The recent Kerala Floods have been disastrous, to say the least. Around half a million people have been displaced, 80 dams have been opened, 10,000 km of roads have been damaged, and the losses have surpassed 100 Billion Indian Rupees. But is this just a natural disaster, or could it be avoided?
Climate change, or rather man-made climate change comes with many consequences. One such consequence is irregular weather cycles. This leads to unusual patterns of rains – it rains when it should not and vice versa. The fact that the amount of rainfall that should have been spread over a period of four months, was received in two and a half months – is a testament to this theory. In fact, the permafrost melt – again due to climate change – is helping release huge levels of methane – which is also affecting the weather patterns.
The Arctic Ice Melt, which is another consequence of the climate change, is resulting in ocean level rise. Such a rise is a threat to the world’s coastal regions. More than 70% of the world’s population resides in coastal regions. Kerala is a coastal state, and most of the areas affected – Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur, Palghat, Kozhikode, Kannur, Trivandrum, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Thrissur – are coastal towns and districts.
This video clearly explains this and other major reasons:
Talking about the local environment, Kerala is part of a fragile Indian ecosystem – the Western Ghats. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, appointed an environmental research commission called the Gadgil Committee in 2011. Headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil, the purpose of the committee was to conduct a detailed research for conservation of the Western Ghats. One major recommendation was that over 9,000 sq km area of the state (Kerala) must be marked as ecologically sensitive. It was recommended that the designated area should not be used for development and construction, and other activities such as stone quarrying and thermal power plant projects.
The committee’s report was shockingly criticized for being too environment-friendly. The recommendations were hardly paid any heed and the Kerala floods just explain why that was a mistake on the part of the government. Also, shortage of trees due to deforestation resulted in poor drainage. Even the man-made constructions could not be saved and the rescue operations were negatively affected due to landslides in spans of every two to three kilometers.
Ignorance towards global climate change issues and the natural local environment was certainly one of the reasons why this disaster led to such irreparable repercussions. Madhav Gadgil has next predicted a disaster of similar magnitude in Goa – which can only be avoided by taking precautions. We just hope that a citizen movement would help us avoid such calamities in the coming future.
Image Source: Reuters