KOCHI: The floods that devastated the state of Kerala in the second week of August should be viewed as an opportunity to diHscuss and come to conclusions on burning topics such as dam safety, weather forecasts, alerts to common people, the role of government in ensuring the safety of people and their wealth, etc.
The views expressed by the chairman of Kerala Dam Safety Authority (KDSA), Justice CN Ramachandran recently in connection with the floods, which took away more than 450 precious lives and made the state poorer by a few tens of thousands of crores, sounded a bit callous.
Responding to a pointed question from a news channel anchor whether KDSA could honour its responsibility with respect to the dam safety in the run-up to this disaster, Justice CN Ramachandran Nair seems to have put on a brave face to state that “KDSA has been doing its level best to safeguard the dams, and the Authority hasn’t had much to do beyond this at this juncture.”
Justice Ramachandran may be right or wrong – we don’t know what KDSA’s mandate is. We don’t know what the dam safety means – is it the safety of dams or the safety of the people, who risk their life in the event of a collapse of dam or inundation from the huge release of water from the dam.
One thing is for sure – there is now enough space for all stakeholders in the disaster, whether be it KDSA, meteorological department, government per se, Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEBL), or anyone for that matter, to wash their hands of the blame with impunity.
This should change. The responsibility of each one should be clearly calibrated and the sequence of processes should be well defined in such an eventuality. We cannot behave and argue like people in a primitive age and leave the ‘Rights’ to be fought out at channel debates.
Even I used to wonder how an opposition can be expected to throw its weight behind a government and risk their chances of winning an election next time after giving all credit in a disaster relief work to a government led by their prospective opponents. Though this is a view expressed tongue in cheek (blame it on the democratic system), is it not a crude fact of life in a state like Kerala, where tens of thousands look up to a promising career in politics?
Doesn’t this aspect play a role in the opposition training their criticism against the government now?
We are soon having a prestigious conference on dam safety – International Dam Safety Conference – 2019 to be held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India during February 13-14, 2019.
The conference programme will include enlightening presentations from leading professionals in the water resources sector, an exhibition of latest technology and services and a study tour to Hirakud dam – the longest earthen dam in India and the biggest artificial lake in Asia.
Hope someone will be there from our side too, to express concerns about our dams, especially the 133-year-old Mullaperiyar and to seek expert views on the dam safety issues in Kerala.
I am sure the recent flood disaster in Kerala will figure there as a big debate topic and several scientific solutions to this could also come up there.