Stories from the field Author: Sarath Kt Comments
ASIA: India

As the 24/7 relief camps struggle to keep up with provisions demand and reels under lack of infrastructure, the spirit of the people of Kerala has not diminished even after the devastating floods obliterated the environment and the economy of the state of Kerala.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Kerala, known globally as ‘God’s own Country’ is home to over 30 million people. The state once hailed for the beautiful backwaters, forests, and distinctive culture is now besieged under the natural calamity.

The densely populated state is one of most climate sensitive states in India. Despite trying their best to reduce carbon footprint, using hydroelectric power plants, environment conscious policies, the southern Indian state has suffered the heavy-price of climate change.

The heavy torrential rains, continuing since July this year, caused the biggest disaster to hit the state in a century. The water levels of reservoirs across the state had reached dangerous levels and 37 dams had to be opened simultaneously, which led to rigorous flooding in the region and red alerts. So far 374 people have been declared dead and most of whom were killed by massive landslides. The figure could increase considering the large number of missing reports. More than 1.2 million people were displaced and thousands are still trapped in their own homes.

The road network is severely damaged in a large scale (more than 10,000 km), thereby disrupting the relief work and connectivity. The electricity network is also badly hit. The government estimates a heavy loss of nearly $3 Billion due to damage of property, infrastructure, agriculture and livestock.

The Indian government has classified the floods as a “calamity of severe nature.” Kerala has pitched it as a National Disaster, which if accepted by the central government, is likely to prompt greater commitments of funds for relief and rebuilding efforts.

But, even without a yardstick for such a declaration, it could be an uphill task for the rescue process. The public awareness and cooperation have brought the death toll figures much lesser than the otherwise grave scale of the incident.

The rescue teams have been working day and night to help the marooned, pull out people from the rubble and to retrieve bodies.

India’s military has led the rescue operations to reach people, cut off for days, with many trapped on roof tops and the upper floors of their homes, and in desperate need of food and potable water. The youths have actively participated in the rescue and relief operations along with local fishermen, becoming the unsung heroes who have saved thousands with their unwavering boating skills and determination.

Around 4,000 relief camps have been set up in the state to accommodate the large number of misplaced population, whose houses were either flooded or completely destroyed. Most of them are in requirement of food, water, medicine, toiletries and fresh clothes.

The state has taken a big hit from this unprecedented catastrophe which has severe implications for the small scale industries and the agricultural activities. Multitude of people have lost their sole income source and have no other way out. The poor farmers lost their livestock, poultry and fisheries and fertile land, which were completely washed away in most places. The waste management and disease outbreaks are other major threats looming over the state post-flood.

The calamity has drained the resources of the state. Indian government has pledged $71 million to the region and several individuals and organizations across the country are joining hands to help raise funds for aiding the rehabilitation of the citizens.

The chief minister of Kerala Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan has set up a Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMRDF) and has appealed to the global humanitarian communities for monetary help.

The floods might have broken the state, but it would take more to break the people of this region.

As they embark upon a difficult way ahead, trying to get up on their feet, with their strong will and unity, the long distance will now seem shorter.

Donors can either send through the official government website link below:
or by by CHEQUE/ DEMAND DRAFT drawn in favor of The Principal Secretary (Finance), Treasurer, Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund, Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram – 695001

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