Kochi: Do not run down indigenous knowledge, for it can sometimes save your life. When most villagers of Puthanvelikara in Ernakulam were affected by the devastating floods, a traditional fisherman, K.S. Antony, had a different experience. After assessing the behaviour of the seas, he suggested to his neighbours and panchayat members about the impending flooding and shifted his family along with their belongings. His house too was neck deep in water but he lost nothing.
Antony from Vellottumpuram, the most low-lying area in the village, was aware of the impact of ‘thakka kedu,’ a fishermen parlance, the period when river water will not drain into the sea.
“I was keenly watching the reports on the opening of shutters of various dams and landslides in many areas. Since the earth had absorbed the maximum water, the rain water and the discharge from dams had to reach the sea. I could foresee the impending danger on August 15 on the Panchami day, when the heavy rains, floods and landslides started. From Panchami to the next six days, the sea will not receive even a drop of water. So, it was certain that heavy discharge from dams and the rain water will flood the areas. My assumption was that water level will increase by 10 feet,” Antony said.
Despite having a small single-storeyed house, he could save all his belongings through proper planning. “The fridge, TV and washing machines were kept on a table put atop the cot and tied on the roof. Children’s books were wrapped in a plastic sack and kept on the garret. The documents were also shifted. Though the flood water reached 1.5 feet below the roof, the belongings were safe,” he added.
The ‘thakkam’ and ‘thakka kedu’ are the two common terms used by fishermen. During ‘thakkam,’ the sea will absorb water from rivers and land while water will not drain into the sea during ‘thakka kedu’. When the sea exerts pressure in high tide during ‘ thakka kedu,’ the flood water level will rise further.
“The government authorities should harness such indigenous knowledge and use it for weather forecast. If timely warning was given, the extent of losses could have been reduced considerably,” said Antony, who is also a green activist....