How we can have disaster-free floods

Source: The post is based on an article “How we can have disaster-free floods?” published in the Indian Express on 23rd July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 Disaster Management

Relevance: Floods

News: Recently, Assam was ravaged by two bouts of floods in quick succession in the month of May and June.

What were the causes behind floods in Assam?

Natural Causes: Hazards like fluvial floods, are often triggered by extreme weather events, but they translate into disaster risk due to anthropogenic factors.

Anthropogenic factors: Human factors share a complex relationship with biophysical and social vulnerability. For example, the embankments which were meant for flood protection got breached once again. It led to severe disaster.

What should be done?

There is a need to turn the seasonal flood-related crisis into an opportunity to bring a paradigm shift in flood management. There is a need to move away from hazard prevention to the minimization of disaster risk, like the adoption of the flood risk management strategies as described below:

It would require moving away from the sole focus on preventing floods through structural interventions and river engineering like embankment construction to targeting factors that drive the multiple dimensions of vulnerability. It will contribute to building people’s resilience.

How to reduce the vulnerabilities of the communities to the flood hazard?

1) The riparian population, their lives, and livelihoods should be at the center of the planning process of flood management.

2) There should be convergence across multiple departments like the department of agriculture, animal husbandry, education, PHED, and health departments.

3) There should be round-the-year mission mode developmental activities to ensure that communities not just live with floods, but thrive despite floods. This would require a range of development interventions, including new models of embankment management, to improve the overall livelihood of rural people.

4) The early warning systems should be improved, as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will continue to increase in the coming period.

5) At the community level, every village in Assam should have access to elevated shelters which will contribute to resilience building

6) To address management problems, it requires dedicated and trained professionals who understand the interdisciplinarity required to manage flood risk and build resilience. This set of professional cadres could be located at the district level, working closely with the District Disaster Management Agency and district administration and coordinating with the various line departments.

7) The different community institutions promoted under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission can be trained. These institutions could act as a response force for the communities to calamities in disaster-prone areas.

8) There could be District Disaster Management fellows, a dedicated group of trained young professionals with a time-bound and goal-driven assignment, along the lines of fellows in the Aspirational District Programme.

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