Kerala floods: Climate expert advocate for steps to protect ecologically-sensitive Western Ghats

Kochi, Kerala, India Published: Aug 26, 2018, 06:20 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The recent occurrence of extreme rainfall events and associated floods in Kerala that killed many and rendered thousands homeless were due to climate change, a noted climate expert said on Sunday.

Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of New Delhi-based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said the dam management system in the country will have to be "re-evaluated" taking into account the repeat occurrence of extreme rainfall events and associated flash floods.

Opinion: Kerala floods a man-made disaster

"The floods in Kerala were caused by climate change and the disaster was exacerbated by bad development practises, particularly on Western Ghats and other ecologically sensitive regions of Kerala," Bhushan told PTI.

Over 290 people were killed and lakhs of people have been displaced due to the heavy rains and floods in Kerala.

He also said the extreme rainfall events and associated flash floods occurred in this century in many parts of the country including in Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Chennai, were triggered by climate change.

Bhushan, who was honoured with ozone award by the UN Environment Programme last year for providing policy and research support to the negotiations for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, said the dam management system should be re-evaluated taking into account the climate change issue.

"Considering that the temperature is rising, considering that there is a clear indication that the extreme rainfall event is repeated, we will now have to re-evaluate our dam management practises," he said.

He also advocated for a much better forecasting system and much better warning system to save lives of people from the extreme climate change-related incidents.

Bhushan, who has attended several climate conferences organised by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said destruction of Western Ghats had huge impact on Kerala.

He urged the Central and state governments to take steps to implement the Madhav Gadgil committee report or Kasturirangan committee report on the biodiversity-rich hill region.

"Large-scale deforestation, mining and construction are happening, hurting the ecology of Kerala. Such harmful practises will increase the intensity of disaster damages in Kerala," he said.

"This floods would have happened in any case. The destruction of Western Ghats and other ecological areas in Kerala made its impact worse," Bhushan said.

He said it was quite clear that protection of the Western Ghats, wetlands, protection of backwaters, rivers, streams and other ecologically fragile areas were "very very important for the ecological security of Kerala."

Environmentalists argue that the miseries and destruction caused by the rains and floods in Kerala would have been less severe if the government had taken the initiative to implement the recommendations made in the Gadgil Committee report on preservation of the Western Ghats.

The Gadgil Committee report had been a point of debate in the state ever since it was submitted in 2011 with all major political parties showing reluctance in accepting and implementing the recommendations in toto following protests from local people in high range areas.

Even the Kasturirangan report, which studied the recommendations of Madhav Gadgil report, has also not received total support from politicians, religious leaders and local people in the state.

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