Floods in India

Source– The post is based on the article “Express view on monsoon-battered India: Weathering it out” published in “The Indian Express” and “Fury of floods” published in the “Business Standard” on 12th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Disaster management

News- The article explains the issue of increasing flooding events in India in recent years.

How rainfall patterns during the monsoon season have shown a distinct change in recent years?

Most parts of the country have witnessed intense bursts of rain, with relatively dry spells.

After the Uttarakhand disaster of 2013, India is experiencing at least one intense rainfall event that has resulted in large-scale flooding.

Examples are floods in Chennai in 2015, Kerala in 2018, Bihar in 2019, Bengaluru last year, Assam almost every year.

What are some facts about flood vulnerable areas in India?

As per National Flood Commission in its 1980 report, the country’s overall flood-prone area is 40 million hectares, or 12 percent of the total geographical area. It has since expanded to over 50 million hectares.

Flash floods are now common in places that were earlier not considered flood-prone earlier. The arid zones in Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat are typical examples.

The “flood vulnerability index” of the National Disaster Management Authority has identified Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Assam, Gujarat and Odisha as the states most susceptible to floods.

As per the National Remote Sensing Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation, there exist several new stretches in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal that are prone to flooding after heavy rain.

The hilly states in Himalayan range are susceptible to floods due to landslides, subsidence, and re-routing of the natural course of rivers and water channels.

What are the reasons behind the increase in flooding events?

As India’s cities expanded, there was encroachment of natural water sinks such as wetlands, marshes and lakes.

In most of the country, storm water drains that were planned decades ago are still locked in networks. Inadequate municipal administration worsens the situation and drains are almost always blocked.

This means that too much rainwater gets trapped within a city’s borders. For example, the storm water drains in Delhi can’t handle the 153 mm of rain that Delhi received over the past weekend.

There is a lack of pre-emptive moves to mitigate the floods. Flood control by multipurpose irrigation-cum-hydro-power projects and other water management programmes in the past is not in practice. No new projects were started in the recent past.

Existing dams have become bane due to unregulated and uncoordinated water releases from these structures. It leads to flooding in many areas in central and peninsular India.

Deforestation and global warming have led to cloudbursts, cyclones, and have aggravated the flood risk.

Soil erosion lowers its capacity to soak rainwater. Besides, there is denudation of vegetative cover in river catchments. It has increased the load of sediments in riverbeds and reduced their water-carrying capacity.

There is encroachment of natural floodplains of rivers. It has lowered their ability to act as natural buffers against floods.

Unplanned expansion of habitation, and indiscriminate disposal of garbage and other urban waste is also responsible for flooding.

What is the way forward for flood management?

Relief efforts need to be stepped up. There is a need for a proactive policy against climate vagaries.

There are requirements for different strategies for urban floods.

There is a need for a holistic approach to address the menace of recurring floods. The government can set up an experts’ panel to prepare a national flood control plan.

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