CAG: Kerala yet to enact flood zoning legislation

Thiruvananthapuram, November 11: A CAG report on preparedness and response to floods in Kerala’ has said the state is yet to enact flood plain zoning legislation, 45 years after the Union Government circulated to all states a model draft bill for flood plain zoning legislation.

The CAG report, which was presented in the state assembly on Thursday, assessing the preparedness and response of the state government was prepared against the backdrop of the devastating Kerala floods of 2018, which had left a trail of devastation to human lives and properties in 13 out of 14 districts. In the later years, including 2021, many parts of Kerala had witnessed flash floods and landslides.

The report has pointed out serious lapses on the part of the state government in planning, capacity building, flood forecasting and dam management among other areas.

The report said flood plain zoning is aimed at demarcating zones or areas likely to be affected by floods of different magnitudes or frequencies, and specify the types of permissible developments in these zones, so that whenever floods actually occur, the damage can be minimised, if not avoided. “Kerala has not enacted flood plain zoning legislation, even though a model draft bill for flood plain zoning legislation was circulated by the Union Government in 1975 to all the States.  The flood plains of the State have not been identified and demarcated, Legislation to identify and demarcate flood plain zones of the State would have enabled the Government to take proactive measures in controlling potential encroachment activities in the flood plains.’’’

It said out of the total area of the State, 14.52 per cent is estimated to be prone to floods. However, no large-scale flood hazard map is available in the State; State’s Disaster Management Plan includes flood susceptibility map not conforming to Central Water Commission (CWC) criteria for flood prone area.

About lapses on planning and capacity building front, the report said the Kerala State Water Policy 2008 was not updated in accordance with the National Water Policy and lacked provision for flood control and flood management in the State.

It said though the Disaster Management Plan 2016 envisaged State Emergency Operations Centre to be equipped with an intelligent decision support system (DSS) capable of prediction and early warning of major hydro-meteorological hazards and support for emergency operation, the system cannot be relied upon even two years after its completion in 2019 to give early warning of such hazards since its effective functioning is dependent on the receipt of externally sourced real time data which is yet to be made available.

About the Impact of change in Land Use and Land Cover, the CAG report said land use and land cover analysis for the entire Periyar basin including the Idukki and Ernakulam districts revealed an increase in the built-up area by nearly 450 per cent during 1985-2015 and decrease in water bodies by nearly 17 per cent. During 2005-2015, the built-up area increased by nearly 139 per cent. Had the same rainfall and spills of 2018 occurred with 1985 land use conditions, the flood inundated area would have reduced from 520.04 sq. km to 414.76 sq. km.

Detailing the lapses in flood forecasting and reservoir operation, it said only six rain gauges against the requirement of 32 gauges (as per existing BIS norms) are available for rainfall estimation in Periyar basin by IMD. Despite 275 flood forecasting stations having been set up by CWC across the country by the year 2017, no flood forecasting stations had been set up by the CWC in the State. Kerala had not furnished the CWC list of reservoirs/ cities and towns requiring setting up of inflow forecasting stations/ level forecasting stations.

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