Disaster preparedness
In 2018, opening the shutters of dams in Idukki without prior warning had caused large-scale flooding, loss of property and lives in Kerala.

One of the biggest criticisms during the 2018 floods in Kerala was that the shutters of the Idukki dam were opened without any warnings. Microphones were also used to wake people up and make them evacuate their houses in the dead of the night. Taking lessons from such incidents, the Kerala government has fitted sirens on select dams in Idukki district.

“The siren will give an advance warning to the people in case the shutters of a dam need to be opened. The sound of the siren can be heard within a radius of 5km from the respective dams,” said K Sivaraman, assistant executive engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), which manages 36 dams in the state. The siren will be turned on by the engineer on duty.   

As part of the first phase, a trial run was carried out at the Cheruthoni, Kallar and Erattayar dams. Each siren was fixed at a cost of Rs 77,000. The sirens were placed as per the directions of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).

KSEB plans to fix sirens on other hydel dams as well.

After the 2018 August flood, the Opposition parties had alleged that the opening of the shutters of the Idukki dam, without proper warning, had caused the large-scale damage in the low-lying areas of the state. They said that the KSEB released more water from the Idukki reservoir, without any warning.

Due to the release of the water from Idukki reservoir, areas of Cheruthoni, Thadiyampad and other villages faced large-scale destruction.

In April this year, the amicus curiae had submitted a report to the Kerala High Court, pointing out the lapses in dam management, which caused the flood in August 2018. The report also noted that many dams at the time had attained their full capacity before the shutters were open. The report says that the Kerala government did not consider the meteorological department’s warnings before the floods.

“Generally, we issue alerts when the water level reaches 2,394 feet. The water level in the Idukki reservoir, at present, is low compared to the previous year,” the KSEB official said.