'We have long-term and short-term plans'

EXCLUSIVE | Kodagu DC says recovery still long way away

IAS officer P I Sreevidya bagged an all-India rank of 14 in her 2010 batch. Her appointment as the Kodagu deputy commissioner in December 2017 has been, arguably, her toughest assignment yet. She talks to Bharath Joshi of DH on the disaster that struck and the way forward.

What is the current assessment of the situation?

The situation has almost come back to normalcy because we have restored connectivity temporarily. Many of the people have gone back to the villages. But still, there are miles to go. We’ve a lot to do on rehabilitation, building new houses and providing livelihood options.

There’s a sharp decline in relief camps. Where have the displaced gone?

In the beginning, we had 55 relief camps. Today, it’s down to eight. People have gone back to their native places now that there’s connectivity. People whose homes were intact have gone back. Others rented facilities or went to relatives’ homes. Those whose houses are completely damaged or in a dangerous condition are still in the camps.

The biggest concern right now is livelihood

We are trying to tap into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. In the relief camps, we’ve started providing training to women on making paper bags, incense sticks, ornaments and so on.

For men, we are providing work options under MGNREGS. We’re also trying to have market linkages under different government schemes with the support of the private sector.  Also, we are exploring possibilities of training youngsters in plumbing, electrical work, etc.

Is there consensus now on what caused the landslides?

We had scientists from the Geological Survey of India here for a few days. In their preliminary report, they stated different reasons - continuous rainfall and modifications to the slopes (this is a hilly district). But rainfall - the highest in the last 100 years - intensified the situation. But we’re are going for a detailed study.

Was deforestation a cause?

Specifically, they aren’t using that word. It’s mostly slope modifications and the fact that we didn’t have infrastructure like retaining walls and proper drainage. But continuous, heavy rainfall triggered this.

Will you take ecological measures going forward?

Scientists have suggested long-term and short-term measures with regard to retaining walls, proper drainage, slope strengthening through retrieval grass and creating awareness among the public. We will follow the suggestions.

Was mitigation possible if the Kasturirangan report was implemented?

I have no comments on that. It’s for the government to say.

Locals say it will take several years to recover from the disaster

We have fixed a time-frame for recovery at the earliest. First, is to construct houses. We are going for prefabricated structures to reduce construction time. We can’t keep people for long in relief camps because their life will be affected.

We’ll shift them to the houses at the earliest.  

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