Experiment FindingsPDF Available

A Review of Disaster and Development Interface: Performance of Critical Infrastructure during Kerala Floods (2018)

  • Centre for Rural Development Ecology and Environment Protection (CRDEEP)

Abstract and Figures

Recent disaster events all over the world have shown an abnormal increase in the frequency and magnitude of climate and weather associated disasters. Floods are one of such devastating, detrimental, and lethal disasters among all such events. Considering the importance of vital infrastructural facilities in determining a region's socioeconomic well-being, the present paper aims at outlining the vital relationship between the disasters and development by analyzing damage patterns to the infrastructural systems of Kerala, India, as a result of the 2018 floods. To conduct this study a snowball approach was adopted to select related research articles. Furthermore, secondary data has been collected from Kerala State Disaster Management, State Government of Kerala, Relief Web, Prevention Web, National Institute of Disaster Management, BMTPC and other major Institutions.The study revealed that Kerala floods-2018 was one such episode of a record-breaking cascade. During these floods, an excess of 42% downpour during the monsoon season resulted in unprecedented inundation causing about 477 fatalities. About 12.47 lakh people were stranded, and around USD 36.71 million in infrastructure was lost. Huge losses and disruptions to essential infrastructure and services that are susceptible and exposed (such as WASH, power, transportation, telecommunication, health, and education, etc.), disturbing the developmental gains of the State, were reported. A range of mitigation measures to safeguard such crucial facilities, such as interventions in early warning systems, involvement of the local government and communities in the planning and implementation process, and emergency response management, etc. have been proposed for the region's integrated, holistic, and comprehensive disaster management.
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Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 42
Review Paper
A Review of Disaster and Development Interface: Performance of
Critical Infrastructure during Kerala Floods (2018)
Amir Ali Khan1, Safia Khatoon2 and Sana Rafi*3
1 Assistant Professor, National Institute of Disaster Management, Indi.a
2 Intern, National Institute of Disaster Management, India.
*3 Junior Research Consultant, National Institute of Disaster Management, India.
Natural calamities have had unprecedented consequences in recent years. Natural disasters have also been documented to
occur as a result of climate change
are becoming more frequent with each passing year. The findings of EM-DAT,
Brussels and CRED revealed that the last two decades (2000-2019) showed a rapid increase in the occurrences of
weather and climate-related disasters. As much as 90.92% of the disasters in this period were climatically induced, as
compared to 86.79% of them between 1980-1999 (UNDRR, 2020a). According to the same source, the impact of
disasters on the human population in the same period indicates distressing figures as well; Although droughts and storms
took the majority of lives , but floods have affected the highest number of people (11.65 billion). Furthermore, the next
year 2020, registering even higher numbers of about 389 total disasters, caused 15,080 deaths, affected 98.4 million
people, and triggered economic losses up to USD 171.3 billion (UNDRR, 2021).
Floods are considered the most recurring and detrimental disaster events. Of all types of disasters, floods contributed to
33% of the disaster events worldwide during 1980-1999, 44% during 2000-2019 and 52% in 2020 alone. Floods have
shown an increasing trend in inflicting numerous damages to the world (Table 1). In 2021 alone, about 39 major flash
The UN report-2018 on climate action warns about heating up of the earth by marking 2011-2020 as the warmest decade since the late 1800s and
predicted an increase in global temperatures of 4.4˚C by the end of this century keeping in mind the current rate of CO₂ emissions. Thus, such
worrisome changes in the climate are causing intense weather-related disasters such as severe droughts, melting ice, extreme precipitation of shorter
duration leading to floods, catastrophic fires, rising sea levels, and storms, etc. affecting the biodiversity.
Vol. 9. No. 2. 2022
©Copyright by CRDEEP Journals. All Rights Reserved.
Contents available at: http://www.crdeepjournal.org
Global Journal of Current Research (ISSN: 2320-2920) CIF: 3.269
A Quarterly Peer Reviewed Journal
Corresponding Author:
Sana Rafi
Article history:
Received: 30-04-2022
Revised: 10-05-2022
Accepted: 21-05-2022
Published: 31-05-2022
Key words:
Disaster, Development,
Infrastructure, Kerala
Recent disaster events all over the world have shown an abnormal increase in the frequency and
magnitude of climate and weather associated disasters. Floods are one of such devastating,
detrimental, and lethal disasters among all such events. Considering the importance of vital
infrastructural facilities in determining a region's socioeconomic well-being, the present paper
aims at outlining the vital relationship between the disasters and development by analyzing
damage patterns to the infrastructural systems of Kerala, India, as a result of the 2018 floods.
