Govt disallows pilgrims to Sabarimala due to extreme weather

A gate of the Sholayar dam was opened by one feet to release 24.47 cubic meters water per second, on October 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The State government has disallowed pilgrims to Sabarimala for pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam, due to rising water levels in Pampa. The government has also constituted an expert committee to regulate the release of water from 81 dams straddling swollen rivers in rain-ravaged Kerala.

The network of hydel-power, irrigation and drinking water dams were decades old and designed in a pre-climate change era. Consequently, the government constituted an expert panel including climatologists, structural engineers and hydrologists to help the administration manage dams during extreme weather. The expert committee would primarily regulate the opening and closing of spillways.

Its principal task is to ensure that the heavy inflow from catchment areas during heavy rain does not strain the structural integrity of the levees. Moreover, the committee would regulate the discharge of dam water to ensure that the outflow does not inundate villages, towns, homes, roads, population centres and farmlands downstream.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the committee would gauge the quantum of water in dams and formulate long term management plans. It would modulate the discharge of excess inflow to prevent downstream flooding. The committee would warn district collectors about the opening of spillways well in advance. The district administration would alert people and evacuate them to higher ground or a relief camp as required.

Sabarimala pilgrims disallowed

The government has disallowed pilgrims to Sabarimala for pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam. The IMD had recorded 20 cm of rainfall at Nilackal base camp and adjacent Poontheenaruvi on Sunday alone. The water level in Pampa has risen, and geologists have warned of the possibility of mud slips and flash floods in Sabarimala and adjoining forests.

The government has asked the district administration to turn back Sabarimala pilgrims currently camping at Nilackal. The police would disallow traffic on roads swamped by fast-flowing storm waters. People should defer in-essential travel and avoid hilly and forested tracts.

Water level to rise in Kuttanad.

The heavy flow has prompted the government to open the shutters of the nearby Kakki dam. Floodwaters from Kakki could inundate Kuttanad. Hence, the administration has moved an extra NDRF team to Alappuzha.

The government has postponed the opening of colleges to October 25. The meeting also assessed rain damage.

Rain had caused immense havoc in Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts.

Extreme weather likely

The meeting flagged the possibility of heavy rain from October 20 to 23.

The IMD has not declared the onset of the North-East monsoon. Nevertheless, Kerala has already received 84 per cent of October rain in the past fortnight. Weather experts reckoned the October-December period as cyclone season in peninsular India. Hence, the meeting raised the possibility of more lower pressure-driven thunderstorms and extreme weather besetting Kerala.

The government has banned fishing off the coast of Kerala until further notice.

Relief camp

The government currently operates 184 relief camps in the State. District administrations have ensured proper camping facilities. It has implemented the COVID-19 protocol at the shelters. The government has provided residents with food and clothing. Mr. Vijayan asked officials to enlist the services of civil defence volunteers, neighbourhood self-help groups and civic-minded citizens for flood relief and rehabilitation.

Rescue operation

Central and State forces continued their joint search for persons feared, swept away by floodwaters or caught under mud slips. Residents were helping the uniformed forces. Mr. Vijayan asked district collectors to identify mud slip prone areas and evacuate residents urgently.

The revenue department has to assess crop loss and distribute ex gratia assistance to flood-hit farmers expeditiously.

Dam safety status

The government has upgraded the water level in several dams to red alert status. They are Kakki, Moozhiyar, Sholayar, Peringalkoothu, Kundala, Kallarkutty, Mattupetty, Lower Periyar, Moozhiyar, Peechi and Chimmini.

Idukki, Mattupetti, Ponmudi, Idamalayar, Vazhani, Poothundi  and Pampa dams are on orange alert. Blue alert prevailed at Kallada, Chulliyar, Meenkara, Malampuzha, and Mangalam dams.

Chief Secretary V. P. Joy, Power Minister K. Krishnankutty and Revenue Minister K. Rajan attended, among other top officials.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 11:35:04 PM |

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