Flooding in Kerala’s Infopark triggers concerns amid pro-business push

Two-wheelers parked by the road near the Infopark in Kochi were submerged in the heavy rain. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: Kerala’s Industries Minister P Rajeeve must have by now learned a lesson everyone dealing with business must do – don’t even think of making profit out of another one’s misery. A couple of months ago when Bengaluru was reeling under severe water shortage, Rajeeve invited tech companies from that city to Kerala citing the state’s abundant water resources as an added advantage. Two months later, Rajeeve ironically is left with a problem of plenty as Infopark, the state’s own IT park in Kochi, witnessed a series of flash floods, caused by intense pre-monsoon showers.

The unprecedented waterlogging within the sophisticated infrastructure has triggered fears of a perception loss, amid the state government’s aggressive push to attract more and more IT investment.
The Infopark at Kakkanad, which houses around 500 companies including IT majors, witnessed inundation of roads and some buildings first on May 22 when heavy rains battered the city and its suburbs. The flood repeated on May 28 and 29. Visuals of the water logged office spaces and submerged cars and bikes hogged social media. The flooding was followed by a torrent of trolls and memes too. '' So this is the ‘python’ techies always talk about,'' someone captioned an image of a snake which entered the campus apparently with the flood water. In IT parlance, Python is a high-level, general-purpose programming language.

How the park got flooded?
Infopark was inundated by the same reasons that caused flash floods in other parts of the city – incapacity of drainage and poor maintenance of canals, mainly.
The flooding occurred at the central area of the park where major companies such as TCS, Wipro and IBM Software are located. Brigade’s World Trade Centre building and the Lulu Cyberpark which house a number of companies are also located in the area.

Infopark snake
A snake caught from the campus during the flooding. Photos: Special arrangement

The drainage network within the campus is maintained by the Infopark management itself and it is connected to the Edachira canal. From there the water goes to the Kadamprayar River. The Infopark management claims that the drainage network within the campus was well maintained and it was the poor maintenance of the canal and the river that led to the flooding. When the first flooding occurred the way for water accumulated on the campus was made by breaking the Kozhichira bund in the river.

Susanth Kurunthil, CEO, Infopark, said that proper cleaning and desilting of the Edachira canal and Kadamprayar were a must to avoid flooding on the campus. '' In the long term, internal drainage has to be made bigger to accommodate the excess water that comes with heavy rains. The pipes connecting the drainage to the canal are over 20 years old. They have to be replaced with box culverts,'' he suggested.

He said the waterlogging was not damaging as reported since the flood water receded within an hour. It shows that the internal drainage system is well maintained, he said. The cleaning and desilting works are supposed to be done by the Irrigation department. The Infopark authorities have deployed machines to clean the drainage in and outside the campus.

Infopark floods
Drainage outside the Infopark campus being cleaned using machinery. Photo: Special arrangement

Will business wash away?
The Infopark management is of the view that the recent episodes of waterlogging do not pose any threat to the park’s business prospects. However, a section of business owners and employees don’t subscribe to the argument.
''When water shortage was at its peak in Bengaluru, a couple of companies had actually considered moving to Kerala. However, the waterlogging episodes might prompt them to rethink. No companies would want water entering their offices,'' the founder of an Indian company functioning in the Infopark campus told Onmanorama requesting anonymity. He said that there is a need for longterm solutions to ensure that such events don’t occur in future.

Eldho Chirackachalil, the state coordinator (IT Vertical) of the All India Professional Congress, said the continuous waterlogging in Infopark has caused great concern and hardship to the employees and companies there.
''The pictures and videos of the flooding here in the last few days have gone viral on social media all over the world and this will cause great concern even to the companies who want to come here. It is clear that the drainage systems within the Infopark were not cleaned before the monsoons and that there was no prior assessment of the potential problems here. If the Infopark administration is unable to solve the problems, the district administration should immediately intervene,' 'he said. The government should take steps to compensate the Infopark employees whose vehicles and other were damaged in the recent floods, he said.

Eldho Chirackachalil
Eldho Chirackachalil of AIPC (Left) and Anish Panthalini of Progressive Techies (Right) expressed concerns over the flooding affecting the IT park’s prospects in a negative way. Photos: Special arrangement

Anish Panthalini, state president of Progressive Techies, an employees collective in Infopark, also expressed concerns over the flooding affecting the IT park’s prospects in a negative way. He, however, did not blame the Infopark authorities. “Infopark management has its limitations and they have done everything possible within those limitations. The infrastructure issues outside the campus should be solved to avoid such issues in the future. An alternative for Kozhichira bund has to be found to ensure proper water flow in the Kadamprayar river,'' he said.

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