Kerala Floods - A Week After
The Cochin airport is reopening today. That the seventh busiest airport in India had to be shut down for 14 days, gives an idea of the extent of damage that the floods have wrecked in Kerala.
Some 1.5 million people were in relief camps. The floods have brought unimaginable misery to at least 300,000 people.
Confederation of Indian Industry has estimated loss to trade, commerce and industry alone to be ? 300,000 million. Loss to agriculture is anybody's guess. As almost the whole State was under water; no crop was spared from devastation. Repairs of roads and infrastructure will take years. E Sridharan, well known technocrat from Kerala, estimated that it may take minimum 8 years to rebuild this land.
Rotary Clubs did very well during rescue and relief stages. There are about 250 Rotary Clubs in Kerala. All of them sprang into action real fast. Rotary became the most trusted relief goods distribution network.
Rotary Clubs from all parts of India generously helped with food, clothes and relief material. Rotary Clubs in Tamil Nadu went beyond the call of duty to help. Thousands of trucks of food and materials came from Tamil Nadu to help their neighbours in distress.
Kerala's fishermen and the nation's defence services made heroic rescue efforts, but for which death tolls would have been much higher than 500. State and Panchayat bureaucracy led from the front during the days of crisis. The people of Kerala rallied together as one group. Round the clock efforts of Rotarians did not go unnoticed by the community.
Rehabilitation stage is proving to be trying. Volunteers are tired after two weeks in the field. The mess that flood left is mountainous. Hard toil for weeks is needed to cleanse homes and wells.
Cleaning materials are needed in tonnes. Soap, detergents, bleach powder, cleaning chemicals, water jet pumps, buckets, showels, dust-pans, mops, brooms, brushes are all needed in huge quantities. Electricians, plumbers, technicians are needed in thousands.
Schools are reopening on 1 September. Notebooks, pens and pencils are required in tens of thousands.
RI Director Rtn. Basker is giving leadership for building 3000 low cost houses at a cost of ?1000 million. Swift, transparent and efficient rebuilding efforts are required. We have to take lessons from our previous disaster management efforts during tsunami in south India and earthquake in Gujarat. We need to be faster and better in our response.
Local requirements are varied and urgent. Rotary clubs are responding with several initiatives. Some clubs have taken a ? 10 million challenge for local projects. Funds are being mobilised from members, friends and relatives to meet this challenge of meeting innumerable local needs which cannot wait.
It is defining time for Kerala - and Rotarians. History will remember us if we come up with large, bold and fast initiatives.
Rtn. Sunil K Zachariah