To conduct this study a snowball approach was adopted to select related research articles.
Furthermore, secondary data has been collected from Kerala State Disaster Management, State
Government of Kerala, Relief Web, Prevention Web, National Institute of Disaster Management,
BMTPC and other major Institutions.The study revealed that Kerala floods-2018 was one such
episode of a record-breaking cascade. During these floods, an excess of 42% downpour during
the monsoon season resulted in unprecedented inundation causing about 477 fatalities. About
12.47 lakh people were stranded, and around USD 36.71 million in infrastructure was lost. Huge
losses and disruptions to essential infrastructure and services that are susceptible and exposed
(such as WASH, power, transportation, telecommunication, health, and education, etc.),
disturbing the developmental gains of the State, were reported. A range of mitigation measures
to safeguard such crucial facilities, such as interventions in early warning systems, involvement
of the local government and communities in the planning and implementation process, and
emergency response management, etc. have been proposed for the region's integrated, holistic,
and comprehensive disaster management.
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 43
and riverine flood events were recorded
with heavy torrential rainfall as the cause. Such occurrences have long-term
consequences on people's health, social, economic, and psychological well-being but also make a dent in the
developmental gains achieved by the region over an extended period. The harm caused by these calamities, particularly
to essential infrastructure, is unquantifiable.
Table 1: Worldwide damages caused by floods (1980-2020)
1980-1999 (%)
No. of events
1,389 (32.97)
3,254 (44)
104,614 (9)
Affected population
1.65 billion (41)
Economic loss (USD)
651 billion (22)
Floods in India
In developing and highly exposed countries like India, the impact of flood-like events are exemplified owing to
damaging human activities such as poor land-use practices, inadequate and non-resilient infrastructural facilities,
exposures, and vulnerabilities (physical, socio-economic, and community-led), etc.
Adoption of ill-planned and
unplanned developmental practices add to the miseries of the affected communities at the time of disasters. India is
presently one of the top three disaster-prone countries in the world (UNDRR, 2021) have gone through many large-scale
floods with water stagnation for many days such as in Mumbai floods-2005, Kashmir floods-2014, Chennai floods-2015,
Kerala floods-2018 and Hyderabad floods-2020, etc. The Mumbai floods of 2005 was a devastating event wherein 60%
of the city was inundated as a result of 944 mm (35% excess) of rainfall occurring in a single day (Dixonet al. 2008). The
flood resulted in the deaths of about 500 people leaving 20 million distressed with economic losses reaching up to USD
407.9 million, out of which USD 145.6 million losses were attributed to the infrastructure alone (Prevention Web, 2019).
Even the Mumbai airport built on reclaimed land of Mithi river had its runways inundated for days (Singh, 2018) along
with its terminal, navigation, and landing infrastructure damaged, which left the city limping for several days (Stecko &
Barber, 2007: NIDM, 2009).The 2014 Kashmir floods
left more than 280 people dead and 50,000 injured affecting a
total population of 1,949,790 (Sphere India, 2014). Significant impacts to critical infrastructure including health,
transportation, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and the educational sector were imposed by the floods. Hospitals
in Srinagar remained water stagnant for at least 10 days leaving all the equipment such as ventilators, incubators, and
oxygen concentrators, etc. fully damaged. In the villages of Kashmir Division alone, more than 70% of schools were out
of a function with about 75% reported losses to vital educational materials, and nearly 53% of the villages faced drinking
water shortages, and 85% of the area reported damages to sanitation facilities (Sphere India, 2014). Another example of
flood fury in India was the Chennai deluge of December 2015. Intensification of rainfall (1049 mm touching the return
period of almost 100 years) and consequent floods resulted in about 188 human deaths, leaving over 2,00,000 people
stranded (Reliefweb, 2015). Looking at the infrastructural losses; more than 5000 city roads (in number) were completely
flooded, 60% of the affected area was out of power and communication and transportation facilities were down
throughout the affected area, in addition to other damages.
