Let’s make room for the river

SourceThe Hindu

Relevance: Mitigation of flood is an important topic in Disaster Management


The recent floods in Europe are a wake-up call for us to adopt the Dutch mantra, ‘live with water, build with nature’.

About the flood in Europe:

Recently, a month’s rain poured in just 24 hours in Germany and Belgium. This caused multiple rivers to burst their banks and flood parts of the two countries as well as the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. These areas of Europe have not witnessed such heavy rainfall for more than a century.

The floods showed that climate change spares none. Even if a country has adequate resources and advanced infrastructure (physical as well as organisational), it can find no escape from extreme climatic events. It bore an uncanny resemblance to what Kerala experienced in August 2018.

How Climate change can cause floods?
  • Experts say the more CO2 the world emits into the atmosphere, the warmer will be the air temperature. Warmer air holds more moisture and results in excess rainfall, which leads to flooding.
  • Additionally, increasing temperatures at the poles result in slower movement of storms in the mid-latitudes. As a result, storms linger longer at a specific place.
  • The combination of a slow-moving storm and the presence of surplus moisture in the atmosphere results in intense rainfall in one location within a short period of time.
  • In 2018, Kerala, for example, witnessed 414 mm of rain in just three days. Rainfall for the period of August 1 to 19, 2018, in Kerala was 164% more than normal.
The Dutch example:

After two major floods in 1993 and 1995, the Dutch embarked on several projects to widen riverbanks and reshape the areas around rivers.

The Dutch have gone beyond their conventional dependence on dikes, dams, walls, and gates to protect themselves from floods. Their current disaster resilience mantra is to live with water, build with nature and make room for the river. They champion creating adequate space for rivers to overflow by protecting floodplains from human interference, deepening riverbeds, and creating alternate channels for excess water.

Due to these initiatives, Many towns were submerged in recent floods in the Netherlands. But there are no casualties.

Lessons for India from Floods in Europe:

The floods in Europe serve as a wake-up call to us in India to adopt pragmatic policies and practices that are nature friendly.

  • Similarly, low-risk areas such as playgrounds, maidans, or agricultural fields should be earmarked to store excess rainwater.
  • Fulfilling the recommendations of the United Nations Development Programme-World Bank-European Union’s Post Disaster Needs Assessment report prepared for Kerala after the 2018 floods. The important recommendations include,
    • Increasing the drainage capacity of the rivers and canals of the State by creating more room for the water to flow.
    • Removing obstructions and encroachments from existing water channels, the proper maintenance of such channels, and creating additional channels for water to flow.
  • In the short term, strengthened disaster readiness, planning, and preparation will help us deal with sudden, intense rain and consequent floods.


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