Express News Service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Two years after the mega flood of 2018 and when heavy rain pounds the state even now, major announcements made by the state government two years ago for building a new Kerala still remain on paper.
The state government had stressed the need to frame new building rules suited for the high ranges and flood-prone areas. Further, a river management authority for ensuring the better management of rivers and ensuring a smooth flow through the waterbodies by preventing encroachment was announced along with a slew of other promises. But the majority of these promises are yet to materialise. While the state witnessed a devastating landslide at Pettimudi in Rajamala near Munnar in Idukki this season along with some minor landslides, around 70 major landslides had occurred during the 2019 flood.
According to the data compiled by the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority with the help of various agencies, 1,848.3-sq-km area (14.4 per cent) in Kerala is high-hazard zone (landslide-prone), while 5,624.1-sq-km area (14.5 per cent) is flood prone. A senior bureaucrat privy to the development in the state said the new building rules suggested for the hazard zones or flood-prone areas in the state are yet to be drafted while discussions are at various stages. So is the case with the river management authority.
Moreover, the new building rules are a hot potato for the ruling dispensation as anything that alters the current status will burn their fingers. “Everybody who lives in flood-prone and landslide-prone areas wants to enjoy all facilities the people who live in midland have, despite living in treacherous terrains. Hence, more than bureaucratic intervention, a political intervention is required. Otherwise, tragedies like Pettimudi will keep repeating every year,” he said.
Another senior bureaucrat who handled the revenue portfolio for long said, “A centralised revenue department is no longer required in Kerala. The revenue department should be divided into two and the land administration has to be given to the local self-government department for better coordination for disaster management and land management. The sovereign functions like issuing various revenue certificates have to be vested with revenue department. But again, the political parties which have been keeping the revenue portfolio for long will not allow this to happen as they have some vested interests,” he added.
The road not taken
The Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report prepared by the UN suggested measures for disaster-risk reduction in the wake of an increasing frequency of high-intensity rainfall which leads to flooding and landslides.
Though plans and laws such as integrated water resources management or coastal regulation zone notification required reducing the natural disasters, most of them are not implemented.
The legislation for housing and land use in fragile zones is yet to be enacted even two years after the mega flood.