The Kerala flood of 2018 was 30 percent less intense than that of 1924 deluge, the biggest in Kerala’s history. Yet it caused a huge loss of lives, property and infrastructure. Swollen rivers ruptured their banks and floodwaters gushed through houses built on the floodplains.
Every time there is a huge flood in India with massive loss of lives and extensive physical damage, there is a hue and cry. Especially, if this takes place in an area not normally prone to such floods. Assam and Bihar, for instance, are regularly laid waste by floods and so, there is not much agitation over that anymore.
When the five overflow gates of the Cheruthoni dam, a part of the Idukki reservoir comprising Cheruthoni, Kulamavu and Idukki arch dam were opened one by one on August 9, 2018, a torrent of water and mud gushed out. Heavy, unceasing rains had led to the dam reaching close to its maximum capacity, forcing the dam authorities to open all its gates.
One of history’s worst dam bursts took place in Gujarat in 1979 when the four-kilometer long Machhu Dam II on the Machhu River collapsed. This led to a deluge in the industrial city of Morbi located five kilometers downstream as well as surrounding rural areas destroying thousands of homes and lives. While this was a tragedy, it was by no means an isolated one.
While the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have opposing stands on the Mullaperiyar dam, civil society actors have provided alternatives to the old dam whose decommissioning is bound to happen sooner or later. They have also pointed out the inappropriateness of building a new dam on Mullaperiyar.