In a setback to the Kerala government, a High Court-appointed amicus curiae has pointed out that lapses in dam management had aggravated the impact of August floods which had claimed over 400 lives besides causing widespread devastation last year.
It has also recommended that an inquiry be conducted by an expert committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge.
The opposition Congress and BJP held the CPI(M)-led LDF government responsible for the loss of life and destruction and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
In the 49-page-report, amicus curiae (friend of the court), Jacob P Alex, stated that none of the 79 dams in the southern state were operated or used for the purpose of flood control or moderation, as per the stipulations under the National Water Policy, National Disaster Management Authority guidelines on floods and similar directives.
The report, submitted to the High Court and accessed by PTI, also recommended a detailed enquiry into the floods by an independent expert committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge and a hydrologist, dam management experts and engineers as members.
The amicus curiae was appointed by the court based on a slew of petitions including the one submitted by ‘metro-man’ E Sreedharan, also the president of the Foundation for Restoration of National Values, alleging that the devastating floods was a man-made disaster.
According to the report, dams in the state had not maintained effective Flood Control Zone and the Flood Cushion, said to have been maintained, was not as mandated by the BIS report, RTIOR and Q&M Manuel.
Most of the major reservoirs were almost full before the heavy rainfall that occurred on 14-16 August, 2018 and they did not have the capacity to accommodate the additional flow generated by extreme rainfall, it said.
“Sudden release of water simultaneously from different reservoirs, during extreme rainfall aggravated the damage,“it said adding that various alerts —blue, orange and red—had been issued not in accordance with the EAP guideline.
“No proper follow-up action and effective precautionary steps (especially for evacuating people and accommodating them in safe location) were taken after issuance of Red Alert,” it said.
None of the dams in the state had updated Rule Curves based on which the same were operated during the floods, it said.
The report also pointed out that the dam managers ought not to have ‘solely’ relied on IMD predictions for dam management and variation in the forecast or prediction cannot be counted as a justification for delayed release of water from dams.
It also suggested that the proposed enquiry panel be directed by the court to investigate various aspects including the causes of the August floods and the factors that had led to or aggravated the damage, whether the high reservoir storage and sudden release of water had worsened the deluge and so on.
Meanwhile, State Power Minister, MM Mani Tuesday evaded questions when journalists sought his reaction on the report.
A visibly angry Mani told reporters: “I have nothing to say on this… you clear out from here… If I ask you people to go out, you should get out from here.”
Leader of Opposition in the assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said the LDF government was responsible for the deluge.
“We had said that the releasing of dam water, without taking any precautionary measures, was the cause of the floods. Our allegations have now proved to be true with the amicus curiae report. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should answer for the life which had been lost and property destroyed”, he said. There was grave lapse in the management of dams by the government, the leader added.
BJP state president, PS Sreedharan Pillai demanded the resignation of Vijayan in the wake of the adverse report. “The left government cannot hide away from the responsibility of the worst ever flood which had hit the state. Murder charges should be slapped against the Chief Minister, power minister and the concerned officials,” he said.
According to the amicus curiae report, the August floods had claimed 433 human lives, affected 5.4 million people and displaced 1.4 million. The total loss incurred by the state was to the tune of Rs 26,720 crore and the total recovery needs are estimated at 31,000 crore, it added.