Kerala is the southern state of India with a population of 3.3 crores and its impressive achievement in human development (Ajay, 2019). Kerala is among the top four states of the country in terms of the growth of per capita income. From the national survey conducted, it is reported to be 94 per cent with the life expectancy of 75.2 years and an infant mortality rate of 10 per thousand live births. Moreover, the state also reported the lowest proportion of the population below the poverty line with the national average of 22 per cent (Ajay, 2019). The survey also reported that the state has 94 per cent of households with improved drinking water sources, 98 per cent of improved sanitation facilities, and 99 per cent of the households had electricity. Kerala is placed as the number one state in inequality with the least account of Human Development Index on health inequality (Anandalekshmi, Panicker & Adarsh et al., 2019). State of Kerala is highly vulnerable to disasters due to the changingclimatic conditions along with sea cost and with a steep gradient along the slopes of Western Ghats. Based on the Kerala Disaster Management Plan, it has identified 39 hazards that are classified into naturally and anthropogenically hazards.
As Kerala is most densely populated, it poses vulnerable loss on account of disasters. Floods are very common in Kerala, as every year Kerala gets attacked by floods. Based on the geography of Kerala, 14.5 per cent of the state’s area is prone to floods and has a high proportion of up to 50 per cent for some districts. Major Ghats such as Kottayam, Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Idukki districts are attacked by landslides (Ezhilarasi & Jothy, 2018). Although some places are affected by drought-like conditions due to dry rivers and lowered water tables in summer due to scarcity of water in both rural and urban areas. Contribution towards disaster in Kerala is also from lightning, coastal erosion, forest fires, high wind speed, and soil piping. Moreover, the state lies in Seismic Zone III. Here, in this essay elements towards disaster preparedness and response will also be overlooked with the contribution of the community, multidisciplinary team, and intersectoral relationships (Guntha, Rao & Shivdas, 2020).
Floods in Kerala were reported on August 7, 2020, due to heavy rainfall in monsoon season. This flood resulted in the death of at least 22 people and the year 2018 and 2019 Kerala was also affected. Idukki was affected by heavy rains and severe landslides in Munnar from which at least 52 people died and 19 were found to be missing. During the prevailing situation of heavy rains, the Meteorological Department issued red and orange alerts in Wayanad, Kozhikode, and Idukki and five districts, respectively (Guntha, Rao & Shivdas, 2020). The disaster resulted in a more severe condition when a plane carrying 191 people crashed in Kerala and resulted in the death of 18 people. The cause for this disaster ever year is an unnatural increase in rainfall is caused due to the monsoon surge that aided in Somali Jet, small current, and low-pressure of Bay of Bengal because of strong winds towards Western Coast of India. It is expected that western winds occurred due to the 850 hPa level that helped to penetrate the Ghats. The normal rainfall for the month as per state is expected is 427mm but Kerala this year received 476mm in the initial ten days of August (Gutjahr & Viswanath, 2020).
Kerala police, Kerala’s Disaster Management Authority along with Indian Air Force, fishermen, civilians, and volunteers from coastal areas took part in rescue operations in flood-affected regions. Based on the latest reports of the Kerala government, 1259 out of 1664 spread across its 14 districts were found to be affected. It affected around 5.4 million people, took 433 lives, and 1.4 million were displaced (Jennifer, Saravanan & Abijith, 2020).
The swift responses were found by the government with relief and rescue operations that saved many lives by mobilizing national forces. The involvement of multidisciplinary team helped in limiting the impact of the disaster as Kerala fire and rescue services included 4100 individuals and the entire rescue equipment deployed, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) included 207 boats and 58 teams (Joseph, Anand & Prajeesh et al., 2020). Contribution of army men was there with 23 columns and 104 boats, navy contributed to 94 rescue teams, nine helicopters, one medical team, 94 boats, and two fixed-wing aircraft. The coastal guards included 49 boats, 36 teams, 27 hired boats, and two helicopters. Air force team also contributed 22 helicopters from the Air force team and 23 fixed-wing aircraft. The Central Rescue Police Force had 10 teams and Border Security Force with two companies and one water vehicle team (Jennifer, Saravanan & Abijith, 2020).
