Widen met station network in Himalayas to better predict extreme weather: Panel

Source: Down to Earth, Down to Earth 2, Down to Earth 3

Relevance: Fighting the flood problem in India

Synopsis: Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) presented its report in both the houses. A detailed look at its findings and the recommendations made.

Context

The report of the Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) for the 17th Lok Sabha, was presented in both houses.

Findings of the report

Here is a brief list of the findings:

1]. Impact of Flooding: According to the report of the Standing Committee of Parliament (Water Resources) for the 17th Lok Sabha,

  • Flooding has affected approximately 40 million hectares of India’s land area.
  • From 1953-2018, 109,374 people died as a result of floods and heavy rains in the country.
  • During these 65 years, the country is estimated to have lost Rs 400,097 crore.

2]. Reasons for flood disasters: Every year, floods caused enormous losses due to

  • Poor planning
  • Failure of flood control policies: For instance, flood plain zoning mandated as per the Model Bill of Flood Plain Zoning Act is yet to be implemented in many states.
  • Insufficient preparedness
  • Ineffective disaster management
  • Unpredictable rainfall patterns due to rising temperature. For instance, flooding of the Kedarnath Valley during the Uttarakhand floods due to extreme precipitation in a short span of time.
  • Natural Events: Flash floods, glacial lake outbursts and landslides. For instance, the Parechu river, a left bank tributary of the Spiti river was blocked in Tibet due to a landslide. It resulted in the creation of an artificial lake upstream and accumulation of huge volumes of water

3]. Declaring a flood as a national calamity: States have often demanded natural calamities to be declared as national ones, especially after floods in a region.

  • But surprisingly, under the existing Scheme of State Disaster Response Fund / National Response Fund of the Ministry of Home Affairs, there is no provision to declare any disaster including flood as a National Calamity.
  • The reasoning behind this is, it is not practical and economically feasible to provide complete protection to all flood-affected areas. Therefore, reasonable economic security is given to reduce the damage caused by floods.
Must Read: India-Nepal flood management needs course correction
Recommendations

1]. Collaborative approach: All stakeholders (Centre & State) needed to understand that managing floods was their collective responsibility.

2]. Changes in Administrative structure

  • Make Jal Shakti ministry the in charge of flood management in India: Because, it appeared that the responsibility of flood management lay with everyone and hence no one paid attention to it.
  • Set up a permanent body: Centre should form a permanent National Integrated Flood Management Group chaired by the Minister of Jal Shakti and at least one meeting be held each year.
  • Centre govt should take up responsibility: Central govt should take the responsibility of flood control and coordination, keeping in view the loss of life and property due to floods.

3]. Policy implementation

  • The Standing Committee also requested that the Dam Safety Bill and the River Basin Management Bill be passed as soon as possible and that the existing Disaster Management Act of 2005 be properly implemented.
  • The committee also proposed developing an Integrated River Basin Management Plan involving all flood-affected states as well as neighboring countries, in order to manage the water of neighboring countries.

4]. Flood mitigation

  • The Centre should put in place and strengthen weather forecasting technology to warn about cloudbursts, flash floods and glacial lakes.
  • Centre should make efforts to set up and widen the network of high altitude meteorological and discharge stations to keep track of changes in water bodies in the Himalayas. Such stations should be equipped with modern technology, including synthetic aperture radar imagery, to detect new lake formations and watersheds in the Indian Himalayas.
  • Early warning without early communication and early action was useless. We need all-weather communication systems.
    • Community radio is an excellent way to do this in the Himalayas
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