Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday alleged that the flood was caused by poor dam management by the LDF government coupled with its greed to store water to generate power.
The Congress-led Opposition, he said, was working in unison with the government to see the state through the tragedy. However, he said, the flood tragedy was a creation of the government, which failed to manage dams. “The flood was not just created by heavy rain, but because 44 dams were opened without any alert to people downstream and without adopting scientific water management,’’ Chennithala said.
He said nine dams on Pampa river were opened in a single sweep. Also, he said, 11 dams in Idukki and Ernakulam districts and six on Chalakkudi river in Thrissur were opened without any precaution. “The government had little idea about which places downstream would get submerged in such a scenario. In the worst-flooded places in Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta districts, people were not informed about the grave situation,’’ he said.
He alleged that Kerala State Electricity Board, which manages the dams, was concerned only with generating power. In 2013, when the dam received copious inflow, the situation did not require opening up of shutters as water had been kept at a manageable level by increasing power generation earlier, Chennithala said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan refuted allegations of the Leader of the Opposition and said that the government is ready to face criticism, but the critics should see if there is substance in their criticism.
Vijayan told the media that Chennithala, during his visit to Idukki on July 30, had stated in his Facebook Page, ‘… I am visiting Idukki dam. If the water level goes up by 0.36 ft, orange alert would be declared. Steps to allay people’s anxiety should be taken immediately. Opening of shutter has become inevitable.’
The Chief Minister said the post showed that Chennithala was aware of the blue alert declared prior to the orange alert and that he knew that it was “inevitable” to open the dam.
Quoting another Facebook post by Chennithala on August 14, stating that the district administration and district disaster management authority have taken all steps, the Chief Minister said the Leader of Opposition is now accusing the government of inaction.
He also countered Chennithala comparing this year’s rainfall with that of 1924 when the region witnessed a deluge. Chennithala had said Kerala received 2500 mm rain this season from June 1 to August 20, whereas the rainfall in 1924 was 3368 mm. Vijayan said the figures were misguiding as 3368 mm rain was received over the whole season in 1924, whereas 2500 mm rain was recorded over the period from June 1 to August 20.
He also said it was not just overflowing dams that caused the flood and that natural flow of water to rivers during the rain also contributed. He also countered Chennithala’s claim that Idukki dam was not opened in 2013 despite the region receiving heavy rain. “Idukki dam reached full reservoir level in 2013 not during south west monsoon, but during north west monsoon. Even though water level reached the full reservoir level of 2304 ft, the dam was not opened as it happened during North West monsoon, just before summer.”