ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kerala Deluge

Were the Dams at Fault?

The role of the dams in reducing the damage during the 2018 floods in Kerala is looked at. Responding to the critiques, the authors note that the dams have produced enormous social, economic and even several ecological benefits and point out that benefits of the dams can be enhanced by improving weather forecasting capabilities.


It might sound very strange for a person who knows the basics of hydro­logy and hydraulics, or for that matter the simple mass balance equation (that is, inflow–storage=outflow) when some environmentalists and some “anti-dam activists” started blaming the large dams in Kerala for the floods in the state which had a devastating effect in terms of loss of human life, damage to infrastructure, disruptions in life and economic activities (Thakkar 2018). So once again, the dams and those who build them became the soft target of attack.

It has already been officially stated that the rains which occurred in Kerala during August 2018 were the highest of the last 100 years. Against a mean monthly rainfall of around 258 millimetre (mm) for August, the catchments of the flood-affected river basins received around 750 mm of rainfall, that too ­within a short period of six–seven days. The intensity of the rainfall was unimaginably high, given the relatively longer duration for which it occurred (a few days against a few hours for which high inten­sity monsoon showers normally ­occur in this region). The catchments of Idukki, Pamba, Kakki, Kuttiyadi and ­Idamalayar received 811, 344, 915, 954 and 644 mm of rain, respectively, in a matter of four days. That was one-third of the annual rainfall. At such a high inten­sity of downpour, the entire precipitation got converted into surface flows (with the soil strata lying under saturated condition with no space to ­absorb the infiltrating water).

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Updated On : 3rd Apr, 2021
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