It is not difficult to recognise the worsening situation in Kerala, all thanks to the Kerala Government. The southern state of India is grappling with three lethal viruses – Communism, Coronavirus and Zika virus. Now, one more virus is forming a stranglehold over the state, posing an environmental challenge to the state of Kerala.
The drowning Kerala
The gradually increasing rain has created havoc in Kerala. The heavy rains and landslides in hilly areas of several districts in Kerala have triggered the death of twenty-five people. In another incident, a child drowned in Kozhikode. In addition to that, a family of six, including a 40-year-old man, his 75-year-old mother, a 35-year-old wife and three girl children, aged 14, 12 and 10 years, were killed as their house was swept away in the landslide at Koottickal in Kottayam district.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow alert for several districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, and Kozhikode.
An ‘invited disaster’ by Kerala Government
The environmentalists have called it an “invited disaster” by the region that indirectly points towards the failure of the Kerala Government. It was in August 2011 when the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel chaired by Madhav Gadgil had submitted its report to warn against the construction of new buildings and destruction of natural forests in the highly economic zones.
Despite the notices and the appointment of another committee in 2021 led by K Kasturirangan, the highly ecologically sensitive region in Kerala continued to be an epi-centre of construction activities. No action was taken on these reports after widespread protests from farmers, the church and political parties.
“These disasters were caused due to higher economic activities like rock quarrying, construction of new buildings and roads and destruction of natural forest in the highly economic zones. In our report, we had specially mentioned this. In 2018, the landslides had happened in the highly sensitive areas that we had marked and it is very likely that this year’s landslides are also in the highly sensitive region,” said Gadgil while interacting with Business Standard.
He also added, “Due to the vested interests of a small group of people, measures that could have helped an entire area were blocked. We had asked to stop economic activities only in a small area of the state, which came under the highly sensitive zones. Not paying attention to that has resulted in the landslides and massive floods in recent years. Some of the encroachments and constructions are relatively recent too. This is an invited disaster.”
Reportedly, in August 2016, around 341 major landslides were reported from 10 districts, while Idukki, considered as a highly sensitive zone by Gadgil, was ravaged by 143 landslides. Additionally, there were around 500 deaths reported in the 2018 floods.
The Kerala government has miserably failed on the grounds of economy, health and now the ecology. It is high time that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan takes responsibility for all the losses and learns effective and visionary leadership from other states in order to improve Kerala’s worsening situation.