 2018 0 comments
The State and Central both need to join their hands to help Kerala get back on its feet.
While the rains in Kerala have gradually abated and flood waters are receding, the real task of preventing the outbreak of epidemics and providing relief and comprehensive rehabilitation begins now. The flood-ravaged State is making efforts to inch towards normalcy but the fact is that large swathes of Kerala have been laid waste even as rescue operations are still ongoing in an effort to reach the remotest areas. The rains that hit Kerala were certainly unprecedented. Beginning this month, the State has received 2344.84 mm of rainfall, which is over 42 per cent in excess, which along with the accompanying storms, have had devastating consequences. Roads now resemble Venetian canals; submerged in these waterways are debris from cars and two-wheelers, waste and animal carcasses. More than 300 people have died. Lakhs of people, who were displaced, have been moved to safer places but this only means that their lives have been saved. The major task ahead is to rehabilitate them and get the economy going again. The NDRF, the Armed Forces and the State and Union Governments have been engaged in round-the clock-in rescue operations — not just evacuating people to safer locations but also being proactive in the distribution of relief materials and medical care but that phase is now coming to an end. As flood waters have begun to recede the scale of the devastation is becoming apparent. The immediate aid from the Centre to the tune of some Rs 600 crore and contributions from various other State Governments as well as civil society groups and individuals while welcome, will not be enough. The loss to the State has been humongous. Close to Rs 19,000 crore is the initial loss estimate and this will go up. Infrastructure — including roads, bridges, power-generating units and transmission lines, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, potable water lines and small businesses, not to mention tourism and industries — will have to be rebuilt virtually from scratch in large parts of the State. And this, after the initial clean up and disinfection process which will have to be undertaken with a thoroughness not usually associated with India if epidemics have to be prevented. Even as relief measures are on, the threat of air and water-borne diseases needs to be tackled simultaneously. An outbreak and/or of the spread of such diseases has the potential to kill more people than the floods themselves.
When God’s Own Country gets added to the list of States where extreme weather events are becoming commonplace it is a reminder about the very real — and deadly — impact of climate change which is human-made. Extreme rainfall events have been recurring in Kerala, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East States. Yet, nobody is fully prepared for the disaster, which includes prevention measures such as restricting if not completely banning mining, preventing building near rivers and keeping floodplains free of all encroachments. Ultimately, it is the State Government that has the authority and must show the will sort this out. Now that rebuilding has been forced upon Kerala, it would be apt if policies are formulated based on ecologically smart strategies and better infrastructure planning. Promoting haphazard development amounts to playing with precious human lives.
Courtesy: The Pioneer