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Kerala Floods: Extreme Rainfall Was a Major Cause, Says Amicus Curiae Report

With an eye on elections, the report submitted to the High Court, is being selectively used by the Opposition to blame the state government for causing floods by opening dam gates.
Kerala Floods: Extreme Rainfall

New Delhi: The excessive rainfall that had not been anticipated was the major cause of the devastating floods in Kerala last year, said the report filed by the Amicus Curiae appointed by the state high court. Above normal rainfall, more than 42%, during June-August 2018, and extremely heavy rainfall on August 15-17, 2018 caused unprecedented floods resulting in massive loss of life and property across Kerala.

The amicus curiae report portrayed various factors that aggravated the impact of floods. None of the 79 dams in Kerala were operated or used for the purpose of flood control/ moderation; no effective flood control zone is maintained; high reservoir storage even in the first week of August; sudden release of water from all dams; reduced reservoir storage capacity due to siltation; no integrated operation of dams based on scientifically identified Rule Curves, absence of proper Flood Warning etc are some of them, according to sources.

“Since the state does not have the history of frequent flood or flood-like situation,

the dams across the state are maintained with a primary objective of power generation and irrigation,” said a source from state disaster management authority.

“In fact, certain studies have earlier pointed out the effectiveness of the Idukki dam which had somewhat succeeded in controlling the flow of water in river Periyar”, the source added.

Read more: Kerala Floods: Lies, Dam Lies & Statistics

The 49-page report that was filed by the Amicus Curiae advocate Jacob P Alex recommended a more detailed enquiry by appointing an independent expert committee headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court and preferably consisting of a reputed hydrologist, experts in dam management, engineers and other experts.

Meanwhile, leading media organisations in the state, along with the Opposition, tried to portray that report had blamed the opening of dam gates for causing the floods, with an eye on the ongoing election campaign.

While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday termed these as “false allegations” by the Opposition and media, detailing statistics, he said it was up to the courts to accept or reject the Amicus Curiae report.

Though the report is based on four studies that clearly state the causes behind the floods, the opposition is using it as tool for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The studies that have been quoted in the report are “Study report-Kerala Floods of August 2018” by Hydrology Directorate, Central Water Commission (CWC); “Role of dams on the floods of August 2018 in Periyar River Badin, Kerala” by Sudhir KP of IIT Chennai and others; “The Kerala Flood of 2018: combined impact of extreme rainfall and reservoir storage” by Vimal Mishra of IIT Gandhinagar and others and “Role of Dams in Kerala’s Flood Disaster” by Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi, opposition

Read More: "Kerala has Received Widespread Acclaim for its Handling of Dam Systems"

The main findings of the CWC study detailed that the time required for water from farthest point of the catchment area of most of the reservoirs in Kerala to reach the catchment outlet is about 2 to 3 hours. Clearly, the total rainfall in Kerala between August 1, 2018 and August 19, 2018 was 164% above normal. Further, during August 15-17, the three-day rainfall depths realised in Periyar, Pampa, Chalakkudi and Bharathappuzha sub-basins was very high, similar to that of the 1924 rainfall.

More importantly, the CWC study said that dams in Kerala neither added to the flood nor helped in reduction of floods, as most of these were already at FRL (full reservoir level) or very close to FRL on August 14, 2018 due to more than normal rainfall in June to July 2018. In any case it would have been necessary to release water from the reservoirs after first day of extreme rainfall.

The CWC report also added that the release of reservoirs had only a minor role in flood augmentation as the released volume was almost similar to inflow volumes. Even, with the 75 percentage filled reservoirs conditions, the current flood could not have been mitigated as one day rainfall in majority of the area was more than 200 mm and severe rainfall continued for 3 to 4 days.

One other major allegation against the state government is that they did not follow the directions from the centre monitoring systems. But the report only says that “dam managers ought not to have ‘solely’ relied on IMD predictions for dam management and variations in IMD forecast or prediction cannot be counted as a justification for delayed release of water from dams”. It clearly says that state government should not have waited for IMD which is the authority to warn about heavy rains. This itself points to the argument of Kerala government that IMD forecast was not accurate.

Though on August 7 and 8, 2018, there was no heavy rain forecast. From August 8 morning, the state had been witnessing massive rains. On August 9, the gates of most of the dams, including Idukki, had been opened. When the deadly flood hit the state on August 14, the water flow from the dams were under control.

Read More: Kerala Flood Relief: Close to 7 Lakh Persons Have Received Financial Aid, Says CM

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