Address by Pinarayi Vijayan, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala at the
Opening Session of World Reconstruction Conference held at
Geneva on May 13, 2019.
The State of Kerala, which I represent here, is situated in the
southern part of the Indian peninsula and is known for its rich and
diverse natural heritage. However, we did not have to face natural
calamities of significant magnitude for more than ninety years. But
the recent unprecedented floods of August 2018, posed a new and a
major challenge to our Government and civil society.
Kerala was very badly affected by this flood in which there was loss
of 453 precious human lives. In addition, 280 thousand houses
were lost or damaged, 140 thousand hectares of standing crops were
destroyed and about 70 thousand kilometres of road network
suffered major damage. The total recovery needs of the State has
been estimated as around 4.4 billion US dollars, as per the Post
Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) conducted by the UN
But our society met this with exemplary determination. The spirit of
courage, especially among the youth and students has its roots in the
uniqueness of Kerala society due to the inbibing of the values of
famous renaissance movement, which took place in our society in
the last two centuries. The secular fabric of our society ensured that
no differences could stand in the way of meeting this natural
The civil society and the Government in Kerala acted swiftly and
in unison in the hour of crisis. The fisher-folk who brave the sea
for a livelihood deserve our special gratitude for their timely
intervention without which we would have lost many more lives.
The Government machinery worked hard to respond on a real time
basis to meet the emergent crisis.
The Chief Minister and the concerned Ministers along with the
officials met more than once in a day for closely monitoring and
reviewing the situation. Along with State Government officials,
representatives of the Armed forces also actively participated.
Rescue of people trapped in houses and moving them to safer
places was the top priority and this was done effectively with
societal participation as mentioned earlier.
Our Government efficiently channelized the contributions of
thousands of citizens, the Kerala diaspora and aid agencies to get
the State back on its feet. Affected families were given immediate
relief in cash and kind. Critical infrastructure like power supply was
restored in record time. The State Government in cooperation
with Local Government institutions, civil society and mass
organisations organised a massive drive for cleaning flood affected
houses, provision of drinking water, medicines and essential
A comprehensive programme to rebuild lost and damaged houses
has been launched. Loans for recovery of essential house-hold
articles lost and damaged during the floods from our Co-operative
Banks and commercial banks where chanalized through the widely
networked Women’s self help group Kudumbashree. The interest
payment on these loans was borne by the Government of Kerala.
Our Government also ensured wage employment to needy families
by augmenting the ongoing employment programme. Our
Government is also providing financial assistance with beneficiary
involvement for rebuilding damaged houses and constructing
completely lost houses.
We have presently taken up the challenging task of rebuilding Kerala
better. In other words, our aim is not to restore what was in
existence before the flood, but to build a new Kerala which will be
resilient to any possible natural disasters in future.
The Rebuild Kerala Initiative is being carried out in a mission mode.
Eco-friendly building strategies, giving more room for rivers,
learning to live with floods etc. are the key ingredients of this
initiative. Kerala which has a long history of implementing social
security measures and several progressive interventions like land
reforms, state action in education and health, expects to fulfil the
present task also through peoples’ participation. For this, the strong
institutional framework of decentralisation of governance will be of
Our rehabilitation packages give utmost importance to the basic
needs of food and shelter to the least empowered sections of the
society. We have also taken care to ensure that these sections get
these as a matter of entitlement and rights and not as a gratis from
the state or the society.
To conclude, I would like to note here that during the first week of
May 2019 the cyclone Fani badly affected the Indian State Odisha.
But damage to human life could be controlled due to sufficient early
warning. This brings before us the fact that early warning systems
should work effectively as the variations in climatic patterns due to
global warming have increased the frequency of natural calamities
like floods and cyclones.
I wholeheartedly support the theme of the conference which is
“Opportunities to build back more inclusively include identifying
vulnerable groups and their needs prior to a disaster, social
protection programs that target the most vulnerable and ensuring
that reconstruction does not overlook low-income and
geographically-isolated areas.”. The floods of 2018 brought the best
of Kerala out – we supported each other in a spirit of brotherhood,
without social or economic differences. This spirit will continue to
inspire us through all our recovery efforts.
We are happy to share our experiences with others and learn better
practices elsewhere. We see this forum as an important milestone
that will help us get better ideas in building our State better.
Thanks again for this invitation and looking forward to exchange of