The community-driven flood mitigation system at Puthenvelikkara has come in handy during unpredictable rains when the panchayat literally sank in stormwaters
Puthenvelikkara grama panchayat in North Paravur, one of the worst affected in the 2018 deluge, was staring at a potential flood on the morning of October 12 after the water level in the Chalakudy river rose alarmingly after sluice gates of three dams — Parambikulam, Sholayar, and Peringalkuthu — were opened almost simultaneously.
That half of the shutters of the Kanakkankadavu regulator-cum-bridge was still remaining closed added to the crisis. Seized of the danger, the Puthenvelikkara Community Resource Centre (CRC) immediately alerted the authorities concerned about the need for immediately opening the shutters.
Consent was given though no official from the Irrigation Department was present to oversee it, and a 62-year-old fisherman, A.R. Sundaran, in the neighbourhood opened the shutters much to the relief of the people.
It was one of the many instances in which the alertness of CRC, a community-driven flood mitigation system, has come in handy during the unpredictable rains since the deluge when Puthenvelikkara along the confluent point of the Chalakudy-Periyar rivers literally sank in the stormwaters.
“CRC has been operational for the last couple of years though it was officially inaugurated only in August this year. We have set up rain gauges at 27 points along the Chalakudy river basin and equipped the local population to measure it daily at 8.30 a.m. and share it over a WhatsApp group. During heavy rains and surge in river water level, we gauge it more frequently and are in constant contact with the District Disaster Management Authority,” said P.N. Maya, secretary, CRC.
The panchayat was keeping its fingers crossed when water was released from Idamalayar and Cheruthoni dams on Tuesday morning. “The authorities erred about the time by which water from the Cheruthoni dam was expected to reach our area. That it eventually reached much later after midnight when low tide was in progress saved the low-lying areas of Puthenvelikkara and Kunnukara panchayat from potential flooding. Had it reached much earlier, as was told during the time of high tide, it would have posed problems,” said M.P. Shajan, vice president, CRC.
CRC maintains that the timing of high and low tides in vulnerable areas should also be taken into consideration while releasing water from dams. Though the amount of water being released from dams, the volume of rain, and the river water level are all being gauged, CRC feels that some crucial factors pivotal in potential flooding are being left out.
“The level of groundwater should also be gauged, as it is significant in causing flooding. Also, the sea levels should be extensively marked and alerts should be issued about the potential surge in water from those levels enabling local bodies to plan and act more precisely,” said Mr. Shajan.
CRC has identified sea levels at five different points in Puthenvelikkara panchayat and is awaiting official authentication to mark them.
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