Moreover, the fishing community of Kerala rendered voluntary assistance towards rescue in flood and affected areas. Around 669 boats went out with fishermen and saved up to 65000 lives. The Government of India also supported with the financial assistance of INR 600 crore and included payment of INR 2 lakh per person to each person and INR 500000 per head to those who got severely injured. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Ministry of Rural Development sanctioned 5.5 crore person-days of work. Along with this the assistance of immediate food supplies, Kerosene, life-saving items, and drinking was made available. The assistance of INR 10000 per family was given along with food items to inundated houses and families (Mishra & Nagaraju, 2019).
The floods and landslides caused major damage to power supplies, houses, communication networks, railway bridges, housing, land, settlements, cultural heritage, education, child protection, fisheries, agriculture, livestock, infrastructure, environment, and power. The state needs to have a medium structuring plan to deviate the fiscal consolidation path for a longer time (Nagendra, Narayanamurthy & Moser, 2020). Target revenue of the state should be focused so that it can grow close to 14 per cent while the revenue received for covering the flood was at 17 per cent per annum for reconstruction and post-flood rehabilitation has been completed. Kerala needs new and innovative plans to envisage the latest targets.
The vision of the government is to convert the crisis into building clean and green Kerala with the Disaster Management Plan, Gender Equity policies, State Water policy, and Women Empowerment policies in the state. Five pillars will help in building back better and faster based on four pillars such as pillar 1 is Integrated water resources management (IWRM), pillar 2 is Eco-sensitive and risk-informed approaches to land use and settlements, pillar 3 is Inclusive and people-centered approach, and pillar 4 is Knowledge, innovation, and technology. The preparedness plan includes reviewing of land patterns, changing consumption patterns, sustainable building guidelines, maximization of solar energy, green technology centers, environment, and natural resource managers, integrated solid waste management centers, creating green jobs, greening the tourism, and climate change resilience (Ray, Mukherjee & Shu, 2017).
Natural disasters cause threats to humans as well as animal and plant life (Jennifer, Saravanan & Abijith, 2020). The infrastructure, economy, and property have also emerged in getting affected due to Kerala floods. The government has to plan safety measures to provide shelter among the citizens of the state from natural hazards. Response covers a very important line that "Prevention is better than cure"(Jennifer, Saravanan & Abijith, 2020). At the time disaster has occurred, it becomes difficult to manage and control the situation. Proper planning is an effective tool to manage the crisis and mitigate natural disasters in an effective, transparent, efficient, and open manner. The response covers the elements related to systematic identification, preparation, prediction, assessment, evaluation, and incorporation of important measures for disaster response.
The important elements for disaster management include Indian Standards codes (IS), Disaster management system and standards (DMS), disaster resource planning (DRP), Disaster diagnosis, Investigation of Disaster and Hazardous Risk Assessment (IDHRA), Disaster Impact Assessment (DIA), emergency response plan, corporate disaster preparedness programs, systematic measurement, cost analysis, resource evaluation, and quantification, feedback towards achieving the disaster control abatement and mitigation strategies, management innovations, research and development, loss assessment and prevention, recovery relief reconstruction rehabilitation (RRRR), state-of-art infrastructure, and computer-aided methods for enforcement of disaster compensation laws. The disaster management plan must also include collaboration and coordination of district management, local government, state government, and corporations. The medical and health administration must include occupational health and safety, communication services, print and electronic media networks, geographical information system services, insurance services, fire and explosion services, public and private sector industries, information and broadcasting, and education and training sector (Sreelatha, 2020).
The focus of the multidisciplinary teams will be in putting people to safe, meet basic needs, and prevent the problems. It becomes majorly the responsibility of the government to look after the needs and responses of government, where a disaster has occurred. Humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross Society strongly contribute to the disaster management cycle to adequately help the government of the state in recovery (Srinivasa Rao & Anil Kumar, 2019).
At the time disaster occurs, reliable and prompt information exchange services play a role in collective and individual safety. The social networks function poorly at the time disaster occurs and interplay with action. Communication is considered as an important asset to evacuate before the emergence of such a crisis. This involves larger group isolation and network building to reduce human and biodiversity damage (Sudheer, Bhallamudi & Narasimhan et al., 2019).
