Kerala FLOODS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Stilt houses and buildings have been proposed as one of the solutions to the Kuttanad area, which is below the sea level. The Government is planning to put flood shelters on stilts to house the people during floods. What is going to happen to the large population and properties in Kuttanad and other areas with the sea level increase is not sufficiently thought about. According to many climate scientists, the seawater is likely to rise by one meter by 2100. (In 2006, the prediction was 60 cms and it has now become 1 meter). According to some others, this can go up to 2 meters also, if global warming is not brought under control. 85% of Venice will be underwater if there is 2 meters rise in sea level. When the seawater rises by 1 meter, the river water will not empty into the sea easily and floods will be very common. The situation is very alarming. Many of the coastal cities will look very different from what is now.
When the 2006 Cancun (in Mexico) meeting on Climate Change predicted increase in sea level rise, the Dutch Government formed a committee which made its recommendations to fight sea-level rise. 30% of the Netherlands is below sea level and 60% of the area is very vulnerable to floods and an increase in sea level. Based on the Committee’s recommendations, the Government started building new dykes and regulators so that they can withstand a sea-level rise of 4 meters. In some other cases, they were strengthening, raising and widening the dykes. They were widening the rivers to take care of floods. All these steps were taken as part of the integrated approach. I saw a basketball court which will become water storage during floods. They were adding more green into the cities (for example, a recreation park becoming a flood basin) and creating sufficient water storage. I had the opportunity to visit the Netherlands in 2011 as per the invitation of their Government. Please see the image of the dykes which have been converted into roads etc.
Why can’t we think of such a step in Kuttanad also?
We can build new buildings on stilts, but what will happen to the building and agricultural fields which are already existing?
What is the point in having stilt houses, when the whole surrounding is going to be underwater fifty years from now?
We have to start thinking now about these changes and need to have a long term strategy to take care of climate change. It will be too late to start thinking about the sea level rise in 2040. To make Kerala flood resilient will be a fifty-year project. Short-sighted solutions and wait and see approach can be very dangerous for Kerala’s future. We have to find our own solutions for the future and of course, it is a question of the political will and financial resources.
After all, prevention is far cheaper than evacuating our people during floods every year.
It is a misconception that floods will come only once in 50 years or 100 years. When 2018 Kerala floods came, some reacted that the last major floods were in 1924, now it will take many years for major floods to come again. Even one leader said that floods will come, some people will die and properties will be lost once in a while. But this is not true according to the probability theory.
Estimating the lifespan of a building as fifty years and the floods as once in a hundred year event, the table (image attached) provides a probability of a flood occurring during the building’s lifetime as 39%. If the useful life of the building is only thirty years, the chance of a flood occurring during its lifetime is 26%.
In addition to this, there are other reasons that floods will become more common in Kerala in the coming years. I am not trying to scare people, but we have to accept this reality and plan for the future.
All-natural disasters are on the increase all over the world due to climate change and global warming (please see the attached graph).
Due to increase in seawater level due to global warming (1-meter rise is predicted by 2100 AD), the river water will not empty to the sea easily, which in turn will cause floods in low lying areas.
People owning land by the side of the river will now start filling the