THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State government is likely to reconstitute the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) by bringing in more experts so that the state would be more prepared next time, unlike what happened during cyclone Ockhi. At present, barring one scientist, KSDMA has bureaucrats, ministers and the chief secretary as CEO.

Experts said that KSDMA must be reconstituted with at least six experts, like other states. There is a proposal to reconstitute KSDMA with 10 more experts. Though recruitment is complete, they are yet to be posted. State emergency operations centre (SEOC) under KSDMA has nine hazard analysts led by its head scientist and KSDMA member secretary, said sources.
Even when India Meteorological Department (IMD) cited its limitations indicating that it can only mention conditions such as ‘a deep depression would intensify further’, the state is expected to have an expert to interpret the message and convey warning in an effective manner. Had such an exercise happened on November 28, when the first clear warning was received from the Centre, authorities could have stopped fishermen from venturing into the sea for two days.

“Though hazard vulnerability risk assessment cell was constituted under KSDMA in 2011, it was converted to SEOC in 2014. Except the head scientist at SEOC and two hazard analysts, all others have basic knowledge in disaster management and none of them have enough experience to interpret the warning issued by IMD and warn of a possible disaster,” an official said.
Though SEOC is envisaged as a powerful centre, it functions as a control room as part of an early warning system. Even that fails because there are no resources in place at the district-level. This happening though Kerala received Rs 158.95 crore under national cyclone risk mitigation project including Rs 15 crore for early warning, Rs 136 for cyclone shelters and Rs7.95 crore for implementation assistance. There is hardly anything on ground, the official said.

“Till 2002, six major cyclones hit our coast and Kerala was listed as a cyclone hazard vulnerability area. That is the reason why crores are set aside for disaster management. Last year, Kerala got Rs 1,021 crore from the Centre to ensure disaster management preparedness in five years. Yet the required infrastructure and expertise is yet to be in place,” said former head of state disaster management centre KG Thara.