Weeks after one of the worst floods in almost a century in Kerala that left a trail of unprecedented destruction, water resource minister Mathew K Thomas has told NDTV that the report of the Central Water Commission has vindicated the state's stand. "The Central Water Commission (CWC) has concluded that it was not mismanagement of dams, rather extreme rainfall," Mr Thomas said.
"IMD warned of very heavy rainfall. Not extreme rainfall. CWC report states 44 rivers can contain 2,250 mcm (million cubic meter) but rainfall that reached rivers was more than 14,000 MCM. Dams had begun to be opened from June itself," Mr Thomas added.
"You can't imagine 433 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) or 12.3 bcm (billion cubic metres) of water coming in, which is 14 per cent of the annual run off. All this is coming within three days. Your dams are like small vessels. Even if your dam was entirely emptied, it would make no qualitative difference to the floods," said James Wilson, a special officer from Kerala for the inter-state water authority.
But the opposition led by Ramesh Chennithala has slammed the state for a "man-made disaster".
"CWC is saving its own skin because it did not do its work. Despite the warning, state government did not open the dams. As a MLA of this area, I kept calling officials and asking them to open this Tottappalli spillway. No one did. If they had, Kuttanad would not have been flooded like this. This is a man-made disaster and complete mismanagement of dams," Mr Chennithala told NDTV.
Though the official report of the CWC is likely to be out on Monday, Sarat Chandra, the Commissioner told NDTV, "The rainfall between August 1 and 19 was 164 per cent more than normal. The earlier June-July rainfall compounded the problem. Intense rainfall is the primary cause of the flood. This rainfall between August 15 and 17 can be compared to the 1924 floods."
The commission has also raised concerns at the shrinking capacity of Vembanad Lake in Kerala to absorb the excess rainfall, worsening the deluge in Alappuzha and Kottayam. It has also recommended that the rule curves, meant for management of dams, should be revisited and revised particularly for reservoirs that have capacity more than 200 million cubic metres.
As the people of Kerala make efforts to rebuild their lives, the recovery is slow and painful. In Pathanamthitta's Kottoor, the last few days have been very tough for 68-year-old Kunja Amma. Her house built painstakingly with government funds now stands with cracks on the wall. The house is unsafe to live in and most of her belongings inside have been either washed away or destroyed. "I can't repair this house anymore... I have no money. It's a traumatic experience," said Kun Amaa.