Threats of severe drought loom large over Kerala, thanks to the deficient rainfall last year.
The Indian Meteorological Department warns that the state will have to face the worst drought in 115 years. The prospects of summer rains that usually commence on January 1st are bleak. According to the experts, even if the state receives the expected rainfall, there is little hope of water availability during the summer seasons. With severe water scarcity hitting the state, the demands by the people to open the dams, have become strong. The apprehensions of the state government are also on a rise. If the limited quantity of water available in the dams at present is allowed into the canals, the water scarcity particularly in the summer months of April and May would be difficult to manage. Kallada Dam in Kerala, the biggest in terms of storage capacity, has only 38 per cent of the storage capacity left while it was 85 per cent last year. The water level in the Malampuzha dam, the second biggest in the state, is 11.50 per cent of the storage capacity compared to 30 per cent in the previous year. According to Minister for Water Resources Mathew T. Thomas, there is a water shortage of a total of 34.43 per cent in the state even with all the water resources put together.
The state had witnessed a drastic drop in the rains last year due to which it was declared drought-hit in October itself. The government had taken stringent measures for conserving the remaining stored water in the state. Water consumption of household purposes is to be limited for preventing the scarcity of drinking water. A moratorium would come into effect on the agricultural loans taken by the farmers. The state government has allotted a relief fund of Rs 61.13 crore anticipating the extreme drinking water scarcity in the forthcoming summer months and the loss to agriculture. While Rs 34.42 crore was provided for the distribution of drinking water which is at the top of the preference order, Rs 17.03 crore was given to the farmers as temporary aid to prevent crop failure and Rs 9.68 lakhs for those who suffered loss of crops in the floods during previous years.
The government is gearing up for several measures to tackle the severity of the drought. The water permitted through the canals will be restricted in order to make drinking water available to all. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) recommends cutting down the water consumption for industrial use. The Chief Secretary would supervise the checking of water level in the reservoirs. Despite being aware that the water consumption restrictions are adversely affecting the industries and tourism, the state government stands pathetically helpless.
The Water Resources Department is planning schemes to control drought and conserve water with the aid of regional governments, social organisations, schools and the people. The government would undertake schemes like renovating the ponds and other water bodies, purify polluted water bodies and make them fit for use, ensuring at least one bore-well in wards which lack drinking water schemes, resuming 585 small-scale water supply schemes, make operational 5505 hand pumps and also supplying drinking water in areas of high water scarcity in tanker lorries. The KSDMA has decided to launch a massive awareness campaign on how to survive drought on February 1st with the Chief Minister, Minister for Revenue and Chief Secretary in the forefront. The two-point agenda of the campaign is ‘Respect Water, Reduce Drought’.
The people have the responsibility to support the government in its initiatives to survive drought by controlling water consumption and save water. The Keralites who curse the rainfall during all seasons lag behind in water literacy, continuing to waste water. Being hygiene-conscious, not only is the water consumption higher, they have also built artificial waterfalls and pools in their homes as part of luxury. No efforts are made to conserve water during rainy seasons by harvesting rain water and creating ground reservoirs. In fact, most of them have water overflowing from their front yards and premises. We are equally oblivious to water harvesting and restricting consumption during difficult times. Saving water and controlled consumption should therefore begin at home. Couldn’t the habit of using faucets, showers and flush-out toilets which waste water more than required, be turned into more effective and controlled water usage methods, of using cups and vessels in summer seasons? Couldn’t the usage of water and electricity for decorations and luxury purposes put off in severe heat? Water is a valuable natural resource and a boon to life which should be used carefully. Careless consumption and wastage would not only take a toll on nature but also on us humans and other living beings.