The Jalyukt Shivar scheme launched by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government will help Maharashtra avoid the kind of tragedy Kerala experienced recently, State Additional Chief Secretary Pravin Pardeshi has said. Kerala is struggling in the aftermath of the worst floods in almost a century, triggered by incessant rains. The deluge claimed hundreds of lives and left lakhs homeless.
Pardeshi, who played a crucial role in coordinating relief and rehabilitation measures in Kerala, on behalf of the Maharashtra government, told The Indian Express, “In the last many years, the risk of floods has built up in Maharashtra, because of silting of streams and small rivers, and because garbage and waste is dumped in natural water bodies near towns and villages”. However, he pointed out that the massive Jalyukt Shivar plan, launched by the state government, had led to the desilting and rejuvenation of rivers and streams, so that rainwater could flow naturally, without causing flood damage in village and towns.
The scheme had “mobilised people’s efforts, voluntary contributions, and government and corporate convergence”, said Pardeshi, adding, “the Jalyukt Shivar is a boon for Maharashtra. It will help avert a Kerala-like situation”.
Asked whether the tragedy in Kerala was a natural calamity or man-made factors were also behind it, Pardeshi said, “I have worked as head of regional offices on the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) in Geneva from 2002 to 2007. UNISDR say there are no natural disasters, there are only natural hazards; natural hazards like heavy rain or an earthquake become a disaster when man makes risky constructions in flood hazard or earthquake zones, without factoring in risk mitigation measures, like regional planning that leaves rivers and natural drainages ecologically conserved”.
Explaining how Maharashtra was well-prepared to deal with a Kerala-like situation, Pardeshi said, “The Maharashtra government, under the chief minister, undertook and completed the task of preparing and statutorily mandating regional land use plans for all 36 districts of Maharashtra, and pending land use plans of over 100 towns and cities were also approved”.
“These regional plans demarcate rivers and natural drainages and mark green zones around rivers. If these demarcations are followed while giving building permissions, it will ensure that flood risk is minimised,” he said.
Pardeshi cited the example of the development plan for Pune, in which natural drainages, as well as the buffer green zone along the banks of the natural drainages, were marked. “Similarly, construction activities have to factor in flood mitigation engineering…” he said.
The Maharashtra government has pledged Rs 20 crore in assistance to Kerala, said Pardeshi. The state government has also mobilised lakhs of food packets, and had sent 100 doctors with medicines, who worked in relief camps in Kerala for two weeks.
Pardeshi said while he was in Kerala, he “coordinated efforts of many voluntary organisations, corporates and government initiatives, in a demand driven manner. My batchmate in Kerala, Rajiv Sadanandan, was able to articulate exact requirements in the health sector in terms of needing medical teams consisting of one doctor, one nurse, one assistant. We could airlift this team, led by our Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan, immediately via an Air Force plane.”