Dams’ shutters were opened without advance warning and informing district collector.
The Kerala State Electricity Board and state irrigation department, which man the dams in Kerala, have opened the shutters of many dams without any preparation or warning resulting in massive death and destruction in the state. According to a Malayalam media report, even the district collector was not informed about the move.
Gushing waters of Banasur dam, which was opened without prior warning, had ravaged the entire Wayanad district. Flood prone areas such as Panamaram, Venniyodu. Kottathara, Kurumony and Vellamunda areas were completely submerged. A majority of the houses in these areas were inundated and many lives were lost.
According to the report, three out of the four shutters of Banasur dam were first opened on July 15. At that time, advance warning was given. But later, before further raising the shutter level up to 290 cm and opening the fourth shutter, no prior warning was given. The district collector and village officer were not informed before raising the height of shutters.
Even before sounding Red Alert, three dams in the Sabari Giri project were opened in the middle of the night which flooded banks of the Pampa river. By the time Red Alert was sounded on August 15, the entire Pampa basin was under water. Experts say if alert was sounded in advance, the damage could have been much less.
“I never expected that the water from the dam would flood the houses so fast. Even though the government had issued a red alert, we never thought that all the four shutters of the dam would be opened at the same time. If they had been opened one by one, we could have moved our belongings to safe places,” MC Joseph, a resident of Kuttikkatt village, told First Post.
The authorities flouted the guidelines of National Disaster Management on opening of dams. All dams, except Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams, should opened only after informing the district collector who is also the head of district disaster management department.
Senior BJP leader K Surendran has said Electricity minister MM Mani and electricity board chief engineer should be tried on murder charges. Their negligence and ineptitude led to the biggest tragedy that struck Kerala so far. Congress leader Satheesan also echoed similar demand.
The exact number of human casualty is yet to be confirmed. However, initial estimate indicate that more than 400 people have lost their lives in the avoidable tragedy.
The state government also failed to hand over the responsibility of relief operation to the army, National Disaster Response Force and other central agencies. Initially, the government was also not ready to call in the army. The entire state machinery had collapsed and the army contingent had to wait for hours to get the permission of District Collectors and Tahsildars for carrying out rescue operation. Ironically, an NDRF team had to wait for 12 hours to get orders from a Tahsildar to begin the rescue operation.