The Deluge In Kerala And Nature’s Not So Gentle Reminders To Us

It is looking like the wrath of the Gods is upon their own country. Kerala is in a deluge of Bibilical proportions. The ongoing rains and the ensuing floods are being compared with the Great Flood of the Bible. I am marooned in the city of Thrissur with no option to travel anywhere. The highways towards the south of Kerala are all flooded. Towards the north where roads have been built through the Western Ghats, mud slides are happening in addition to the accumulating water. Roads are shut, railways lines are inundated with water and airport runways are flooded. For me this is not a natural but a manmade disaster.

One of the most critical parameters of measuring and classifying ancient cities as developed and advanced are it’s irrigation and drainage systems. The question is how efficiently did they bring water into the cities from water bodies and how did they manage to take the water out from the cities. All great civilizations of the past were located in the vicinity of the biggest rivers. If we take the same parameters and apply them to our cities  and towns then we would realize how woeful their conditions are.

None of India’s big cities are planned, rather most of the cities and towns in India are unplanned ones. They got expanded based on the burgeoning population. Now, earth can be divided into hard grounds and low lying areas. Low lying areas are preferred for cultivation because of the ability of those lands to hold on to water. Hard grounds are preferred for construction. As population grows, so does the need for land grows. We inadvertently started taking up the low lying lands for construction. Low lying lands have been getting inundated with water for centuries or thousands of years so doing construction on them is plain madness even if mud is put on top of them and flattened out before doing the construction.

What is happening with the flood in Kerala is very simple. There are two reasons for the flooding. If we look at the flood affected areas being broadcast on TV channels, water bodies, primarily rivers have overflowed. River water is flowing water and it is looking to continue it’s momentum of flowing. But what it encounters on the way is our towns and cities. There is nowhere for water to go so it gets stuck. The bigger reason is with the dams. Yesterday news channels were reporting that Sholayar dam in Tamil Nadu became full so they opened it’s gates which in turn flooded the Mullaperiyar dam and opening it has caused the floods to worsen. Every time environmental activists make a hue and cry when governments comes out with a proposal for a dam, this is what they are trying to highlight. What comes out of the dams are massive quantities of held up water and this is very different from normal flooding caused by rivers.

So where will all this water go? There are three ways. Flow out which is not an option anymore because it does not have anywhere to flow which is why it is stuck. Then it has to go up or down. Up means sun has to evaporate the water. But this is monsoon season so there is not much help that can be expected from the sun because the monsoon clouds are hanging over it. The other way is down, into the earth. But we have replaced earth with tar and concrete both of which cannot absorb water. Water will try to flow to the low lying areas as it is used to but we have occupied those places as well with our construction so flooding is inevitable. The same has been happening in Mumbai every year. The same happened during the flood in Chennai. After 3 years of weak monsoon season in Bangalore, in 2004, it rained one day and I was caught right in the middle of it. The rain and wind were ferocious and in about 2 hours of rain entire areas were flooded. There was nowhere for water to go. Add to it the incompetency of the corporation and drainage were not cleaned and the rains had actually punctured holes on the roads. During the flood in Chennai, my friend was telling me that water levels had risen to 7 ft and more at many places. Why is this happening? Simply because water has nowhere to go. The walls of the Kochi airport have been brought down to drain out the water accumulated on the runway. All of these are man made constructions done without considering and caring about nature which have consequently disturbed the flow of nature.

It would be ridiculous to blame nature and Gods for this disaster. I was taught in school that Kerala and Cherapunji are the places which gets the highest rainfall in India. Monsoon seasons in Kerala have traditionally been moderately to extremely heavy every year. The intensity has waxed and waned in the last decade or so. The process of water going up by evaporation and coming down later as rain plays one of the most critical roles in nurturing an ecosystem on our planet that is conducive for life forms to live and evolve. No other living being goes against the rules of nature, especially disturbing and destroying nature for it’s own needs. This is not nature’s wrath or God’s punishment, this is nature following it’s rules and we are paying for coming in it’s way.

Nature has no empathy or compassion towards the inhabitants on the planet. The rule is simple. Adhere to nature’s rules and ways or suffer. Nature has no sympathy for the lives that are being lost in natural calamities. Animals and birds have their senses fine tuned to nature so they know well in advance if a disaster is approaching. If floods are coming, they instinctively move towards higher grounds. We are totally out of tune with nature. We are not part of nature’s food chain which is why our population has grown so much. In the name of development with zero planning and understanding of nature we are on a collision course with nature.

Natural disasters for me are nature’s way of reminding us that though we have been able to become the most dominant species on the planet, we can never become dominant over nature. I hope we realize it before its too late that when nature cannot handle anymore of the destruction and imbalance we are causing to it’s ecosystem and existence it will go ahead and expunge us from it’s belly just like we vomit out what our stomach cannot handle.