Kerala fights to get back on feet after flood fury
Govt raises ₹25 crore from citizens, expects to collect a total of ₹100 crore in a week
Bengaluru: Rains have let up in Kerala, leaving a trail of death and destruction, as the state’s residents and expats, politicians and bureaucrats come together to provide relief and help with rebuilding.
According to a finance department official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the government has managed to raise ₹25 crore from citizens in the last 24 hours, and expects to gather a total of ₹100 crore in a week. Incidentally, Union home minister Rajnath Singh announced an immediate relief of ₹100 crore during his visit to the state on Sunday.
Incessant rains, particularly in its central and northern parts, have wreaked havoc in Kerala, leading to 37 deaths and over 100,000 displacements according to government figures.
The shutters of almost all dams in the state had to be opened in the last few days as water levels in reservoirs rose to the brim.
The impact is likely to be felt for a long time, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Sunday. Nearly 20,000 houses were destroyed and about 10,000km of public roads damaged, he added. Officially, the preliminary loss is pegged at about ₹8,316 crore, the worst damage in South India after the 2015 Chennai floods.
Yet, it’s too early to relax, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting another spell of heavy rains in the next 24-48 hours.
According to a state disaster management official, extreme rainfall events and unplanned urbanization have become a ready recipe for recurring disasters like the one in Kerala. According to this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the monsoon has damaged nine out of 10 villages in Kerala; however, the damage is only a fraction of what it suffered during its heaviest rainfall in 1924. The disproportionate impact is due to rampant filling of lakes and wetlands, quarrying, deforestation and other unsustainable land use changes, he said.
Chief minister Vijayan has begun an aggressive campaign to raise money for the relief work, which has found resonance among his colleagues, bureaucrats, residents from neighbouring states, celebrities and expatriates. Several of them have pledged a month’s salary, according to the government.
Finance minister Thomas Isaac has called for greater assistance from the Union government, which has approved ₹100 crore under regular disaster relief fund. “Total loss of floods to Kerala around ₹8000 crores. Immediate mitigation and rectification expenditure to the state around ₹3000.And the central grant precious ₹100. And that too if it is from regular disaster management fund due to Kerala, I donot know!” tweeted Isaac.
The state government on Sunday has announced ₹4 lakh as aid for those who have lost their homes, and ₹6 lakh for those who lost land, against the usual sums of ₹1 lakh and ₹3 lakh respectively. Also, every family in affected regions will get ₹3,800 to help them return to their houses. The state government has also agreed to compensate farm-related damages with thrice the sum of what can be provided under the centre’s aid.
“Altogether, I’m expecting Rs2500 crore (immediate) additional burden for the state government,” Isaac said in a Facebook post. “As the finance minister, this additional expense should worry me. But, seeing the relief camps, I’m not wondered, or worried.”
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