Kerala Floods-2018
Kerala is situated on the Indian mainland's south-western tip, with the Arabian Sea to the west and the Indian Ocean to
the east has distinctive geo-climatic characteristics. Because of these characteristics, the state of Kerala witnessed a range
of hazards that sometimes convert into life-threatening disasters. Due to prevailing hazards, the State faces disasters of
varying nature every year which may include floods, droughts, landslides, lightning, coastal erosion, and minor earth
tremors, etc. The infrastructure facilities are under immense strain because of the frequent calamities. The 2004 Tsunami
added one more to the hazard profile of the State, which has the potential to convert into a disaster of extreme nature
(KSDMA, 2016). The State of Kerala had experienced all kinds of seasonal, annual, and historic floods; out of all such
incidences faced by the State, floods occurring in 1924, 1961, and 2018 have severely impacted the State. The 2018
flood, occurring during the southwest monsoon season, is considered the third largest flood faced by the State in its
history (NIDM, 2021). Extremely heavy rainfall laying down as much as 42% excess (Government of Kerala, 2018)
during the whole monsoon season, and 92% excess in the month of August alone, became a major cause for flooding in
the region. However, many other doubtful management operations have also contributed to its severity. Hence, the
combined effects of extremely heavy rainfall and the release of water from dams into the rivers led to the advancement of
the flood that took the whole state under its spell (Mishra et al., 2018). The deluge registered about 477 fatalities, leaving
12.47 lakh population stranded (Government of Kerala, 2018), affected about 23 million people, and resulted in a
whopping USD 3.8 billion (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018) of economic losses. Disruption to the
infrastructural facilities, specifically the critical infrastructure was immense. The agricultural sector, roads, bridges,
airports, and buildings of importance such as schools and hospitals were severely affected throughout the State, details of
which are given in the sections below.
https://public.emdat.be/data: accessed on October 15, 2021
Negative socio-economic Impacts of Floods: E-Learning Platform for IFM (tu-harburg.de) accessed on October 1, 2021
The highest magnitude of inundation in the Srinagar city and loss during the floods is attributed to the combined effects of rainfall, and reckless
urbanization of flood plains along the banks of the Jhelum (construction of a railway line), leading to reduced capacity of the river statement require
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Global Journal of Current Research 44
Impact on Critical Infrastructure
Assets, services, and facilities essential for the running of a region/economy and the well-being of the population make
up the vital infrastructure system. These cover a large number of sectors including power supply, transportation amenities
(roads, airways, waterways, and railways), public water supply, sanitation services, telecommunication services, health,
and educational sectors, etc. and are termed as critical by SFDRR, 2015. All these work as a basic asset required for the
smooth functioning of a region. Owing to their interdependent nature; disruption to any one of these sectors can lead to
the domino effect, especially at times of emergencies. Hence, the extent of the impact on these sectors goes far beyond
the flood inundation period (van Oldenborgh et al., 2021). The development of such facilities as a determinant of human
developmental patterns in exposed areas becomes the most obvious reason for their propensity to face damage during
flood situations (Pantet et al., 2018). Kerala flood of 2018 was regarded as one in a 100-year flood event (which has a 1%
chance of occurrence in any given year) (USGS, 2021), heavy damages to its critical infrastructural assets in about 13 out
of 14 districts were witnessed; hundreds of roads, bridges, and thousands of residential and commercial buildings in the
flood-prone areas, were primarily affected. Roads resembled rivers, having water all through and around them. Such
large-scale damages to the assets posed not only immediate challenges but also threatened the long-term developmental
gains of the State. A detailed account of the damages faced by the sectors like housing, transportation, WASH,
educational, and health infrastructure of Kerala have been discussed below.
Impact on Housing
The housing sector in Kerala is highly prone to damages due to flood-like situations (BMTPC, 2019). Around 20% of the
rural housing in Kerala is at a very high risk of floods, most of which were either swept away or suffered destruction in
some way or another because of the 2018 floods (Table 2). Moreover, the figure of ordinary brick buildings is also quite
high reaching up to 72.9% exposed to flood damage. Overall housing sector of the state went through extreme
disfigurement as approximately 1,21,703 dwellings (1.57% of the total houses) were impacted; about 9.58% of them
partially, 81.57% severely, and 8.83% were completely damaged owing to the extreme rainfall and subsequent floods.
The district that suffered the most damages to the housing sector was Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, and Thrissur (Table 3).
It can also be observed that more harm was experienced in August in comparison to June and July together. Close to
18,000 houses in the affected areas of Kerala were destroyed in such a way that they had to be rebuilt, while the rest
needed extensive repair and retrofitting (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018). The housing sector in Kerala was
affected by the combined effects of extremely heavy rainfall, gushing waters, inundation, and landslides. Because of non-
compliance with building laws and safety norms, most of the buildings lacked resilience. Whereas houses damaged
because of landslides were already built on unstable mountain slopes; meaning they would have suffered the same
damages even with the technological follow-ups. The construction of settlements on such slopes could be done with
expert geologic inspection beforehand, following the necessary building codes and safety standards keeping in mind the
multi-hazard prone status of the region (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018).
