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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Disaster Management - Floods in India

Floods have been for long a recurrent phenomenon in India, but of late floods have been causing great loss of lives and property and happening in areas which were not known to suffer from flooding. The reasons are not far to seek ranging from unplanned and haphazard development on flood plains to climate change effects. I have compiled below some of the important points from credible sources that can be used for framing an answer on Floods, Flood Management and/or Flood Plain Zoning.

·      Floods in India
o   India is highly vulnerable to floods. Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares (mha), more than 40 mha is flood prone.
o   Floods are a recurrent phenomenon, which cause huge loss of lives and damage to livelihood systems, property, infrastructure and public utilities.
o     It is a cause for concern that flood related damages show an increasing trend. This can be attributed to many reasons including a steep increase in population, rapid urbanization growing developmental and economic activities in flood plains coupled with global warming.
o     The frequency of major floods is more than once in five years.
o     Floods have also occurred in areas, which were earlier not considered flood prone.
o   Eighty per cent of the precipitation takes place in the monsoon months from June to September. The rivers bring heavy sediment load from catchments. These, coupled with inadequate carrying capacity of rivers are responsible for causing floods, drainage congestion and erosion of river-banks.
o   Cyclones, cyclonic circulations and cloud bursts cause flash floods and lead to huge losses. It is a fact that some of the rivers causing damage in India originate in neighboring countries; adding another complex dimension to the problem.
o     Continuing and large-scale loss of lives and damage to public and private property due to floods indicate that we are still to develop an effective response to floods.

·      Flood Management
o   Floods being a natural phenomena, total elimination or control of floods is neither practically possible nor economically viable. Hence, flood management aims at providing a reasonable degree of protection against flood damage at economic costs.
o   In India, systematic planning for flood management commenced with the Five Year Plans, particularly with the launching of National Programme of Flood Management in 1954.
o   Different methods of flood protection structural as well as non-structural have been adopted in different states depending upon the nature of the problem and local conditions.
o   Structural measures include storage reservoirs, flood embankments, drainage channels, anti-erosion works, channel improvement works, detention basins etc. and non-structural measures include flood forecasting, flood plain zoning, flood proofing, disaster preparedness etc.
o   It is impossible to totally prevent flooding, so the techniques involved aim to;
§  Reduce the amount of water reaching the river
§  Slow the rate of flow of water into the river
§  Divert the flood water away from populated areas
§  Make people aware of what they should do before, during and after a flood.

·     Floodplain zoning is a procedure to prevent flood hazard on river banks.
§  It involves categorizing various zones based on administrative legislations for planning and development of the flood plains for various purposes such as agricultural activities, play fields, industrial areas and residential areas etc.
§  Preparation of flood plain zoning maps takes into consideration the inputs from flood inundation, flood hazard and flood risk zone maps.
§  The important aspect of zoning is that it can be used to regulate what uses may be conducted and how uses are to be constructed or carried out.
§  Zoning is also used to restrict riverine or coastal areas to particular uses, specify where the uses may be located and establish minimum elevation or flood proofing requirements for the uses.
§  However, many flood prone states in India have not adopted the recommendations regarding flood plain zoning and a task committee for this purpose is essential.


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