Schools in flood-hit Kerala reopened this weekend following the devastating rains in southern India which have brought unimaginable misery to at least 300,000.
Rotary clubs and organisations in Great Britain & Ireland have responded rapidly to the humanitarian crisis in Kerala as part of a global Rotary response, while clubs from all parts of India are pitching in.
Rotary Kerala has been key during both the rescue and now relief efforts.
“It is defining time for Kerala – and Rotarians,” said Sunil K Zachariah, Past District Governor for the Kerala region.
“Rotary clubs did very well during rescue and relief stages. There are about 250 Rotary clubs in Kerala. All of them sprang into action real fast. Rotary became the most trusted relief goods distribution network.
“Rotary clubs from all parts of India generously helped with food, clothes and relief material. Rotary clubs in Tamil Nadu went beyond the call of duty to help.
“Thousands of trucks of food and materials came from Tamil Nadu to help their neighbours in distress.”
Besides schools re-opening on Saturday, the first planes were able to land at Cochin Airport at the weekend after being closed for 14 days.
Repairs to roads and infrastructure will take years.”
Around 500 people died from the flooding, and roughly 1.5 million people are currently living in relief camps. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, the worst flooding witnessed in Kerala in a century has cost the region ₹300,000 million rupees (£3282 million).
“The loss to agriculture is anybody’s guess,” added Sunil K Zachariah. “As almost the whole state was under water, no crop was spared from devastation.
“Repairs of roads and infrastructure will take years. E Sridharan, a well-known technocrat from Kerala, has estimated that it may take a minimum eight years to rebuild this land.”
Asked what resources are needed in the region, Sunil K Zachariah replied that cleaning materials are needed in tonnes.
Soap, detergents, bleach powder, cleaning chemicals, water jet pumps, buckets, shovels, dust-pans, mops, brooms, brushes are all needed in huge quantities.
Electricians, plumbers, technicians are needed in thousands.
“Rotary International Director, Bhaskar Chockalingam of RC Karur, is giving leadership for building 3,000 low cost houses at a cost of ₹1000 million (£10.93 million),” said Sunil K Zachariah.
“Swift, transparent and efficient rebuilding efforts are required.
“We have to take lessons from our previous disaster management efforts during the tsunami in south India and earthquake in Gujarat. We need to be faster and better in our response.
“Local requirements are varied and urgent. Rotary clubs are responding with several initiatives. Some clubs have taken a ₹10 million (£109,450) challenge for local projects.
History will not pardon us if we do not come up with large, bold and fast initiatives.”
“Funds are being mobilised from members, friends and relatives to meet this challenge of meeting innumerable local needs which cannot wait.
“It is defining time for Kerala – and Rotarians. History will not pardon us if we do not come up with large, bold and fast initiatives.”
Sunil K Zachariah said that Rotary can help in three key areas with rebuilding Kerala:
- Building at least 1,500 low-cost houses in each of the three affected Rotary districts in Kerala. That means at least 4,500 houses for those made homeless by the floods. “Some policy changes will be needed for The Rotary Foundation grants, which I am sure that we can convince the trustees,” said Sunil K Zacharia.
- Enhancing possible relief shelters for future use. Also building raised toilets, water storage units and similar enhancements.
- Reconstruction of at least 9 schools, three in each district, similar to how Sri Lankan Rotary clubs helped following the 2004 tsunami.
The Donations Trust is a registered charity, established in 2007, which collates donations and makes grants to Rotary projects working to rebuild communities in the long term, rather than acting as a first responder.
You can make donations to the India Flood Appeal using our online payment option through BT myDonate.
Alternatively, you can send a cheque payable to Rotary In Great Britain and Ireland Donations Trust to Kinwarton Road, Alcester, B49 6PB.