DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

Floods across the country highlight need for a robust flood management structure

  • Floods in India are turning more severe, unpredictable and rather intractable. In 2018 alone, India suffered damages worth over Rs. 950 billion due to floods.
  • Number of urban floods is on the rise mainly due to poor drainage and encroachment of old water bodies of cities and towns.
  • Despite several agencies involved in flood control, there is a clear lack of coordination among them in the management of floods.

Despite this July being the driest July in the last five years, many parts of India, especially the states of Assam and Bihar, are still reeling under the floods. More than 10 million people are estimated to have been affected and at least 125 people have died due to floods in these two states until the first week of August this year. Besides, hundreds of villages of Uttar Pradesh were inundated, Maharashtra’s capital Mumbai was waterlogged and Kerala has an impending flood.

Flooding is a normal process during monsoon and to some extent, it is needed to carry out some natural processes like bringing alluvial soil to fields, groundwater recharge or replenishment of waterbodies. However, due to erratic weather patterns and an increasing number of intense rainfall events, the floods have become unpredictable and intractable.

In the last few years, the number of incidents and scale of floods has sharply increased and experts believe that effective and structured flood management is urgently required to handle this challenge.

Severe loss due to floods

One of the reasons for the recurring floods in many parts of India is their geographical location. For instance, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Bihar are situated in the Terai region, the foothill of Himalayas and hundreds of watercourses originate from these mountains. Besides Ganga, the flood-prone river basins like Kosi, Gandak, Damodar, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi are spread across these states. These rivers have scores of mighty tributaries that bring enormous water in the rainy season causing floods.

According to data presented in the Rajya Sabha, in 2018, India lost 1,808 lives and suffered losses worth an estimated Rs. 957 billion (Rs. 95,736 crores) due to floods across the country. Government data shows that between 1953 and 2011, on an average, floods claimed 1,653 lives every year and caused losses – including the house, public property and crop damage – of Rs. 36.12 billion (Rs. 3,612 crores every year). According to the Assam government, since 1947 more than 125,000 (1.25 lakh) families in the state have lost either their residential land or agricultural land due to floods.

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