Is government braced up to face series of floods year after year?

Flood results in loss of life and property, with days of labor to clean the debris and months of rehabilitation work, is center prepared enough?

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Is government braced up to face series of floods year after year
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Flood is the most prevalent and costliest natural disaster in India. Over 12% of the land in India is prone to floods. The recurrent prevalence of flood has resulted in the loss of life and property. The devastation caused by the flood has put more burdens on the economy than any other natural disaster. The damage caused by flood lasts several years from its advent, leaving days of labor to clean the debris and months of rehabilitation work.

India has a long coastline of 7517 km; including the coastlines of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. The effect of floods is felt more in coastal areas of India as these are densely populated and are prone to rise in sea level, storm surges, tropical cyclones, and Tsunami; which recent environmental studies indicate, are due to intense climate change. The causes of floods in other areas are due to change in the river course, retardation of flow due to tidal and backwater effects, poor natural drainage in the flood-prone area, cyc1one and associated heavy rainstorm, cloud bursts, snowmelt & glacial outbursts and dam-break flow.

Also read: Hundreds killed and millions displaced in Monsoon floods across India, Bangladesh and Nepal

In 1980 RashtriyaBanh Ayog (RBA) had estimated, the total flood-prone area in the country as 40 million hectares (MHA). Which has increased further to 49.815 MHA as revealed by the Working Group on Flood Management set up by the Planning Commission for the 12th Five-Year Plan? According to the data collected by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on an average of 1644 lives were lost annually due to floods between the period of 1953 & 2017. As per 2011 report by Disaster Management in India, around 2% of the GDP is lost due to disasters in the country.

India receives major rainfall in monsoon which is only four months from June to September. But the distribution of rain in India is not similar at every place, some areas receive higher rainfall and some receives lower. The variation also varies from time to time, the areas which are not traditionally prone to floods also experience severe inundation due to downpour and cloud-bursting. Urban flood has become one of the major problems nowadays, the recent floods in Mumbai, Kolkata and other metropolises around the country points towards the poor management of the drainage system. Experts point it to rising deforestation, poor urban planning, increased urbanization, resulting in climatic changes as the reasons behind the rise in the intensity of the floods.

This year the country has faced the flood problem even before the monsoon. Starting from this year’s progression of disaster, in May Orissa was hit by Cyclone Fani creating havoc in the whole state. The Cyclone devastated as many as 20,367 villages in 14 coastal districts of Odisha. Besides, the cyclone-affected 1.6 crore people and damaged 1.88 lakh hectares of agricultural land. In July, Bihar and Assam were in the deluge, due to rising water and unprecedented rain; affecting over 1 crore people. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) revealed that 145 villages were underwater and 3,435 hectares of crop areas have been damaged. Various districts like Sonipur, Udalguri, Jorhat and Barpeta districts have witnessed Massive soil erosions, which have a direct effect on the harvest of the agriculture land in these areas.

In Bihar, this monsoon, flood resulted in the displacement of the local population of over two million people of 12 districts. According to some news reports, farmers have sold off most of their cattle, as they will not be able to protect them during the floods.

Also read: Over 8 lakh people in 21 districts in Assam affected by floods

The country has not yet recovered from the flood in Bihar and Assam, leaving a large number of people in grim circumstances. Three other states viz, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra are also battling to survive ongoing flood, leaving many dead and several missing. The conditions started deteriorating in Maharashtra since July, as Mumbai witnessed worst torrential rain in a decade. In Maharashtra, 761 villages are affected by flood and   2 lakh hectare crops have been damaged. In Karnataka, 2,694 villages in eighty-six taluks of 17 districts have been affected due to floods, resulting in more than 6.9 lakh people stranded and homeless.

Among the 9 affected states, Kerala is the worst hit because of its strategic location along the coastline. During this monsoon season, at least 80 landslides have hit Kerala and the gates of Banasura Sagar Dam in Wayanad district had to be opened to manage the water levels.  However, the residents of the area shared their concern that opening of dam gates has added devastation to those living downstream. The situation in the central and western parts of the country is also not better, visuals from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat have revealed distress in these states too.

The compensations and aids provided to the victims by the government and non-government organizations do not meet the cost of damages; which brings higher economic burden to the people affected by these floods. It is very difficult to control the flood, but the damage caused by a flood can be reduced by adopting certain pre and post-disaster measurements.

India is continuously working on the holistic approach to providing the post-disaster reliefs and pre-disasters prevention, with the help of local and central stakeholders.

To work more efficiently, the disaster management division was shifted under the Indian Parliament and brought a Disaster Management Bill in 2004. To analyze the various weather-related hazards and for better monitoring of different department and agencies viz. Indian Meteorological Department (For cyclone and weather-related Hazards) and Central Water Commission (for flood) were created. Also, there are other two departments “National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)” for disaster management and to ensure timely & effective response to the disaster.

Due to the government’s intervention, loss of human lives during the disaster is much less as compared to before. Yet we have been unsuccessful in controlling the damage caused by the floods every year. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report released in 2013 states that the management of disasters has to be thoroughly strengthened from all angles, like the state disaster response funds mismanaged in many states and there is no proper actionable plan for flood management in the Ministry of Water Resources.  We have Emergency action plans for only 25% of dams; inflow data for only 0.006% of barrages and reservoirs as of Sep 2011. There is no data till date for many rivers; no information on water bodies; no proper monitoring mechanisms in place. More than 50% of flood-prone areas not protected.

India needs a proper action plan to handle disasters because of its vulnerability to facing disasters year after year. The unplanned and substandard infrastructure combined with poor implementation of planning, relief and rehabilitation measures increases the human’s physical and economic losses sustained during and after a disaster.

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Is government braced up to face series of floods year after year?
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Flood results in loss of life and property, with days of labor to clean the debris and months of rehabilitation work, is center prepared enough?
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The Policy Times