Spotlight Activity: Kerala Floods 2018
The monsoon floods in south Indian state of Kerala led to the most casualties among extreme global events in 2018, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organisation. This disaster, the worst flood since 1920s, caused by extreme rainfall, killed about 500 people, displaced more than 1.4 million people from their homes and affected 5.4 million. It’s estimated that the flooding and landslides wreaked havoc in the state by destroying 10,000 kms of highways and damaging 45,000 hectares of farmland. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), a wing of the India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has concluded, after a meteorological analysis of this disaster event, that the extreme rainfall and flooding were caused by climate change. The IMD, which has been working on a report to gauge the cause of these heavy floods, has found that more than 75 percent of the geographical area in Kerala is vulnerable to flooding. According to the IMD officials, this vulnerability of the state got exacerbated due to unprecedented rainfall that led to extreme flooding.
The state government has estimated the loss and damage at 20,000 crore Indian rupees, that’s about $2,840 million. According to the UK based Charity ‘Christian Aid’, that has come up with the cost of 10 biggest disasters of 2018, the Kerala floods cost $500 million. The country witnessed dirty politics around the flood relief estimation as well as funds allocation. The state government alleged that the government of India not only refused to release the amount of funds it should from the dedicated kitty but also prevented the state from raising international resources. This calls for serious debate in the national and global climate dialogues under the ‘Loss and Damage’ domain of climate negotiations. The provincial governments and federal government need to work in tandem with regard to allocation and use of the disaster relief and rehabilitation funds.
The other important issue that has popped up from the Kerala disaster is about role of the dams. The IMD officials themselves have admitted that Kerala flooding has happened because of extreme rainfall during monsoon 2018 and large amounts of water stored in catchments of reservoirs, which had to be released; and that it is because of climate change that such disasters happen. These official talks however do not get reflected in the country’s Climate Change Action Plans.
Status: Falling Behind
The Kerala floods of August 2018 have exposed serious lacunae in the way India’s climate action plans have been implemented. Most of the damage could have been averted and/or minimised with proper data generation, sharing and dam operations; and effective coordination mechanisms between the provincial and federal governments could have helped strengthen the relief and rehabilitation efforts. Given the damages the disaster caused and the lack of appropriate policies and mechanisms for use and management of disaster mitigation funds, Climate Scorecard is giving the government response one star.
Please write to the Disaster Management Division at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India and urge them to update the National Disaster Mitigation Fund allocation rules and then integrate them into the Climate Change Action Plans of both Federal and Provincial governments. Also urge upon them to review India’s stand on support of foreign governments and agencies to disaster affected provinces and allow the same for effective adaptation to climate change induced disasters.
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Joint Secretary (DM) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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