Kerala Floods 2018 – Response and Recovery

The need
Spells of rain in July and August 2018 caused Kerala’s most severe floods since 1924. Excess water being released from dams across the state aggravated the impact. Over 300 landslides were triggered, taking away entire areas of land. The devastating floods and landslides affected 5.4 million people, displaced 1.4 million people and took 433 lives.

How we helped
Addressing basic needs
Beginning in late August, we began supplying families with essential relief materials to help them get back on their feet. We were able to reach families with 424 Non-Food Item (NFI) Kits, 339 food kits and 707 school kits for children.

Safe water and hygiene promotion 
Contaminated water was one of the major challenges. SEEDS helped restore, clean and chlorinate 352 wells; the major source of water for the families in Wayanad. Water filters were distributed in all the communities and schools. We also worked with 633 ASHA workers, ICDS and Panchayat members to build village level capacity on water source, chlorination, cleaning and disinfection.

Rebuilding 255 homes and 108 toilets
It was tough to get done, but 255 families across Wayanad had a roof back over their heads in time for the next monsoon. The shelters follow cultural norms, using materials that are local and can be re-used later on. The design left enough flexibility to use salvaged material, or to build above existing plinths where available. These transitional homes were built in partnership with the homeowners, and a simple smart card walked them through the construction process.

Toilets are an essential component even for the most basic housing unit. 108 toilets in a new design were built across Wayanad. The toilets were flood resilient, using local materials and natural filters. This nature- based solution allows waste to decompose without affecting the natural habitat.

In the longer-term, we helped 12 families in Kochi district rebuild permanent homes.

Health matters 
As part of our early response, multi-speciality health camps were organised across Wayanad that catered to 5402 patients. These moved around to locations with the greatest need, ensuring patients did not have to travel long distances for assistance.

We also worked with three public health centres across Wayanad and Mallapuram to rebuild their infrastructure and improve resilience to future emergencies. Local health workers and volunteers built up their capacity on mental health issues.

Getting back to school
Assessments and discussion with the district administrations helped us identify 22 schools and 3 Anganwadis that needed to be restored.

The interventions were tailored to suit the needs of different schools – from complete rebuilding to just installing extra space. Damaged toilets became a key component of the restoration plan. The process included training and orientation of school staff and School Management Committee (SMC) members on reducing risks.

The repair and upgradation initiative went beyond safety. It was clear that the trauma of the floods had stayed with the children. Phycological counselling was initiated and the designs also took this into account. Child-friendly, playful spaces could have a major impact on their well-being. Plants were added and landscaping was done to add to the vibrance to these buildings.

Build Back Better: Permanent homes for flood-hit tribal families in Kerala
As a part of SEEDS Kerala flood response, 16 houses have been built for the tribal families who had been rendered by flashfloods and landslides in Sugandhagiri, in Wayanad district of Kerala. The houses were designed following SEEDS’ `Build Back Better’ approach, ensuring that future risks are reduced, as these families were disproportionately impacted by the unprecedented floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019. The fact that they had lost their lands too in the landslides, meant that a complex process of getting new land parcels allotted had to be undertaken, which was expedited by the local administration. The newly built houses were handed over to their respective home owners in September 2020. The house design is inspired by local traditional houses and construction technologies of the region. Use of natural materials along with disaster risk reduction features provides a safe and comfortable house for the community keeping in lines with a minimum carbon footprint.

Communities living in some of the areas in the district are highly vulnerable to landslides and floods. In the past two years, several houses have been damaged. The initiative marks a way to resilience and the reduction of future risks through a holistic approach that involves families in understanding their risks, and recreating habitats that not only give back roofs over their heads but do so ensuring future safety and sustainability.

Leaving a mark
Going beyond the response and recovery was the building of a partnership with the Kerala administration and local officials. The spirit of recovery across the state was of a ‘Nava Keralam’ (New Kerala) including innovative citizen education strategies and a cross-cutting theme of climate resilience. SEEDS Co-Founders Manu Gupta and Anshu Sharma became part of the team working with Kerala’s teachers on revising academic curriculums to include disaster management. Rather than add additional textbooks for children, the process looks at integrating it into the existing learning material.

Learn more about this initiative

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