The sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar Dam by the Tamil Nadu government was one of the reasons for the devastating deluge in Kerala, the state government told the Supreme Court today.
It said that out of a total population of about 3.48 crore, more than 54 lakh or one sixth of the population of Kerala, had been directly affected by the floods.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government said that in the wake of prior alerts by its engineers, Kerala's Water Resources Secretary had written to her counterpart in Tamil Nadu government and the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee on Mullaperiyar dam, requesting controlled release of water without waiting for the water level in the reservoir to reach its full level.
"Accordingly, the Tamil Nadu Government was requested to gradually release water at least by 139 feet...But no positive assurance in this regard was received from Tamil Nadu even after repeated requests...
"But the sudden release from the Mullaperiyar dam, third largest reservoir in the Periyar Basin, forced us to release more water from Idukki reservoir, downstream of Mullaperiyar, which is one of the causes of this deluge," the affidavit said.
The Mullaperiyar Dam is located on the Western Ghats near Thekkady in Idukki district of Kerala on the Periyar river.
The state government said that to avoid a repeat of such situations, the Supervisory Committee be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission with Secretaries of both the states as members.
This panel should be empowered to take decisions by a majority opinion regarding operations during flood or any similar crisis, it said.
The Kerala government also sought the constitution of a Management committee to manage the day-to-day operations of the Mullaperiyar Dam.
"We propose that this committee be headed by a Chief Engineer/Superintending Engineer of the CWC with both Chief Engineers/Superintending Engineers of the two states," the state government said.
The affidavit was filed in pursuance to August 18 direction of the apex court which had asked the Kerala Chief Secretary to show the steps they have been taken to meet the needs of disaster management, rescue operations and rehabilitation.
Kerala resident Russel Roy had filed a plea seeking, among other things, a direction to Tamil Nadu to manage the water level in the dam as the floods in Kerala have created a havoc.
The top court had earlier ordered the disaster management panel of the Mullaperiyar Dam to urgently decide on lowering the water level.
The direction to consider reducing the water level up to 139 feet from the existing 142 feet had come in the backdrop of Kerala Chief Minister writing to his Tamil Nadu counterpart E K Palaniswami seeking lowering of the water-level in the Mullaperiyar dam in the interest of its safety.
The top court had said the committee may suggest measures before releasing water in the downstream areas to handle the disaster so that the people are not hit by "the catastrophe of the flood".
Tamil Nadu government had opposed the plea with regard to bringing down the water level in the dam, saying the current inflow of water into the dam was 20,000 cusecs and due to rains, it may not be possible to reduce water level immediately.
Kerala should be treated on a different yardstick for extending flood relief assistance as its huge loss cannot be compared with damage in any other state at any point of time, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today.
Giving a detailed account of the havoc caused by the devastating floods and landslides since early this month, he said the preliminary assessment of losses was around Rs 20,000 crore which was equal to the state's annual Plan size for 2018-19.
The heavy rains and floods have claimed 231 lives in Kerala since August 8 and more than 10.40 lakh people are still in relief camps across the state.
In support of his stand that Kerala's case was unique, he said the state was densely populated and the entire state had infrastructure facilities such as good roads, communication network and hospitals.
Hence, the loss suffered in the floods was huge in nature and was something which cannot be compared to the damage suffered by any other part of the country at any point of time, Vijayan said, urging that the state should be treated on a different yardstick for extending assistance.
His stress on the magnitude of the calamity and assistance comes at a time when there is a standoff over accepting foreign aid for the flood-ravaged state.
While the state government was keen on receiving foreign aid, including USD 100 million offered by the United Arab Emirates, the Centre has taken the stand that it cannot accept any assistance from overseas governments and cited an existing policy.
Pushing for foreign assistance, Vijayan had earlier said there was no blanket ban and India, by law, could accept financial aid voluntarily given by a foreign government in times of a severe calamity.
In his statement today, the chief minister said: "It is with a thankful heart that we take note of the fact that foreign countries ranging from the UAE to Qatar have come forward with their promise of assistance."
Vijayan also mentioned about the immediate release of Rs 100 crore by the Centre and further interim aid of Rs 500 crore announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately after his aerial survey of flood-affected areas on August 19.
The Centre has already released Rs 600 crore to the state.
The chief minister said the state was facing the biggest calamity in 100 years and preliminary estimate of losses comes around Rs 20,000 crore.
It goes without saying that the actual losses will steadily go up once the water recedes and the final assessment is made. "To put it in a nutshell, the size of the loss caused by the calamity is equal to the size of the annual plan the state has chalked out for 2018-2019," Vijayan said.
More than 26,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed and crops spread over 40,000 hectares lost, Vijayan said, adding, "We have lost more than two lakh poultry and at least 46,000 milch animals."
The magnitude of the havoc truly gets reflected in the fact that a vast area of the state still remains submerged in flood waters, the chief minister said.
Floods have washed away several multi-storeyed buildings, shops, commercial establishments and even bridges, he said.
Telecommunication network and electricity lines have been damaged. The power sector suffered losses of around Rs 750 crore while damage to water supply infrastructure was close to Rs 900 crore, he said.
He also noted that more than 300 landslides have occurred, resulting in hills being razed in several places.
Major rivers such as Bharathapuzha, Periyar, Chalakkudy and Pamba have altered course in many places.
Several parts of the state had been cut off, and remained as isolated islands, inaccessible by road or water transport, for days together.
People of the state came together and stood behind the government in evacuating the people stranded in flood waters and rehabilitating them in relief camps, the chief minister said.
Giving details of the rescue operations held with the active cooperation of the national disaster response force, defence forces, Coast Guard, police and others, Vijayan said it was for the first time that "such a massive rescue operation of this magnitude" was conducted anywhere in the country.
On post-flood health concerns, he said the health authorities were taking every precaution to ensure the wellbeing of the people and to ensure that there was no epidemic breakout.