Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

Documenting the Deluge: Here's why this teacher from Kerala wrote a book on the 2018 floods 

The lack of information during previous such disasters in Kerala bothered Balan, who decided to write a book rooted in policy and facts in order to guide future attempts at flood management

It took a retired school teacher to realise that there wasn't enough comprehensive data on past floods in Kerala to construct a robust disaster management effort, in case of a calamity. KP Balan followed the 2018 floods in the state closely, sifting through multiple news reports. It piqued his interest in the documentation of floods in the state and he set off trying to gather more information.

All to no avail, however, because apart from a few newspaper reports on the last major flood in the state, which occurred in 1924, there was not a lot of information to go on. And that led Balan to believe that this particular calamity shouldn't go undocumented. 

"As the disaster was of a high magnitude and one of the biggest in history since 1924, I had gone through the news published in newspapers very closely. Everybody was referring to the flood of 1924. But as I went in search of a book or a detailed study about that flood, nothing worthwhile was there about it, apart from some newspaper reports. So I thought, it shouldn't happen to this flood, as a detailed study about it would be of great value to the administration and the coming generations," said Balan, a resident of Kizhakkumbhagam near Pinarayi.

And so transpired Disaster Management in Kerala: Undercurrents and Overtones. Written by Balan after careful research and a comprehensive study of the floods that have sunk the state for two consecutive seasons, the book depicts the reasons behind the huge impact of the flood on the geography and the people of the state through eleven chapters. The book was launched by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and has received much praise from writer K Jayakumar, former Chief Secretary of the State, who said that the book was of high academic value and should be considered a "major resource for future training and studies on disaster management."

Balan, who retired from the Government Brennen Higher Secondary School in Thalassery, is a resident of Kizhakkumbhagam. He chose to write the book in English because he believed it would have value in national and international circles. "It was not easy for a person without any influence like me. I went through many government documents that I had attained through around 3,000 RTI applications. It took more than two years for me to finish writing the 427-page book. I hope my work would serve as material for scientific discussion," said Balan about the process.

The study engages the various dimensions of rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken by the government and provides insight into what Kerala can learn after the disaster in taking precautions and how it can implement the Rebuild Kerala initiative.

"Instead of following the general trend of portraying the tragedies, personal losses and other sentimental elements, I have concentrated on facts, figures, policy directions and the decisions taken at the government level. It can also be read as a historical and ecological study of the floods that hit the state," said Balan, who is elated by the feedback he has received from various experts in the field.