AIR spotlight summary on Deteriorating Flood situation in several states
India is facing worst floods in the last 30 years especially in Assam. National Disaster Management division of Ministry of Home Affairs has reported that over a million of people in 8 to 9 states have been affected by floods. States like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand are badly affected. Several villages from many districts are badly affected.
- Under the changed structure of National Disaster Management there seems to seriousness to tackle the situation. As per the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 at the national level Prime Minister Chairs the National Disaster Management Authority. At the state level we have State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority at the district level.
- For quick response there is National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).
- In India the major issue is flood and drought. Historically disasters are not new to us. Even before independence we have seen droughts and riverine floods. Today we have overcome drought situation basically because of increase in irrigation facilities. Earlier irrigated land was only 11%, now it is more than 35%. We don’t face the kind of famine that we had during British times. Therefore India is surplus in cereal production.
- In terms of natural disasters, the maximum losses happen because of floods. Maximum deaths in the country are because of floods. Many people go missing and get washed away in flood waters.
- There should a comprehensive mock drill so that the misery can be avoided.
- Rains should always be welcomed. According to meteorological department the rainfall is below normal in many parts of India. Rains are not the major causes for floods. There are many other reasons for it.
- For instance in Assam the local people had informed about the breaking of the embankment of Brahmaputra. But no action was taken by the authorities. We also saw in Uttrakhand in 2013 that the flood warnings that had been given were not taken heed too.
- It is not the amount the rain which is causing wide spread floods, it is because of urban planning. Now a day’s not only the rural areas, but even urban areas are affected by floods because of the kind of urbanisation going on in the country in almost all the metropolitan cities.
- Rain water is basically a resource. We have made it a disaster. This is the time to conserve water. This should start at village level and city level. The number of lakes and water bodies has come down and there is no proper drainage system in urban areas.
- There should be proper planning of urban areas near river embankment, and command areas. Earlier the major damage due to floods was crop damages. Now there are more damages like Infrastructural losses in urban areas.
- Important thing is to manage rainfall. It is basically the water management.
- A recent report published by European Environmental Agency on the floods in Europe. The observation made which is also relevant to our country is that there is significant increase in floods in many parts including china and Nepal as well. There is fivefold increase due to Climate Change. There is a need to free up areas for natural way of flood protection and giving room forever.
- There is a need that districts should know the vulnerability of each block, each area and each village and the possibilities thereof. There should be a proper plan for each and every natural disaster.
- There are unprecedented rainfalls on some days in Uttrakhand, North East and other parts. Assam is a flood prone area. People know how to live with floods. People’s preparedness for floods is much more in Assam. There are concerns about Kaziranga National park which is home to Rhinos and Deer’s which will be affected by floods.
- There should be people’s cooperation while tackling disasters. Use of police force while evacuating people from flood prone areas.
- More emphasis should on Adaptation and not on Mitigation.
- Flood preparedness should be two fold, one for rural areas to save agricultural crops and other for urban areas
- The vulnerability due to floods is well known. The government, people, local authorities and local NGOs should work co-ordinately and in a district every year there should be a meeting before floods.
Role of climate change in flood situation
- Climate change is a reality. There is rise in Temperature. The first climatic impact due to increase in atmospheric temperature will be on rainfall. There will be abrupt rainfall.
- Few years back there were floods in Rajasthan and Gujarat, which are basically drought prone areas. This is the impact of climate change and because of that the drought prone area will become flood prone area and vice-versa. People in Rajasthan are prepared for droughts and not for floods.
The central water commission has flood zone map for every river and there is flood commission report. The important thing is implementation of those recommendations. It is the duty of the state to implement the recommendations of flood commission.
The flood zone should be free of any economic activity. World Bank report says there is equivalent loss of 2% of our GDP because of natural disasters. Government should spend money on preparedness and mitigate people’s sufferings.