Governance

Not one dam in Kerala was inspected before monsoon, reveals RTI

The state received 42% above normal rainfall but the Central Water Commission didn’t have any information of the criticality of dams

By Rejimon Kuttappan
Last Updated: Tuesday 25 September 2018
Kerala Floods
Kerala floods caused a property damage worth around Rs 40,000 crore. Credit: Rejimon Kuttappan Kerala floods caused a property damage worth around Rs 40,000 crore. Credit: Rejimon Kuttappan

The Kerala government did not inspect all their 61 dams before this year’s monsoon, reveals a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query. In August this year, when water in the dams reached dangerous levels owing to record breaking downpour, the state threw them open causing floods, which killed 503 people in the state.

The Central Water Commission, while replying to the RTI query, said, according to its records, two dams underwent pre-monsoon inspections in 2015, four in 2016, four in 2017 and none in 2018. When it comes to post-monsoon inspections, the CWC revealed that two were done in 2015, five in 2016, four in 2017 and four in 2018. The commission did not disclose the names of the dams inspected though.

Moreover, the CWC does not even have a report informing them if a dam is critical or not.

Kerala has 57 large dams, of which four are operated by Tamil Nadu.

According to the Guidelines for Safety Inspection of Dams, 2017, regular inspections, effective instrumentation, and diligent monitoring are needed to identify potential problems and take corrective actions to reduce the risk of dam failure.

During the Kerala floods, which caused a property damage worth around Rs 40,000 crore, 35 dams were opened. All five gates of the Idukki Dam were opened for the first time in 26 years. Last month, the reservoirs in the state were either at Full Reservoir Level (FRL) or few feet below FRL.

As per the data of the Indian Meteorological Department, Kerala received 2,346.6 mm of rainfall between June 1, 2018 and August 19, 2018, while the state was 1649.5 mm of rains during that period. This was around 42 per cent above normal. During June, July and August (till August 19), the state received 15 per cent, 18 per cent and 164 per cent above normal rainfall.

Once the water receded, few experts and political leaders blamed the state for poor management of dams. Also, a CWC report, released this month, said it is essential to review the rule curves of all the reservoirs in Kerala and they must be formulated for both conservation and operations during floods. A rule curve is a compilation of operating criteria, guidelines and specifications that govern the storage and release functions of a reservoir. These essential steps are being ignored, but we saw, just last month, that we can’t afford this carelessness.

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