With memories of last year’s devastating floods still fresh in the minds of people of Kerala, they want the issue of climate change to be a dominant theme of the electoral discourse in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls beginning April 11.
A total of 483 people lost their lives in the August 2018 floods, which were the state’s worst in a century.
According to the Kerala government, one-sixth of the state’s total population was directly affected by the deluge and related incidents.
The residents now want the political parties to take up climate change as one of the main issues in the upcoming general election.
“I am 100 per cent certain about the need for climate change to be one of the main discussion points in the impending elections,” said Arun K Nair, a senior management executive with a leading hospital group in Kochi.
“As a Keralite who has enjoyed the most optimum climatic conditions for over four decades, the plight of flood victims in other parts of the country was more like a tall tale for me, but only until I witnessed the floods in Kerala last year,” he said.
Arun’s relatives, living in nearby Aluva, were among those hit hard by the floods.
According to a UN report released last year, which assessed the damage caused by the floods in Kerala, the state would need about Rs 31,000 crore for recovery and reconstruction.
Thiruvananthapuram-based writer K S Manu said the floods were a time when people realised the incapacity of politicians as a majority of the rehabilitation work was undertaken by young volunteers.
He said the deluge was a man-made disaster which was allegedly caused by “an eccentric political decision when more than 22 dams were opened one by one.”
The floods not just led to loss of lives, but also loss of property and means of livelihood, he added.
Manu alleged that the state government had made a “conscious effort” to divert people’s ire by creating new political issues like the entry of women of menstrual age into Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
“Justice will be denied to people unless the general political discourse is changed. It should be based on green politics and modern concepts of a welfare society,” he said.
Manu also questioned the sincerity of politicians in handling such issues.
“Whether it is Left or Right, a natural disaster means funds, and funds mean bribes and misappropriation,” he said.
Referring to the failed rehabilitation of victims of 2004 tsunami, which ravaged the south west Kerala coast, Manu asserted that politicians and politics will not change anytime soon.
Citing a report released by the IPCC last year — Global Warming of 1.5ºC, noted Indian climate expert Chandra Bhushan said a 2 degrees Celsius warmer world will have devastating effects on communities, economies and ecosystems.
Bhushan, who is also the deputy director general of New Delhi-based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment, urged the politicians to listen to the people and take steps to minimise the impact of climate change.
In a speech in September last year, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres had referred to the devastating Kerala floods to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis, which, he said, was nearing the point of no return.
The UN chief had also emphasised on the need to step up efforts to reverse the course of climate change.