Thiruvananthapuram: A high-level meeting chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has entrusted an expert committee with the task of taking decisions on lifting the shutters of various dams in the state in view of the excessive rain received at several regions.
The meeting was convened on Monday morning to discuss the rain damage and rising water levels in the state’s dams. “The expert panel will decide on the dams to be opened after considering factors such as the water level. Before a dam’s shutters are lifted, the District Collector concerned should be informed a few hours in advance. People living near the channels along which the water released from the dam flows should be given sufficient time to relocate. This will help avoid any likely disasters caused by the sudden opening of the shutters,” explained the Chief Minister.
Currently, 184 flood relief camps have been opened in Kerala. “Instructions have been issued to stock adequate food, clothes and facilities for overnight stay. Apart from the Revenue Department, local self-government institutions also have to be involved in making the arrangements. Other regional groups also should take part in the exercise,” he added.
Regarding the continuing search for people missing in the calamities, Pinarayi said that local people are cooperating with Central and state agencies. “People living in landslide-prone areas have to be shifted. Vehicles should be barred from travelling through waterlogged areas,” he said.
The Chief Minister also said that District Collectors have been asked to speed up the distribution of aid to disaster victims.
A report has been sought on damage caused to agriculture in the rains, he added.
Another crucial decision of the high-level meeting was to call off the pilgrimage to the Sabarimala Temple during the Malayalam month of ‘Thulam’.
“Over 20 cm of rain was recorded at Nilackal and Perunthenaruvi regions,” said the Chief Minister, indicating the reason for the decision. Moreover, the Kakki Dam will be opened soon, he pointed out.
“Heavy rains in the forest increases the chances of landslides. With more excess rain forecast from Wednesday, pilgrimage to Sabarimala cannot be allowed,” said Pinarayi.
Pilgrims who have already arrived at Nilakkal would be sent back, he added.
Colleges to reopen on October 25
Yet another decision of the meeting was to postpone the reopening of colleges to October 25.
Incessant rains had earlier forced the State to postpone the reopening of higher education institutions on Monday. It was pushed again to October 25 after IMD warned that more heavy rains are likely in the coming days.
Several varieties in Kerala too had cancelled the examinations scheduled for Monday.
Rains have caused the most damage in two districts, the Chief Minister said. “The Central Meteorological Department has predicted isolated very heavy showers apart from widespread rains in Kerala from Wednesday. Even though the Met officials have not declared the onset of the northeast monsoon, Kerala has already received 84 per cent of a season’s rain within the first 17 days of October,” he said.
The northeast monsoon season that lasts from October to December would witness several cyclones and depressions also this year, informed Pinarayi.
Opening of dams
When shutters of Kakki Dam in Pathanamthitta are lifted, the water level in the Kuttanad area could rise, he said. To avert any possible tragedy, a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed in the Alappuzha district, the chief minister said.
A red alert has been issued at the dams in Kakki in Pathanamthitta, Sholayar and Peringalkuthu in Thrissur and Kundala, Kallarkutty, Mattuppetty, Lower Periyar and Moozhiyar in Idukki. Similarly, an orange alert is in force at Idukki, Ponmudi and Pamba dams in the Idukki district.
At Edmalayar in Ernakulam, a blue-orange alert is in place. At the irrigation dams of Kallada, Chulliuyar, Meenkara, Malampuzha and Mangalam an orange alert is issued. In Vazhani and Pothundi, a blue alert has been sounded.
(As per the Met standards, a Red alert denotes heavy to extremely heavy rains of over 20 cm in 24 hours, while an Orange alert signifies very heavy rains of 6 cm to 20 cm of rains. A Yellow alert, on the other hand, denotes heavy rainfall between 6 to 11 cm.)
Among those who took part in the meeting included the Chief Secretary and officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board and other bodies.