Poor dam management blamed for Kerala floods

Amicus curiae calls for further inquiry into management of dams in 2018 floods

April 03, 2019 11:29 pm | Updated April 04, 2019 07:34 am IST - Kochi

 A file photo of submerged houses in Palakkad, Kerala, during the recent rain and floods.

A file photo of submerged houses in Palakkad, Kerala, during the recent rain and floods.

The amicus curiae appointed by the Kerala High Court to assist it in flood-related cases informed the court on Wednesday that the sudden release of water simultaneously from different reservoirs during the heavy rain in August 2018 had aggravated the damage during the floods.

In a report submitted to the court, amicus curiae Jacob P. Alex said it appeared that dams in the State did not have an effective flood control zone and flood cushions. The flood cushion or flood control zone was a temporary storage space for absorbing high flow for alleviating downstream flood damage.

Had proper flood cushion or flood control zone been maintained, to what extent the floods could have been contained, to what extent the damage could have been mitigated and whether the release of water could have avoided flood situation were matters to be inquired further.

He said that none of the 79 dams in the State were operated or used for the purpose of flood control and moderation, despite the obligation to utilise them for flood control as per the stipulations under the National Water Policy, National Disaster Management Authority guidelines on flood and RTIO (real-time integrated operation).

It seemed that high reservoir storage and sudden release of water had resulted in worsening the floods. Various alerts (blue/orange/red) were issued not in accordance with the EAP (Emergency Action Plan) guidelines. No proper follow-up action and effective precautionary steps, especially for evacuating people and accommodating them in safe locations, were taken after the issue of red alert. This was a matter to be inquired into, the report said.

No EAP in dams

None of the dams had EAP (Emergency Action Plan) despite the mandate of the National Disaster Management Authority to have it by 2009. The EAP was a written document prepared by the dam operator and it contained plans to prevent or lessen the impact of a failure of the dam or appurtenant structure, it said. It could be inferred that most of the major reservoirs were almost full before the extreme rainfall and they did not have the capacity to accommodate the additional flow, compelling the authorities to release substantial amount of water from reservoirs in a short span of time at the peak of the rainfall.

 Almost all dams released water only after the water level crossed the FRL (Full Reservoir Level) or reached the MWL (maximum water level), the report pointed out.

The dam managers should not have solely relied on the IMD prediction for dam management and variation in India Meteorological Department forecast could not be a justification for delayed release of water from dams, the report said.

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