Table 2. Vulnerability of Housing to Floods, Kerala
House Type
Number of houses (%)
Level of Risk under floods
Rural buildings, mud houses
and houses with stone walls without mortar
1,966,817 (19.8)
Very High
Ordinary brick buildings with stone walls
packed with mortar
7,239,026 (72.9)
High to Medium
286,062 (2.9)
Low/Very low
104,081 (3.9)
339.169 (3.4)
Very High
Total houses
9,935,155 (100)
Light weight sloping roof
1,301,278 (13.1)
Very High
Heavy weight sloping roof
3,736,451 (37.6)
Flat roof
4,897,426 (49.3)
Damage to such kinds of roofs is
determined by the type of wall
supporting it.
Table 3: District wise damage to houses
number of
Total number of damaged
Damage (%)
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 45
Impact on Transportation
Damages to the transportation sector put forward not only immediate complications but jeopardise the overall growth of
any region. A 1-in-a-100-year flood event has been found to bind around 7.5 percent of a world’s transportation
infrastructure (Koks et al., 2019). Roads, trains, and bridges are examples of transportation facilities that connect one
location to another; thus, hindrances to the connectivity as well as the emergency action plans are among the primary
disruptions exerted by this sector (Morel & Hissel, 2010). Heavy downpour and gushing waters in 2018 impacted nearly
15,000 km of roads in Kerala and destroyed 1020 bridges (Figure 1), thereby hindering access to flood-affected areas.
Nearly 828 km of road length in Idukki, 1300 km in Ernakulum, and 1228 km in Kottayam destroyed. District Idukki
went through extreme reparations to it connecting bridges as well, registering a total loss of 121 bridges in the whole
monsoon period, followed by Alappuzha at 83, and Palakkad at 79 (Government of Kerala, 2018). Such damages to
roads and highways in Kerala had a grave impact on the transportation well-being of the State, as most of these roads
represent about 75% of freight and 85% of the passenger share of the state (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018).
Most damages to roads in district Idukki, Wayanad, Pathanamthitta and Palakkad were due to heavy landslides, whereas
flash floods, erosion, and water inundation impacted vast lengths of roads in district Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kozhikode,
Malappuram, Kollam, and Kottayam. Safeguarding the transportation facilities could be ensured with a proper network
analysis of the roads and highways in the State and planning of alternate and safer routes to be used at the time of
emergency, with the help of GIS mapping, to increase the usefulness of road infrastructure which ultimately enhance the
response and rescue process at the time of disaster.
Fig 1. Damaged Transportation Services during Kerala Floods (2018)
Impact on Educational Infrastructure
The education sector and related infrastructure serve as the backbone for every region's development. Disruption to this
sector puts forward a two-edged loss; on one hand, damage to the physical infrastructure including essential materials
along with school buildings induce loss of education; while on the other, unavailability of the institutions/buildings
deprive the affected people of shelters at times of emergencies. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country, with
GREs of 95 and 102 for primary and secondary school students, respectively; such disruptions to its educational
infrastructure can have grave impacts on the education status and gains achieved by the State. The after-effects of floods
on this sector include high drop-out rates considering the loss of livelihood of many populations, more absenteeism, and
other impacts on day-to-day services of these institutions (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018).
Similarly, floods in 2018 left a trail of damages to the education sector, both in terms of immediate and long-term needs.
Structural damages to about 1051 schools (8.31% of the total schools)
and 2659 Anganwadi/Courtyard shelters
Data accessed from http://www.niyamasabha.org/codes/ginfo_1.htm
Courtyard Shelters are Centers established in rural areas of India for providing care to children and mothers.
604.46 677.48
712.26 921.95 947.37 969.95 998 1228.45
2828.06 14814.62
9 5
48 43 21 20 8 18
121 578
Damages to Roads(kms) Damaged Bridges
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 46
of the total centres)
has been witnessed. From the buildings to every essential material in the schools (desks, boards,
lockers, libraries, grounds, important documents, and children's creative works) were completely wrecked. The walls,
roofs and floors of thousands of courtyard shelters were all spoiled with disruption to kitchen items as well, which
hindered the regular service of the centre including mid-day meals. About 1148 toilets, 842 urinal facilities, and 34,251
compound walls were found impacted as well (UNDP, 2018: Government of Kerala, 2018). An account of the crippled
educational assets other than the buildings in government-run institutions is given in Figure 2. The most affected districts
in terms of damages to educational assets were Alappuzha, followed by Malappuram, Kottayam, and Ernakulam. The
disruptions to the schools and aanganwadis of the State affected the education of about 25,000 children. Besides,
teaching and learning were badly affected at all levels, as some schools and higher education institutes remained closed
for about a month owing to both, the extent of damage to these structures, and their use as evacuation centres. Even after
the reopening, many students remained absent for several days. All such events also leave a trail on the student’s psycho-
social well-being, for which counselling is required.
