• Benny Kuriakose


Kerala cannot be imagined without its rivers and canals. Its backwaters are renowned across the globe. The history of Kerala is incomplete without the mention of its sea, streams, and maritime trade. But a few years before in 2018, the outlook has changed and these beautiful backwaters have become a nightmare to the people of Kerala for days. It all started on 16 August 2018, unending unusually high rainfalls began which caused severe floods in the South Indian state of Kerala. 2018 Kerala Floods was the worst flood that happened in Kerala in nearly a century. The Indian Government announced it as a Level 3 Calamity, or "Calamity of a severe nature". The very next year, again Kerala was affected by another wild flood. In the low-lying areas of Kerala such as Kuttanadu, the floods continued every year as a series. Kerala has paid heavily. Many people died, hundreds of villages were affected, roads were damaged, and thousands of homes were destroyed. In a few days, Kerala has witnessed huge losses of life, basic facilities, infrastructure, livelihood and left in dismay as nothing was left. But throughout these tough times, the people of Kerala stood together.

Is Flooding a Manmade Disaster?

Humans have invariably settled along the flood plains of rivers. The first great civilizations, such as those in Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, all grew up in river valleys. Various historic cities have developed by the riverfronts. Regular flooding provides soil full of nutrients and plenty of water for agriculture and basic needs. But there is a trade-off between living by the riverside and the unforeseen severity of flood hazards. Traditionally, in flood-prone areas, people lived in elevated houses or elevated lands to safeguard them from water. With the construction of dams and decreased seasonal flooding, people started moving further or nearer to the river. This changed their construction patterns as well. But the distance from the river does not matter, it is the elevation that is critical.

Earlier the houses were on elevated grounds or sufficiently high plinths/ stilts
After construction of dams, insensitive building practices near river beds started

Why Kerala is Prone to Floods?

In Kerala, after the construction of dams, people started construction near the river bed. The changed construction pattern included construction in low-lying areas, landfills near the river beds, and buildings without sufficient elevation.

Even after the flood has receded, the water has stayed in many low-lying areas due to the lack of drainage. In such places, pumping is required.

Normal River Level
Scenario 1: Normal River Level