Monday 20 August 2018 11:08 PM UTC
By Aswathy Mohanaprakas
All Malayalees can tell you stories about their monsoon season adventures. Even for me, whose rainy days tale is limited to the first 11 years of her life, can recall the monsoons passed.
The smell of the earth as the first rain fall of the season hits the soil; the days I waded into school knee deep in water; the leaky roofs and flooded annexes of the school, which never was enough to stop the lessons.
I remember these days as fond, but slightly surreal events in my memory, now so long ago that I almost doubt whether they happened.
What no one in Kerala (or around the world) could foresee was that the monsoon of 2018 would have such a catastrophic effect on the God’s Own Country.
From record-breaking rainfall of over 2366mm (42% more rain than usual across Kerala on average), with certain districts such as Idukki and Palakkad seeing over 90 and 70% increase respectively, almost all of Kerala was under red alert.
I saw fast action and coordination from many of my Malayalee friends in UK, having GoFundMe pages, organising several pick-ups and drop-offs, and making personal drop offs to rescue camps.
Social media was overtaken by a storm of calls for rescue, as well as responses requesting locations for air rescue, and transport to camps. Over 800,000 were displaced from their homes.
Having to leave everything they owned behind, knowing that there’s little chance of them returning to the way their homes were, I can only imagine the pain. Pregnant women, children and elderly being rescued by the national army and navy teams were reassuring.
Being away from it all, I sat through the second natural disaster of my lifetime in Kerala, watching at the accounts and news updates in horror as the events played out.
What can we do to make this better? How can we lend a hand? These were the first questions that popped into my head when I heard of the increasingly worsening conditions at the beginning of the month.
However, the painfully obvious fact was that we were but a small family living hand to mouth, and like many reading this, there’s neither the resources, nor the freedom, to drop everything and rush to Kerala to help relief efforts. So how can we help?
Are you able to contribute dry food, medical bags or clothes to a nearest drop off points? Do you know of anyone going to Kerala (or nearby) in the coming weeks, who could spare some space to donate these items?
Could you fundraise with your friends and network to donate to the Chief Minister’s fund? Could you raise awareness of this issue with your network, social media following, famous celebrities or workplace?
As we start to see the waters receding post-floods, we see the immediate rescue operations begin to give way to the restoration tasks. It may be years before things can be ‘back to normal’, if such a state is even achievable.
Re-powering the state which has been without electricity, clearing out the damage, and rebuilding the damaged homes are all major tasks that face Kerala.
Outbreaks are a possibility that the medical teams are prepared for, as limiting further damage becomes the next priority. There are also ways we can help during this process.
For those of us who remembers the Tsunami of 2004, can we use lessons learnt from the aftermath of this disaster to be used in this situation?
How can we use our respective expertise, and knowledge from around the world, in supporting nammude Keralam recover?
Could we use more environmentally friendly methods to rebuild our roads (a number of UK roads have been built using plastic bottles that would’ve otherwise ended up in landfill); or perhaps rebuild the homes using innovative technologies such as 3-D printing (the Dutch city of Eindhoven has built the first habitable 3-D printed houses in the world).
Now is the time for us NRIs to take a look at innovation in our field, and join forces to see what we can do to move forward.
Now is the time to look for examples of best practice that can help sustain the environment, and it’s applicability to Keralan landscape.
Can we use this disaster as an opportunity to build a stronger, more resilient infrastructure for the future? I firmly believe we can, if we put our hearts and minds to it.
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