Fig 2: Damaged educational infrastructure in Kerala, monsoon 2018
Impact on Health Infrastructure
The infrastructure related to health services constitutes one of the most critical indicators of the overall growth of any
region, as it offers basic facilities and services required for the smooth functioning of a community (Adaji, 2019). The
role of the health sector becomes even more crucial at times of calamities, considering the grave impact of disasters on
society and disruptions to the services offered, both immediate and long term. Local health centres and hospitals provide
general and emergency health services to not only regular patients but are required to cater to an increased number of
patients from the affected community at times of calamities. Flooding has two effects on health-care institutions in each
area: destroy the infrastructure or directly disrupt accessibility to them (Menne & Murray, 2013). This statement
accurately sums up the situation during flood events; if the building or the amenity is not destroyed then there is a very
high chance of accessibility disruption to it or the area. Internal hospital utilities such as communication, electricity,
water supply, and transportation services for patient evacuation, among other things, are also harmed. The absence of
such crucial health elements at a hospital building, new admissions of a host of patients, and unavailability of essential
supplies give rise to more complications in managing the disaster impacts. In the State, roughly 68%
of the healthcare
service centres suffered the wrath of floods, comprising 452 hospitals and 423 Primary Health Centres (PHCs). The
worst affected district was Alappuzha wherein 83 hospital buildings and 101 PHCs met with damages of various degrees.
Besides dealing with the destroyed infrastructure, several other hazards were also prevailing in the medical facilities of
the flood-affected areas such as the threat of toxic pollution due to seeping chemicals; a virus outbreak or increase in
some communicable and non-communicable diseases, damaged and exposed electrical wiring and weakened building
structures, etc. leading to disruption of proper functioning of these facilities. During and post-flood situations, an increase
in the number of chickenpox, Hepatitis A, and Leptospirosis cases were also experienced. Nonetheless, the Government
of Kerala accounts for the total damage plus loss to health infrastructure as USD 37 million, including a loss to medicines
worth USD 1.8 million (UNDP, 2018; Government of Kerala, 2018). Destruction to the medical infrastructure such as
expensive medical equipment, lifeline installations, blood banks, warehouses, furniture, medicines, drugs, and
consumables, apart from disruptions to communication assets, power supply, emergency backups, ambulance, and
nutrition service, etc. pose not only immediate challenges but also exerts long-term impacts on the provision of the health
services. Kerala has a high rate of noncommunicable diseases, such as cholera, all forms of malignancies, chronic and
Data obtained from the website of Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Kerala. http://wcd.kerala.gov.in/anganwadis.php
As per the PDNA report by the Government of Kerala, there are 1280 allopathic healthcare institutions, out of which 875 were destroyed, hence 68%.
13.61 0.26
12.17 4.5 0
and Offices Uniforms Computer
laboratories Science
Laboratories Sports
equipments Walls Water and
Number of damaged items
Numbers Amount (In INR Crores)
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 47
respiratory ailments, and so on. the need to develop resilient health infrastructure becomes even more crucial (UNDP,
2018; Government of Kerala, 2018).
Impact on WASH Sector
WASH sector contains three sub-sectors, viz., Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Drinking water supply, sanitation
facilities, and hygiene are among the worst impacted critical facilities to suffer the impacts of floods; less to no
availability of drinking water due to contamination destroyed latrines and other sanitation facilities and spread of
waterborne diseases, etc. escalate the impact of floods in a region. Damage to WASH, and Solid Waste Management
(SWM) in the whole State stood at a total of USD 89 million (Table 4). The figures in the table speak facts about the
extent of damage to the infrastructural facilities in Kerala, as about 55% of the water supply units, 16% of sanitation
services, and 28% of the SWM units were affected. Visible climate changes and resultant disasters of adverse nature pose
a greater threat to the availability of water supply and sanitation technologies, the consequences of which possess the
ability to jeopardize the effective and timely achievement of SDGs; At the same time, it puts the already-achieved
milestones in jeopardy; it also has the potential to reduce the potential and increase the cost of fulfilling the Millennium
Development Goals (WHO, 2010).
