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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Kerala struggles to rein in the river that changed course

Trichur: The Karuvannur river has wreaked havoc in Kerala’s Thrissur district, destroying large tracts of land and washing away a key 2.2km stretch connecting two national highways, NH17 and NH47, near the Arattupuzha temple. Torrential rains and water released from two dams—Peechi and Chimmini—led to the river, which originally flowed westwards, to change its course on Friday night as it gushed through 40 thickly populated villages in the downstream area to eventually merge with the sea.

On Monday, a 21-member team trained in building embankments on overflowing rivers was flown in from Kuttanaad to Thrissur to arrest the flow of water with poles and bags of cement mixture.

State education minister C. Raveendranath, who oversaw the work, told Mint that the state has suffered damages of at least 50,000 crore and rebuilding of over 10,000km of state and national highways will start in full swing as soon as rain stops and water recedes.

“We need to make long-term plan for mitigating the impact of calamities."

The extent of damages caused by the worst floods in over a century and the challenges of restoring lost infrastructure is dawning upon the state, which has witnessed rampant sand mining and extensive real estate development of agricultural land.

Madhav Gadgil, who headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under the ministry of environment and forests in 2010, said at least a part of the problem in Kerala was “man made," the Indian Express reported on Monday.

Rajendran, a village officer, said that real estate development has left little open space for rain water to flow out during the monsoon.

The latest floods have also highlighted the need for adopting a different approach in building roads.

“The entire water that should have gone to the sea has reached thickly inhabited areas. New roads in flood prone areas needed rubberised tarring," said a state revenue department official, also named Rajendran.

Raveendranath said the state is hoping to get more financial assistance from the centre when reconstruction work picks up.

The state’s preliminary assessment of damage based on central government norms for fiscal support is 19,512 crore, while officials peg the actual requirement at a higher level.

The central government has announced 500 crore immediate financial assistance and various relief measures after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state on Saturday to assess the impact of floods. Meanwhile, those who took shelter at relief camps are not sure about their future.

“We do not know what has happened to our homes. I am not confident of staying in my house even after the water goes. It may just collapse," said Mini, a woman staying at a camp here.

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Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Gireesh has over 22 years of experience in business journalism covering diverse aspects of the economy, including finance, taxation, energy, aviation, corporate and bankruptcy laws, accounting and auditing.
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Updated: 21 Aug 2018, 10:36 AM IST
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