The health department and the National Health Department of Kerala played a major role in disaster response. The pregnant women were shifted to the labor ward to manage their delivery and provide safe care to them. Immediate evacuation systems were made by some organizations to shift injured people in hospitals. This involved the support of drivers, medical doctors, nursing professionals, emergency staff, para-medical staff, and many others. The contingency plan was followed at the time of disaster because this was the third year simultaneously that Kerala has been affected by the flood, so this included an evacuation plan for the person if the water rose further. This was the quick-thinking plan made by the Kerala government to handle the medical crisis. Moreover, a flood is a disaster that causes fear to bring water and vector-borne epidemics such as hepatitis A, cholera, malaria, and leptospirosis. Moreover, this crisis also results in a rise in health crises such as diabetes and hypertension (Tiwari, Kumar & Matin et al., 2020). It is because many patients felt homeless without proper medications.
This gave rise to non-communicable diseases and hence ailments rate rises in Kerala. Great coordination was given from the logistics department in providing medicines and manpower worldwide. The healthcare professionals ensured close monitoring at camps to provide access to clean water and other amenities. Kerala needs to investigate the patterns and ensure prevention from the health crisis in the most affected areas. In the initial phase of the Kerala flood, the decisions were taken for medicines, medical assistance, and clean drinking water to the affected people. The logistics and drug management along with manpower was delegated in the crisis to ensure that services are provided at different relevant locations. At the district level, stock of medicines was maintained based on the local reports and inputs that the administration was receiving by evening. Commonly, ten teams of medical and para-medical staff were designated by the World Health Organization to move into assigned areas for management (Vishnu, Sajinkumar & Oommen et al., 2019).
Volunteers also played an important role in managing the crisis and outbreak that occurs after the outbreak. They played an effective role in relief and rehabilitation, also monitoring post-disaster program devises in the district. The program allowed each volunteer to monitor the case and its treatment. They used to visit homes to ensure that they can provide information and enquire about the disease condition (Wani, Yadav & Verma, 2020). The checklists were made to be filled so that it could be ensured that everyone included in the crisis is safe and not affected by communicable diseases.
The diseases like diabetes and diarrhea were prevalent and people faced a crisis because the power supply gets disrupted because disasters are related more to diarrhea, etc which might spread due to overcrowding or water-borne diseases (Jennifer, Saravanan & Abijith, 2020). Insulin needs to be controlled by temperature as per the requirements to prevent protein breakdown that would be ineffective. Treatment was resumed within patients whose medications were interrupted based on the protocols set by the state health department. Palliative care nurses help to identify with NCDs like diabetes, hypertension, and kidney ailments. Data was required to be maintained by an integrated surveillance program that was from government hospitals. The interdepartmental coordination held the responsibility of liaising with the government and communicable diseases department. This all was done with the review of medical records among the officials and private practitioners about the suspected cases (Sreelatha, 2020).
Although all the requirements were fulfilled by the government, they also felt a shortage of paramedical staff that hampered patients and medical aid from flood-hit areas. Only there was 20 percent of the staff present in hospitals that coordinate medical services in all the districts (Sreelatha, 2020). Besides giving services to the patients the staff also shifted patients to hospitals so that they are given medical care as per requirement.
The states like Kerala are in the process of decentralization due to challenges faced by the state during the crisis. The funds are also provided by the local and state governments to increase the focus on sustainable development. There is an opportunity for capitalization for voluntary action by strengthening local communities and easily accessible forums for making representations, accountability, seeking address, and regular interaction. There is an urgent need for a humane approach in recovery and focusing on the lives of people. This is an important factor that implies substantial resources such as financial and human resources in addressing the needs of most vulnerable groups. Sustainable Development Goals framed rebuilding back better and well-functioning to issues. Hence, all the points such as communication, transportation, healthcare services, para-medical services, education, and infrastructure facilities. Documents, records, and information were submerged for a long duration. This included panchayat buildings, Krishi Bhavan, veterinary clinics, hospitals, health dispensaries, and several other panchayat-run institutions. Several police stations and fire and rescue offices in the low-lying areas were inundated. The efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and groups of youngsters helped the government agencies in coordinating rescue and relief operations.
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