Table 4: Damages to the WASH sector
WASH sector
Damaged assets
Cost of damage (INR
Shallow wells, KWA and
Jalanidhi water schemes
Household latrines
SWM units
Units at household, community,
and institutional level
Impact on the Power Sector
The power sector of any region is a major indicator of human and economic development, inclusive growth, and the
well-being of a nation (World Bank, 2010). Nonetheless, it falls under one of the directly impacted emergency assets at
the time of such disasters, with immediate impacts on the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy, and long-
term effects on renewable energy supply, hydropower generations, and reduction of CO emissions, etc. (Handayani,
2019). Moreover, direct impacts on the energy supply may affect other crucial systems linked to it, such as water supply,
transport, communication, and wastewater plants, etc. thereby posing a multi-faceted challenge. The Kerala State
Electricity Board is said to have sustained losses in all spheres, viz., generation, transmission, distribution, and revenue
registering effects on about 25.60 lakh consumers. The disruption was such that the State government estimated
restoration and replacement of about 1700 distribution transformer stations, around 5,300 km of distribution lines, 1
million poles, 300,000 single-phase energy meters and 50, 000 energy meters etc. (Bindal & Khan, 2021). Table 5 shows
the damages that occurred to the power sector in Kerala during the Floods (2018). Hence, more technological
interventions and enhancements are suggested, keeping in mind the locations with distribution and flooding risks.
Table 5. Damage to Power Sector during Kerala Flood (2018)
Major Hydro-Power Stations
Small Hydro-Power Stations
Distribution Substations
22 flooded, 10,000 switched off
Power Transformers
Major Transmission Corridors
Distribution Transformers
1700 destroyed and 16,158 affected severely
Old Electrical Stations
Consumers Affected
25.60 lakh (2.5 million)
Summing Up
The Kerala floods-2018, being a large-scale natural calamity coupled with complex failed human interactions, had
obvious impacts on the physical, social, and critical infrastructure of the region. Figure 3 showed the extent of damages
the flood had caused indicating the impacts on the social and economic security, and public health of the State. The
developmental gains achieved by Kerala over some time remain under the threat owing to its geo-climatic conditions,
vulnerabilities offered, and the level of preparedness and management to tackle extreme events and simultaneously face
the repercussions. Changing climatic conditions and resultant natural disaster events of high magnitude put the world into
a challenging condition. The extreme flooding in 2018 caught the State of Kerala off guard. The combined effects of
42% excess rainfall during the monsoon season and emergency management led to the disruption of the State to a large
extent even though regular/annual preparedness measures were discussed and acted upon before the monsoon season,
which were proved to be inadequate afterwards. The areas requiring serious considerations were found to be deficient in
the management and coordination of the early warning systems, doubtful reservoir operations, and emergency response
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 48
and supervision, etc. The long-term administrative concerns which added to the severity of the disaster can easily be
identified as inadequate risk-sensitive land-use planning, i.e., development of exposed areas including housing in flood
plains and landslide-prone areas; improper policies to monitor the status of critical resources; poor quality of resilient
infrastructure and public services; absence of disaster risk preparedness in key sectors; and a dysfunctional institutional
response to extraordinary occurrences, etc. Somehow, inefficiency in the management of such disasters has been exposed
by another disaster of the same sort in Kerala i.e., the June-August 2020 floods. It has been asserted that the floods of
2020 in Kerala could be as devastating as the year 2018 was. Continuous practices with damaging nature such as
quarrying, mining, uncontrolled and unplanned constructions, and deforestation etc. are still being carried out with less to
no focus on risk and climate-sensitive planning (Hindustan Times Editorial, 2021). An example of poor land-use
planning in any region is the damage to the heavy infrastructural facilities, such as airports. Incidences of flood water
inundating into the airports have been observed; for instance, the Chennai airport in 2015 (Noeth, 2015), the Cochin
International airport of Kerala, inundated in 2018, and very recent flooding at airports of Kolkata in September 2021
(Scroll, 2021), of Delhi in September 2021 (Chaturvedi, 2021) and Bengaluru airport in October 2021(Mint, 2021). The
Cochin International Airport in Kerala is the largest one in the State and is said to have been constructed on the flood
plain of the Periyar river (Scroll, 2021). Inundation of facilities like airports clearly indicate poor land use planning,
which ultimately paves way for more damages and disturbs the socio-economic well-being of the affected region. Not
only the risk-sensitive land use planning but also the inappropriate planning at the individual institution level also plays a
role in the enhanced damage potential of critical infrastructure for instance, in the case of hospitals placement of
necessary equipment on lower floors which are under the risk of inundation is one such example. It can be concluded that
the relationship between infrastructural systems and their interaction with disaster events is vital to understanding the
extent of damages and minimizing future risks. The concern here is not only the structural elements of the critical
infrastructures but also the non-structural ones, as present in the case of schools and hospitals. Such non-resilient,
vulnerable, and exposed structural and non-structural elements escalate the overall impacts of the event. To minimize the
indemnities incurred by the natural and human-induced calamities, any region needs to safeguard, and improve upon its
critical infrastructural system. The unprecedented nature of the disasters in the country, especially the state of Kerala, has
put a heavy toll on the critical infrastructural systems (Figure 3), along with putting a big question mark on the level of
resilience of built environment. The extent of damage to the critical infrastructure owing to recurrent disasters like floods
has become a concern and consistent phenomenon; hence, safeguarding the critical infrastructural elements has become a
very important part of the disaster management system. Thus, the recurrent and extreme nature of the flood disaster in
Kerala calls for a holistic, For more resilient and sustainable planning decisions, use an integrated, inventive, and
technical strategy that includes a combination of structural and non-structural mitigating measures developing, and
monitoring the infrastructural projects (UNDRR, 2020a). In the following paragraphs, we will look at some ways to
accomplish this.
