Observing that "In order to ensure that there are no hiccups in the manner in which the works are to be completed, I direct both the District Administration and the Corporation of Kochi to work as a single team and take into confidence the Area Manager of the Southern Railways," the Kerala High Court on Tuesday, issued several directions to authorities to ensure there is no flood like situation this year during monsoon.
Justice Devan Ramachandran while hearing a petition filed by Treasa K J and Vijaykumar B, through Advocate Dr.K.B.Pradeep noted "At these times, when the collective will of all citizens are focused on fighting and combating the Corona Virus Disease 2019 epidemic (hereinafter referred to as Covid-19 for ease), there is a lurking danger of this year's monsoon which is almost at our doorsteps causing havoc, as it had done in the last two years. The preparedness of the civic authorities and the District Administration to ward off or control this danger is critical this year than any other year because, on account of the ravage of Covid 19, it may become logistically impossible to move citizens to safer places like Relief Camps, as had been done in the last two years, keeping in mind the social distancing requirements put in place by the Central Government and the State Government."
The Government Pleader, Advocate S.Kannan, placed on record the minutes of the meetings held on April 20, and April 23, which was chaired by the Minister for Agriculture (also the Minister in charge of the District of Ernakulam for Covid-19) and attended by Members of the Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly, the Mayor and the Head of Departments of various Engineering departments. He assured the court that no stone will be left unturned by the Government of Kerala, District Administration of Ernakulam to ensure that the highest level of preparedness to avoid flooding this year will be put in place and that steps which are absolutely necessary and imperative will be completed at the earliest.
Advocate Dr.K.B.Pradeep appearing for the petitioner, confirmed that the fencing on the sides of the Perandoor canal has been completed to nearly one third of its length; but that the position in the area between "GCDA-Kadavanthara" and "Kammattipadam" leaves much to be desired. He says that no work on this stretch has been done and that, consequently, there is no flow of water at all through this area. He asserts that this is particularly why there was flooding even when the city received summer rainfall during the last few days. He, therefore, prays that urgent orders under the Disaster Management Act be directed to be issued by the District Collector for clearing this stretch.
Counsel S.Sudheesh Kumar, appearing for the Corporation of Kochi, said the work of desilting and removal of blockages in the drainage system and the canals has started in great earnestness. On account of the lock-down, these works had been stopped for the last more than a month, but that it has now restarted and that most of the works can be completed by the end of May.
He added that fencing of the Perandoor canal in Kochi has been completed to about 30% of its length and that the work on the remaining extent has now begun again. As regards the cleaning of the Perandoor canal is concerned, a contract for the same can be entered into only after the tendering process is over and that they will be able to commence work in this regard by May 15.
Advocate Resmi Varma, appearing for residents living next to the Perandoor Canal argued that unless urgent orders are issued by this Court directing the Perandoor canal to be kept clean and ready to receive large rainfall this year, a virtual catastrophe on account of the added problem of Covid 19 will become a reality.
The bench after hearing all the parties said "It is without doubt that all the stakeholders will have to act in unison, without being constrained by rigid protocols or formalities, since we must expect that the monsoons will arrive in Kerala in less than a month from today. This time frame is crucial because if the monsoons cause flooding this year, then the fate of the citizens of this State, who are already reeling under the hitherto unseen effects of Covid 19 would be less said the better."
It added "This Court cannot allow any such eventuality to happen and I am therefore, of the firm view that all the Authorities, including the State Administration and the Corporation, will have to act as a unified one and will have to ensure that necessary results are effectuated, without unnecessary delay or hindrances."
The court has directed that the cleaning of the canals and the drainage is concerned, it shall be the overall responsibility of the District Administration and in particular the District Collector, to ensure that they are cleaned and desilted before the monsoons.
The Corporation of Kochi to complete the process of tendering of the contract for the purpose of desilting and removal of weeds from the Perandoor canal at the earliest and not to wait until 15th of May, 2020. If it is possible, to start work within the next 10 days.