The Special Session of the Kerala Assembly convened on Thursday in the backdrop of the devastating floods in the state. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan annouced that the death toll in the deluge in two phases from May to August stood at 483. He added that 14 people are missing and more than 14 lakh people are housed in relief camps across the state,
“The floods have brought forth certain environmental issues. The relevant question here is if rehabilitation should be done on the ecologically sensitive areas, which are prone to soil erosion, landslides and floods. We should search for possibilities and, while doing reconstruction, bear in mind its environmental impact,” he said.
He also updated the Assembly regarding the finding of the funds. The contributon to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund reached Rs 1027 crore on Friday. We saw a huge response for the suggestion that people donate a month’s salary to the distress relief fund,” the CM said.
Regarding the reconstruction process, the CM said; "there are four factors in connection with reconstruction. One, is to raise funds for it; the second is what kind of rehabilitation should be done; the third is mobilising raw materials for it and the fourth is to ensure livelihoods for all".
"The farming sector is destroyed; trading firms are devastated; the situation is not different for small-scale industries…It would be possible to ensure the livelihood for people if this crisis is addressed. We have survived the Nipah outbreak and Cyclone Ockhi, and the activities going on now will enable us to overcome this disaster as well,” he said.
"Promises of assistance have been pouring in from various parts of the world. The government is looking for ways to get the funds to the state through legal ways,” the CM added.
He also spoke about the three phases that the state would have to go through to overcome any disaster. “The first is rescue, which is over; the second is rehabilitation, which we are in right now; and the third is reconstruction. The Assembly has been convened to discuss how the new Kerala will be built,” he said, stressing on the environmental impact of the reconstruction.
Saying that the deluge posed a huge setback to the economy, Pinarayi said that the damage to the houses and infrastructure has overturned the developmental process of the state. He reiterated that as per the preliminary estimates, the loss the states is facing now is more that the annual planned funds of the state.
Meanwhile, the opposition blamed poor dam management and lapses in policy. Congress MLA VD Satheesan echoed Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala's allegation that the deluge was a man-made disaster.
Senior-most leader of ruling CPI (M) and former Chief Minister, VS Achuthanandan, said that what caused the deluge was the interference of man in nature, and lapses in policy. “The reason for the inundation was heavy rainfall. But there is no doubt that the destruction of hills and landslips increased the severity of the disaster. There were lapses in policy too,” he said.
‘Legislations should be strict; the uncontrolled interference of nature in the name of development should reined in. Illegal and unscientific constructions by encroaching forest land, by filling up paddy fields can’t be overlooked anymore. The Gadgil report was approached in a political manner, not scientifically,” he added.