The opposition in Kerala has reiterated its demand for a judicial inquiry into the release of water from the dams in the state during the rains, alleging that the mismanagement of the dams led to a deluge.
Three former Revenue Ministers from the Opposition – Congress’ Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, PJ Joseph from Kerala Congress (M) and NK Premachanadran, RSP MP – held a joint press meet in Thiruvananthapuram and came down heavily on the government, reiterating their demand for a judicial probe into the release of water from the dams in Kerala.
“True that the disaster was due to the excess rain water, due to the heavy rains which the state received after 1924. But at the same time the calamity has been doubled or tripled because of the poor management of dams in Kerala,” Premachandran said, addressing the meeting.
He went on to stated that the rainfall began as early as June 1 and almost all dams were more or less in full reservoir capacity by mid-July. “The IMD had predicted heavy rainfall from August 9 to August 15. Despite this, the government had done nothing to manage water in the reservoirs,” Premachandran added.
He also alleged that the government had failed to conduct a calibrated release of water. “Instead of regulating the water level, all the dam shutters were opened simultaneously, which turned a calamity into a big disaster, leading to widespread human casualties and devastation,” he said.
The opposition leaders, representing various political parties of the Opposition United Democratic Front, also hit out at the government for its failure to reconstitute the State Disaster Management Authority despite the demand for the same after cyclone Ockhi.
“There is no Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Flood Forecasting for the dams in the state. Almost all the 24 states in the country are parties of the Central Water Commissions’ programme of the SOP. Though the Centre, too, had asked Kerala to apply for the same, the state has done nothing,” Premachandran alleged.
Premachandran stated that an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) - for flood gauging, flood mapping and to decide on what action should be taken at the time of emergency - should be formulated for all the dams as per the Commission’s direction in 2016.
“The Commission’s direction for an EAP was substantiated by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its report in 2017. The government should answer why it didn’t apply for SOPs and why the EAP was not formed,” Premachandran urged.
“The absence of an Emergency Action Plan is a criminal negligence. It has worsened the situation in Aranmula, Ranni, Pandalam and Pathanamthitta. It was mere luck that the rain was moderate in these areas otherwise what Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian warned about the region could have come true,” he added.
The opposition leader also hit out at the state of Tamil Nadu, stating it was taking a negative stand without considering the situation Kerala has been facing. “It was mere luck that it didn’t rain heavily in the Mullapperiyar catchment area,” he said.
Joseph and Thiruvanchoor said that the government should “abandon false prestige” and introspect on what could have been done and should announce a judicial probe.