After the storm: Student cultural group takes action after flooding in India causes $3 billion in damage

Due to heavy rainfall and flooding, more than 450 lives were lost in Kerala, India. On Aug. 25, 2018, the SPIC MACAY KSU chapter organized a potluck lunch, raising $1,800 for the Kerala Relief Fund. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

Early last month, devastating floods challenged the citizens of Kerala, India. Rising waters displaced one million people, claimed the lives of 458, damaged 27,000 homes and disrupted 60,000 miles of roads, according to the Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth, an international volunteer group with a chapter at Kansas State.

After learning about the losses, the members of SPIC MACAY at K-State launched into action. Within less than a week, the group organized an event on Aug. 25 that raised over $1,800, or 130,000 rupees, to assist in restoration aid for the Indian state.

Organized as a potluck dinner at the Frith Community Center, attendees donated food, time and money to help with disaster relief. SPIC MACAY public relations chair Elza Neelima Mathew, graduate student in anatomy and physiology, organized the volunteers between preparation, servers and clean up.

The event drew in over one hundred community members as they came to enjoy food and learn about ways they could help Kerala.

The idea came about as SPIC MACAY president Rohan Amare, graduate student in mechanical engineering, and others were reaching out to those affected by the flooding.

“We thought that we should do something and proceeded from that,” Amare said.

The flooding occurred around the same time Onam, a harvest festival that SPIC MACAY faculty adviser Vibhavari Jani, associate professor of interior architecture and product design, compares to Christmas. During this time, many children look forward to this festival and are out of school in preparation for festivities.

While monsoons are typically present in August in the region, their effects are not expected to cause such widespread damage.

“Normally Kerala always receives very heavy monsoons, but this time they received than 50 percent more than normal,” Elza said.

The flooding has stressed out the dams that contains the 44 rivers within Kerala, which led to controlled releases and, ultimately, the flooding.

Members of SPIC MACAY compared the situation to a 100-year flooding event, drawing comparisons to the flooding currently affecting the East Coast following Hurricane Florence.

“Damages in Kerala are estimated between $3 billion to $6 billion U.S. dollars, far exceeding the annual budget,” founding member Avantika Ramekar, graduate student in geography, said.

SPIC MACAY members mentioned that each day the total damage estimate continues to increase, reiterating the importance of raising funds for Kerala.

“Recovery of land is dependent upon the flood waters receding,” Jani said. “Despite this challenge to overcome the annual budget, aid has continued to come to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund of Kerala from communities around the world”

Members of SPIC MACAY expressed their desire to further study how to better utilize donations in this event and others given their wide breadth of knowledge between them. Their hope is to better understand how the community is rebuilding and how the floods have impacted the communities morale.