Fig 3. Impact of Kerala flood (2018) on Critical Infrastructural Systems
Risk Sensitive Land Use Planning
One of the most important aspects of flood risk mitigation is land use planning. The vulnerability of infrastructure
facilities is mostly determined by their position in exposed places. Site selection for the Cochin airport, which is the
largest airport of Kerala, is a classic example of exposed areas development. The airport was inundated for several days,
disrupting services for about 2 weeks. The airport had been built on the flood plains of the Periyar River, which is hardly
400 metres away from it (Chari, 2018). River zoning regulations would have played an important part in defining the
location of any kind of permanent critical infrastructure facility on the exposed area in the vicinity of the river.
Discrepancies in the planning and development of such facilities have led to large-scale damages. Hazard mapping of the
region should be done considering the physical and geographical components such as catchment width, vegetation cover,
and land cover, etc., taking both spatial and temporal characteristics of the concerned disaster. Many studies have proved
that proper and strict planning and zoning strategy has the potential of reducing losses ranging from 15% to 65% for
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Global Journal of Current Research 49
floods (Muis et al., 2015; Koks et al., 2015; Genovese & Thaler, 2020). Proper and strict spatial planning, strategy can
reduce the potential loss by about 33% and 65% for river and coastal floods respectively (Muis et al., 2015). Another
example of land use planning and zoning is provided by Koks et al., (2015) which assures the reduction of 15 to 20%
losses with proper and strict land-use planning. It may be concluded that the repetition of developmental practices that
have led to the location of these structures in prone and high-risk areas should also be avoided (First Street Foundation,
Resilience Building
Regarding the various flood frequencies to which Kerala is exposed, parameters such as susceptibility, level of resilience
of existing essential infrastructure, and that of future projects must be examined (Serre & Heinzlef, 2018). This
assessment can help identify elements that are threatening or supporting the structures' and community's resilience, such
as non-compliance with building codes and regulations, the quality of the construction materials used, and the level of
reliability and security of those structures, among other things (Rehak et al., 2019; UNDRR, 2020a). Protection of key
infrastructure facilities, both current and future, must be factored into disaster risk mitigation planning at all levels.
Participation of community and local government in protecting such facilities from future disasters would be a positive
step in this direction. A plan for the protection of important infrastructure facilities should be created in advance, based
on historical flood data. The general public and key stakeholders' participation in this plan would be valuable in
addressing and preventing the damages caused by future disasters, as well as guiding policymakers to enhance current
infrastructure and develop new ones to protect local populations (McLuckie, 2013).
Structral Measures for Flood Risk Mitigation
Flood risk mitigation initiatives will be aided by a well-balanced mix of structural and non-structural measures.
Structural flood mitigation measures such as the construction of embankments, area elevation, building elevation, dry
proofing, and wet proofing, etc. alter the impact of floods and can be used to reduce the impact of floods in a particular
location, especially those with a denser population. Studies like (Lasage et al., 2014; Genovese & Thaler, 2020) state that
usage of dry and wet proofing techniques can help in the reduction of losses from 20% up to 95%. Whereas the elevation
of structures as per the present risk, can provide risk reduction up to 100%. Overall, integrated risk reduction, prevention,
and management strategies with an emphasis on risk and climate-sensitive planning and a long-term sustainable vision,
adopted by the government and decision-makers, involving the local governments, key stakeholders and communities
can significantly improve the face of overall disaster management in the region.
