Thiruvananthapuram: In the wake of the recent devastating floods, it will take months for thousands of families in Kerala to reclaim their livelihoods.
But well before that happens, there are twin issues demanding immediate attention of the state — the disposal of mountains of waste, and arresting the spread of diseases.
In Aluva and Paravur, where floods submerged thousands of houses and other buildings, domestic waste is scattered across the landscape, with heaps of broken furniture, beds, old clothes and assorted home equipment destroyed in the floods.
Rat fever (leptospirosis) has been reported across multiple districts and the death toll from the disease in Kozhikode district alone for August was put at 12. Roughly 400,000 doses of preventive medicine for rat fever has been distributed in the district.
Meanwhile, authorities have issued strict instructions that waste should not be dumped into water bodies, but the warnings often go unheeded.
Earlier this week, there was a skirmish at the Ponnani harbour when a group of people attempted to dump waste at the harbour, and another group opposed them. Police used force against a group of United Democratic Front activists who opposed dumping of debris collected from flood-hit areas at the Ponnani harbour.
Elsewhere, the waste collected by some panchayat and Kudumbasree workers was also lying by the waysides, awaiting an appropriate plan to deal with it.
Local communities were also grappling with the issues of rotting carcasses of domestic animals, and large amounts of e-waste.
Rough figures put the amount of waste collected so far at 34,000 tonnes, including bio-degradable wastes of about 15,000 tonnes. Nearly 600,000 wells were also contaminated as flood waters covered them, and about 475,000 of these have been cleaned so far.
Rat fever has been reported mostly from Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad districts, and the death toll from the state as a whole in August has been put at 23.
Health department officials have warned people who waded through the waters either as victims or rescuers, and running a temperature, to seek treatment in hospitals. The symptoms include fever, headache, chills, red eyes and vomiting.
The outbreak of diseases is a threat for the tourism sector in the state, which is struggling in the wake of the setback caused to its upcoming season by the floods.