Kerala, with a population of over 3.3 crore, is globally recognised for its impressive achievements in human development. Within India, Kerala ranks first among Indian states on the Human Development Index (HDI). In 2015–16, Kerala was among the top five Indian states in terms of per capita state domestic product and among the top four in terms of growth in per capita income. Many other human development indicators for Kerala are at par with those of developed countries. For instance, the state reported a literacy rate in 2011 of 94% (as against the national average of 73%), life expectancy at birth between 2011–15 of 75.2 years (the highest among Indian states and higher than the national average of 68.8 years), and an infant mortality of 10 per thousand live births (the lowest among Indian states). The state also reported the lowest proportion of population below the poverty line (7%) as against the national average of 22%. In 2015–16, 94% of households had access to improved drinking water sources, 98% of them were using improved sanitation facilities, and 99% of the households had electricity. Human development has also been more equitable in Kerala than in other Indian states. For instance, Kerala is placed first among states in inequality adjusted HDI which indicates the least loss of HDI on account on inequality.
Kerala, however, is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and the changing climatic dynamics given its location along the sea coast and with a steep gradient along the slopes of the Western Ghats. The Kerala State Disaster Management Plan identifies 39 hazards categorised as naturally triggered hazards (natural hazards) and anthropogenically triggered hazards (anthropogenic hazards). Kerala is also one of the most densely populated Indian states (860 persons per square kilometres) making it more vulnerable to damages and losses on account of disasters.
Floods are the most common of natural hazard in the state. Nearly 14.5% of the state’s land area is prone to floods, and the proportion is as high as 50% for certain districts. Landslides are a major hazard along the Western Ghats in Wayanad, Kozhikode, Idukki, and Kottayam districts. Seasonal drought-like conditions are also common during the summer months. Kerala experienced 66 drought years between 1881 and 2000. Dry rivers and lowering water tables in summer have led to water scarcity both in urban and rural areas. Other major natural hazards are lightning, forest fires, soil piping, coastal erosion, and high wind speed. The state also lies in seismic zone III.
Between June 1 and August 18, 2018, Kerala experienced the worst ever floods in its history since 1924. During this period, the state received cumulative rainfall that was 42% in excess of the normal average. The heaviest spell of rain was during 1-20 August, when the state received 771mm of rain. The torrential rains triggered several landslides and forced the release of excess water from 37 dams across the state, aggravating the flood impact. Nearly 341 landslides were reported from 10 districts. Idukki, the worst hit district, was ravaged by 143 landslides.
According to latest reports of the state government, 1,259 out of 1,664 villages spread across its 14 districts were affected. The seven worst hit districts were Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Pathanamthitha, Thrissur, and Wayanad, where the whole district was notified as flood affected. The devastating floods and landslides affected 5.4 million people, displaced 1.4 million people, and took 433 lives (22 May–29 August 2018).
- Asian Development Bank
- © Asian Development Bank