Letter to BS: Some vital lessons to be learned from Kerala floods

The article “Kerala floods: Warning of times to come” by Sunita Narain was timely (September 10). While it will take Kerala years to rebuild, it should be seen that some vital lessons are learned from the debacle and the same mistakes are not repeated. The way nature has been tampered with for so many years, Kerala-like disasters will continue to happen in other parts of the country.

The management of dams is a crucial factor. In the case of Kerala, the deluge in a week dumped copious quantity of water that forced the dams to open their gates. If the dams had not released the water, the possibility of the pressure of water breaking the dams would have unleashed a greater tragedy. More technology needs to be used for better forecasting. Information should also percolate to the lowest levels of dam management without delay. Decisions with regard to water retention limit and release should not be cast in stone. Based on forecasts, officials should be empowered to release water from dams in a phased manner. With the advances we have made in the forecasting and predicting rain, the information regarding unusual patterns should be monitored at a senior level and lower-level functionaries should be guided appropriately. 

A balance should also be struck between protection of the ecosystem and progress. While we may not be able to forestall such tragedies, we can at least learn from how magnificently Kerala rose to the challenge and create a template for disaster management. The role of the local media should also be applauded here. Kerala-based news channels showed the way to the whole nation on disaster reporting. They doubled up as call centres fielding calls from desperate people. Details of these struck people were forwarded to the nearest rescue crew. These should come as learnings for us to tackle future disaster scenarios.