It may be by way of abundant caution the Supreme Court may have ruled that the water storage in the Mullaperiyar Dam be kept under 140 feet. There seemed to be little merit in Kerala’s claim that water release from the dam operated by Tamil Nadu was instrumental in causing the floods as its surplus waters flow down to the Idukki Dam. Data presented to the court showed that while the state was beginning to flood by August 6, the Mullaperiyar started releasing water only on August 15. The point is Kerala was trying to apportion the blame while wriggling out of accountability for its own dam management practices that were woefully without a plan as almost all the rivers were in spate simultaneously. Such water releases may have been delayed by dam managers who allowed greedy requirements to prevail over more commonsensical handling of water resources during the monsoon.
The primary reasons for the intense rains of the current monsoon season lie elsewhere. It starts with the revelation that global warming has led to the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic, seen as the last bastion, turning to water. Weather events are getting more extreme. What applies to the west coast of India is the fact that the Arabian Sea has been known to warm more than even the warming Indian Ocean. The atmosphere to Earth and ocean bio-geochemistry interaction has been the same, according to scientists, except that the synergy is taking place in warmer waters and hence leading to extreme rain events striking with intensity and focus. A series of floods in India — in Kashmir, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Chennai — in the last few years, besides damage to the fragile ecology of the hilly Himalayan regions, Kodagu and Kerala point to the fact that something has changed, principally in the climate.
Studies have shown that the phenomena of urban and rural flooding are different. In urban areas, flooding can be six times as intense because of underground impermeability of cities. Kerala’s woes have been doubled as it has suffered both ways after 40-plus overflowing rivers inundated large swathes of the state. This goes to show that little has been learnt from previous extreme weather events. A political blamegame is nothing but childish escapism. Man’s occupation of vast stretches of what should be reserve forestland or well-preserved ecologically sensitive slopes of the Himalayas and the Western Ghats has exacerbated the flooding problems. There has been no worthwhile land use planning as states exploit natural settings for cash-rich tourism and concrete buildings have taken over parts of lakes and backwaters in Kerala. Coastal planning regulations are flouted with brazenness thanks to the neta-babu-builder nexus and river sand is as good as gold for the trio. There is no escaping from paying the price for this profligacy with nature. We cannot be a lawless society in this regard and still expect nature to be continuously and eternally benevolent.