The Special Session of the Kerala assembly convened on Thursday and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that he death toll in the south-west monsoon in Kerala, from May to August, is 483. He added that 14 people are missing, and 14,50,707 people were housed in relief camps. “As on Thursday, there are 305 relief camps functioning in the state, with 59,296 people staying in them,” he said.
CM Pinarayi added that the state is now in the crucial phase of reconstruction.
“The floods have brought forth certain environmental issues. The relevant question here is if rehabilitation should be done on the ecologically sensitive areas, which are prone to soil erosion, landslides and floods. We should search for possibilities and, while doing reconstruction, bear in mind its environmental impact,” he said.
The most crucial factor ahead is finding the funds. “We saw a huge response for the suggestion that people donate a month’s salary to the distress relief fund,” the CM said.
There are four factors in connection with reconstruction. One, is to raise funds for it; the second is what kind of rehabilitation should be done; the third is mobilizing raw materials for it and the fourth is to ensure livelihoods for all.
"The farming sector is destroyed; trading firms are devastated; the situation is not different for small-scale industries…It would be possible to ensure the livelihood for people if this crisis is addressed. We have survived the Nipah outbreak and Cyclone Ockhi, and the activities going on now will enable us to overcome this disaster as well,” he said.
"Promises of assistance have been pouring in from various parts of the world. The government is looking for ways to get the funds to the state through legal ways,” the CM added.
He also spoke about the three phases that the state would have to go through to overcome any disaster. “The first is rescue, which is over; the second is rehabilitation, which we are in right now; and the third is reconstruction. The Assembly has been convened to discuss how the new Kerala will be built,” he said, stressing on the environmental impact of the reconstruction.
Saying that the deluge posed a huge setback to the economy, Pinarayi said that the damage to the houses and infrastructure has overturned the developmental process of the state. He reiterated that as per the preliminary estimates, the loss the states is facing now is more that the annual planned funds of the state.
The session also paid tribute to the flood victims.
Senior-most leader of ruling CPI (M) and former Chief Minister, VS Achuthanandan, said that what caused the deluge was the interference of man in nature, and lapses in policy. “The reason for the inundation was heavy rainfall. But there is no doubt that the destruction of hills and landslips increased the severity of the disaster. There were lapses in policy too,” he said.
‘Legislations should be strict; the uncontrolled interference of nature in the name of development should reined in. Illegal and unscientific constructions by encroaching forest land, by filling up paddy fields can’t be overlooked anymore. The Gadgil report was approached in a political manner, not scientifically,” he added.
He also urged the government to re-examine why the special task force to decide on the Munnar encroachment stopped functioning.
Opposition blames poor dam management
Congress MLA VD Satheesan blamed the disaster on lack of planning by relevant authorities. He echoed Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala's allegation that the deluge was a man-made disaster.
"The opening of all dam shutters simultaneously caused the disaster. Who entrusted dam management to those who don’t even know the basics of it? They didn’t have the basic knowledge that dam shutters should be opened during low tide. It was heavy raining in June and July. There was time to release water from the dams in small amounts, which was not done. The Power Minister and the Water Resources Minister had said contradicting things about the opening of the dams,” Satheesan alleged in the Assembly.
His speech was disrupted by the ruling front. He also alleged that Power Minister MM Mani showed him rude gestures during his speech.