A single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justice Devan Ramachandran directed the Cochin Corporation and the district administration of Ernakulam in cooperation with the area manager for Southern railways to clean canals and work to the best of their capabilities to ensure that the early monsoon does not cause flooding in Kochi as it has done over the last two years.
The court had been hearing the writ petition filed by Treasa K.J. and Vijayakumar B for the last few years and had been passing orders as well. The petitioners filed an interim application that required the court’s immediate attention as the situation is unprecedented. The state of Kerala is one of the first Indian states to receive monsoon annually. The last two years have seen the state receive massive downpours over a short period, causing floods.
Sending citizens to relief camps may not be an option
Justice Devan rightly recognized that the monsoon, which is expected to hit Kerala in about a month, was an impending threat which could wreak havoc in the state when the society is already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Keeping the severity of the monsoon over the last two years and the current health emergency in India, Justice Devan observed,
“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.”
Measures were taken by the administration
The Government Pleader and the counsel for the Cochin Corporation informed the court of the district administration’s approach to alleviating the possible impact of the monsoon in the city of Kochi. They informed the court of a meeting that was held between the Agricultural Minister, who is also the Minister in charge of the Ernakulam District for COVID-19 which was attended by members of Parliament, the Legislative Assembly, the Mayor and the heads of various engineering departments.
Justice Devan was also informed that phase one of “Operation Breakthrough”, a two-phase initiative by the Ernakulam district administration was almost complete and was assured that phase two of the operation would be complete to the maximum extent possible to ensure that the city of Kochi is prepared for monsoon this year.
Concerns of the petitioners
The petitioners agreed that the lining of canals was taking place. However, they expressed their concern about a particular area of the Perandoor canal where no work had taken place. Dr K.B Pradeep, on behalf of the petitioners, asserted that there was flooding in this area even due to the summer rainfall that the city got because the administration had not taken the necessary steps for that particular area. He argued that the monsoon was set to hit Kerala much earlier this year and that it would be ineffective for the administration to start cleaning the canal on the 15th of May, as planned.
Justice Devan ordered the Ernakulam district administration and the Cochin Corporation to work in unison, taking into confidence the area manager of the Southern Railways, as the standing counsel for Southern Railways had guaranteed cooperation from their side. He emphasized the responsibility of the District Collector and administration, acting under the Disaster Management Act to ensure that cleaning and desilting of canals and drainages take place to combat the imminent flood threat.
He recognized the urgency to clean a particular area of the Perandoor Canal and ordered for steps to be taken to ensure that the cleaning of that area was completed within two weeks. He posted the writ petition for the next hearing on the 12th of May, 2020.
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