Drought-hit Kerala pins hopes on Central aid

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TNN | Mar 29, 2013, 04.21 AM IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala, which declared all its 14 districts as drought-hit in December, is banking on the Centre for dealing with the crisis.

"The members of the central team that visited the state last week have said that they are convinced about the drought damage in the state. A favourable decision is expected from the centre as soon as the team submits its report," said state hazard vulnerability risk assessment (HVRA) cell head Sekhar Kuriakose, who was instrumental in preparing the state's drought damage estimate.

Revenue minister Adoor Prakash told TOI that the government declared all 14 districts as drought-hit based on the Union government's scale. "As far as loss to crops is concerned, we can term Kerala as 100% drought-hit.''

Sources in the revenue department said the cumulative deficit in the south west, north east and summer rains in the state last year was around 50%. "Just check the water level in Idukki dam, which has touched the lowest level in the recent history in March," Kuriakose said.

The water level at Idukki was 286.12 million cubic metre on Thursday against the full reservoir capacity of 1,440 million cubic metre.

All 36 dams in the state have a similar story, leaving the state electricity board and water authority wondering how to deal with the peak summer. The total loss suffered due to drought has been estimated at Rs 7,888 crore. In a memorandum submitted to the central team, the government had put the loss from damage to agriculture crops alone at Rs 5,980 crore.

A chief minister Oommen Chandy-led delegation, which met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two weeks ago, had sought Rs 3,900 as special assistance for the state to deal with the drought situation. "We sought Rs 1,630 crore for the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) alone as it was the worst-hit," Kuriakose said.

The KSEB, which largely depends on hydel projects for power generation, has to purchase a major chunk of power from outside the state.

Drinking water shortage has led to serious issues across the state. Most of the coastal and hilly areas in Alappuzha, Palakkad, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts are in the grip of shortage. "The state cabinet on Wednesday discussed the issue in detail and decided to do everything possible to get drinking water to all affected areas. We have directed all district collectors to hire water tankers and supply drinking water to drought-hit areas," said Prakash.