Kerala is facing one of the most devastating floods in almost an entire century. According to a government estimate, 164 people have already died in the flood-hit state and lakhs have been displaced. In face of the catastrophic floods, ill preparedness of the state government has been exposed. Vijayan government seems to be totally helpless in face of the massive floods. Actually, the Kerala government had more than a fair chance of anticipating the catastrophic floods and preparing well in advance. But it was years of government apathy due to which the common people have come in the firing line of the disastrous floods this year.
As per a report, the Congress government followed by the CPI (M) government remained oblivious to the warning signals by the Madhav Gadgil committee in 2011. It can be said that the people of Kerala are now paying for the blatant disregard of the Gadgil report and the short-sightedness of the Kerala government. Gadgil is a renowned ecologist and founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science. Therefore, by ignoring the recommendations of such an expert panel, the Congress government in Kerala followed by the CPI (M) government committed grave errors. The Gadgil committee had recommended that 140,000 kilometers of the Western Ghats be classified in three zones as per the requirement of environmental protection in the areas. However, the Kerala government rejected recommendations of the Gadgil Committee. It is due to the callous attitude of the state government that despite warnings being issued well in advance, the floods had such a devastating impact. It is not in dispute that the floods were indeed catastrophic and very high in magnitude. However, we cannot deny the fact that had the government heeded to the Gadgil Committee recommendations, much of the damage could have been avoided. Ten out of fourteen districts in the state have been badly affected. Several dams in the state were opened due to water rise and 211 places reported mudslides or landslides across the state. Most of the regions which suffered damage had been classified as ecologically-sensitive zones (ESZs) by the Gadgil Committee. This shows that the report given by the Committee was accurate and impeccable.
Apart from this, in some areas Madhav Gadgil Committee had recommended strongly against mining and quarrying, use of land for non-forest purposes and construction of high rises. But even these recommendations were ignored without due consideration, Madhav Gadgil has meanwhile strongly admonished the Kerala government for its casual approach and has stated that irresponsible environmental policy is to blame for the recent floods and landslides. He has gone to the extent of calling it a “man-made calamity”. Environmentalists have also pointed out extensive quarrying, increase of tourism in the state and illegal forest acquisition by private parties as the major reasons behind this catastrophic calamity.
No doubt there have been massive rains and flooding in the state of Kerala but the fact remains that the callousness and apathy of the Kerala government is also to a large extent responsible for the massive destruction suffered by the state. Kerala floods are a clear case of a myopic government which is not able to look above petty political gains. It is on account of shoddy governance by the Kerala government that its common people are facing undue hardships and devastation.