Management of Road Critical Infrastructures
Because of their interconnection and failure propagation, roads are classified as linear essential infrastructures. Roads are
fundamental for not only regular mobility but also accessibility at times of emergencies. Evacuations, medical supplies,
relief, rescue, and restoration, among other things become almost impossible due to damages to roads. Technology based
network analysis of exposed areas must be done, to plan out alternate routes that are less flood-prone and more protected.
Identifying safer routes and higher elevation sites, for example, using innovative technologies and Geographical
Information Systems (GIS) can be beneficial. More focus would then be placed on such routes to make them even more
prepared for emergencies, and overall improved accessibility.
Community Involvement
Active participation and performance of the communities observed during the 2018 floods in Kerala indicate a cohesive
involvement of community-led organizations and the general public in the planning and processing part at all levels of
disaster management. A risk-informed community can be proved beneficial for smooth and efficient planning and
allocation of resources across all levels. Risk knowledge and perception in the community as a whole and at the
individual level is necessary to identify, understand and analyze the risks they face regarding the known hazard
Collaboration between communities for planned and strategic community response plans must also be done in advance
for people to know how to respond during emergencies. All of this will ensure better adaptation, perception, and
mitigation of the disaster along with an improved emergency response mechanism (McLuckie, 2013).
Local Governance
Considering the level of exposure and disaster risk in Kerala, strong commitments from the local governments have
become crucial for risk reduction and mitigation. Because local governments deal directly with the social, economic, and
environmental aspects of communities, they have firsthand knowledge of what is going on. As a result, local government
participation in disaster planning and mitigation has become critical for successful and coordinated catastrophe risk
reduction. Equipping the local administration and the community-led organizations with sufficient risk knowledge,
resources, risk-sensitive plans and strategies, and their capacity building can be advantageous for enhanced resilience at
the local level (UNDRR, 2020a). Long-term sustainable and resilient strategies starting from the local level itself can
enhance the overall disaster management of the concerned region. Critical infrastructure expansion is a key measure of
human progress; it cannot be located away from human settlements. Facilities such as schools and hospitals must be
made flood resilient, especially the ones located near riverbeds or in low-lying areas. For instance, district Alappuzha
Taken from the website, “Planning for Hazards: Land Use Solutions for Colorado.” https://planningforhazards.com/critical-infrastructure-protection
Rafi et. al., /GJCR/ 9(2) 2022; 42-52
Global Journal of Current Research 50
sustained the most damages as compared to others in the State, because it is a low-lying region. Special efforts need to be
made in such districts to build resilience. Another crucial factor of impact minimization is the placement planning of
various facilities. In the case of hospitals, especially, emergency assets and equipment are usually placed at the ground
floor or basement which makes them highly vulnerable to damage owing to the water inundation; hospitals must not only
be planned at safer locations but also be designed based on the National Building Code norms. The non-structural
elements also require attention for reducing the risk of inundation and sustaining the functionality of a hospital during
Early Warning Systems
Emergency management of the disasters including early evacuations would help minimize the losses to a greater extent.
This can only be done with improved early warning systems at the local and state level with the use available modern
technologies. Better early warning systems are based on scientific and meteorological methods of monitoring, hence,
ensure better management of the upcoming possible disaster (Varghese, 2019). Moreover, the latest equipment at more
locations must be fixed for better data acquisition and issuance of forecasts and warnings. Early warning at all four
levels, namely risk knowledge, monitoring and warning services, dissemination and communication, and reaction
capabilities, must be considered to improve the region's early warning system (Varghese, 2019). Proper vulnerability and
risk studies for each community will lead to a better understanding of the challenges faced by the communities at the
local level. Comprehensive information disseminating by using not only conventional methods like radio/television etc.
but also modern and non-conventional methods like social media tools will help in sending clear actionable messaging to
the general public. Balbi et al., (2015) in their study on the Sihl river catchments in Switzerland suggests that with proper
early warning and flood forecast, as many as 75% fatalities, it is possible to avoid 25% of injuries and 18% of post-
traumatic stress illnesses.
Improved Response Mechanism
There should be smooth coordination between regional and central governments for enhanced emergency response and
rescue capacities and capabilities of the concerned organizations. Moreover, enough personnel knowing the local
language of the region must be there in the teams to avoid any kind of language barriers at the time of the operations.
Funding: Funding was not received from any organization and company for conducting the present study
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest All authors have equally contributed to the present work.
Human and animal rights No human and/or animal participation was involved in the study.
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