Congress’ Ramesh Chennithala alleges Kerala dam shutters opened without proper alert, demands probe

Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday alleged that shutters of various dams in the rain-ravaged state were opened without proper alerts, which flooded most of the districts and claimed 231 lives, besides leaving a trail of destruction.

He also demanded a judicial probe into the allegations.

The flooding which claimed several lives in the state was a “man-made disaster”, he said, adding all the dams were opened without any prior warning and it led to a huge crisis.

People were not shifted to safer places, the Congress leader told reporters here.

Hitting out at state Power Minister MM Mani and Water Resources Minister TM Thomas Issac, Chennithala said there was no coordination between the two ministers when the shutters of the Cheruthoni dam and part of the Idukki reservoir were opened.

He also attacked officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for trying to reap maximum profit by generating more power, even as the situation was getting out of hand.

In many of the worst-affected districts, people were asleep when the water level rose and entered their homes, he said.

In mid-July, all dams were 90 per cent full. KSEB and the government ignored the warnings, the Congress leader alleged.

CPI(M) MLA Raju Abraham said even before any warning, Ranni in Pathnamthitta had started flooding, adding there were lapses in the opening of shutters of Kakki and Pamba dams.

Allegations have also surfaced that three shutters of Banasura Sagar dam in Wayanad were opened without even informing the district collector.

Wayanad CPI(M) district secretary P Gagarin said there were complaints that people were not informed initially, but in the second phase, enough warnings had been given asking people to shift to safer places.

“No one has lost life due to rise in water level. Some deaths had occurred due to landslides,” he said.

The Aliyar dam in Upper Sholayar was opened by Tamil Nadu without warning, thus flooding many parts of Thrissur and Chalakudy, while there are charges that no red alert was sounded before the dams of the Sabarigiri scheme were opened, resulting in severe flooding.

Meanwhile, Dam Safety Chairman C N Ramachandran Nair said the allegations were “baseless”.

“Everyone knows water was rising in the reservoirs and rivers were in spate. Now the allegations are being levelled only for the sake of blaming somebody,” he said.

KSEB Chairman K P Sreedharan Nair also denied the allegations and said there was no lapse on part of the board, adding the dams were opened after enough alerts.

There is no point in blaming the board for opening of the dams as most of the rivers were overflowing due to heavy rains, he said.

For the first time in Kerala during the south-west monsoon, all the 40-odd rivers were in spate. Reservoirs were filled to the brim and shutters of 80 dams were opened to release water.

According to a Kochi report, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president and North Paravur MLA V D Satheesan termed as “man-made” the floods that ravaged the state.

He said the floods occurred due to failed dam management of various agencies including the state electricity board.

“It is not a natural calamity. It is a man-made disaster,” he told PTI.

Satheesan, who is in the midst of relief and rehabilitation operations in his flood-hit Assembly constituency in Ernakulam district, alleged there was “dereliction of duty” at the chief minister and chief secretary levels on dam management and ensuring safety of those living downstream.

He also demanded a probe by dam experts on the issue and prosecution of the political and bureaucratic leadership responsible for the “man-made calamity” that killed several people and rendered thousands homeless.

The North Paravur MLA charged that there was no advisory from the authorities concerned regarding evacuation of people from the banks of Periyar river in view of huge flow of excess water released from Idukki and Idamalayar dams.

“The state government did not have a plan. They failed in assessing the damages that could take place due to the release of excess water being stored in dams,” he said.

Satheesan alleged the KSEB was reluctant to open the shutters of dams even when the water level rose to an alarming level, claiming it would have affect power generation causing huge loss to the body.

In one of the worst floods witnessed in the last century in Kerala, 231 lives were lost and nearly 14.50 lakh people are still in about 3,879 relief camps after a murderous monsoon rampaged through the state in its second spell that began on August 8.