August 22nd, 2017
The country has been facing a dire situation with a large number of states coming under the clutches of torrential rain and hence severe flood conditions. The loss of human lives, property and livestock is immense.
Amidst rescue and relief operations that are being carried out by the government authorities, nearly 600 people have died and millions have been affected by monsoon floods in South Asia. The latest floods and landslides in the subcontinent began in the second week of August, as the annual monsoon strengthened its grip over the northern and eastern parts of the region.
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Assam have been reeling under the pressure of the floods that have led to a huge loss of life and property. A lot of rehabilitation has also occurred on account of the floods.
The United Nations has called this the worst flood to hit the country in 15 years.
Further east in India, at least 60 people have died in floods that hit Assam state a second time in less than four months, and nearly 425,000 remain in relief camps.
Railway connectivity has been severely affected by the floods, especially in the remote regions which have been cut off from the mainland.
West Bengal is the latest state that has been facing the outrage of the floods. With over 152 dead and 1.5 crore affected, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked for aid from the centre.
Not just India, the entire sub continent is fighting the floods
Bangladesh has seen around a hundred deaths, and an estimated six million people have been affected by the floods in the country. The government has made relief measures by giving nearly 300,000 people shelter in various government buildings.
There are, however, several areas in the country that is yet to receive any help from the government.
Food shortages have also been ravaging the people in the region.
It needs to be noted that the horrific situation that India and its neighbouring countries are facing is not peculiar to this year – every year the condition is more or less the same with the almost equal amount of loss to human lives and property. One wonders, in spite of several steps that are taken by the government authorities, what is it that results in the recurrence of the floods and landslides, every year.
The flood control measures followed by Indian government
The rivers in India can be broadly divided into four broad categories for analysing the flood problem:
- Brahmaputra Region,
- Ganga Region,
- North West Region, and
- Central India and Deccan region.
Flood control as a subject does not fall under any of the legislative lists – Union, State or Concurrent. But embankment and drainage are mentioned specifically in Entry 17 of List II or the State List.
So, it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the floods. In fact, several states have already created laws that have the necessary provisions to address these issues, while the national government, in these cases, mainly plays the roles of an advisor, promoter and catalyst.
The state level mechanism comprises the water resource department, the Flood Control Board and State Technical Advisory Committee.
The central level mechanism is made up of bodies such as the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Farakka Barrage Project Authority, the Ganga Flood Control Commission, the National Disaster Management Authority and the Brahmaputra Board.
Over the years, the Indian Government has also taken the following initiatives to deal with floods:
- Policy Statement 1954
- National Flood Commission (Rashtriya Barh Ayog) 1980
- High-Level Committee on Floods – 1957
- Expert Committee to Review the Implementation of the Recommendations of National Flood Commission – 2003 (R Rangachari Committee)
- Policy Statement of 1958
- National Water Policy (1987/2002/2012)
In general, the flood management measures that are being used in India can be broadly classified into engineering or structural actions and administrative or nonstructural measures. The planning measures comprise the following:
- Drainage improvement
- Diversion of flood waters
- Channelization of rivers
- Watershed management
- Channel improvement
The administrative measures can be broken up into flood plain zoning and flood proofing. The CWC also performs the responsibility of forecasting floods through the CWC National Flood Forecasting Network.
How the forecast takes place?
Major rivers (Travel time >24 hours): Forecasts are being formulated based on 0800 hrs/ 0900 hrs water level data and issued once in a day at 1000 hrs with warning time from 24 hrs to 36 hrs
Medium rivers (Travel time -12-24 hours): Forecasts are being formulated based on 0600 hrs and 1800 hrs water level data and issued twice in a day at 0700 hrs and 1900 hrs with warning time from 12 hrs to 24 hrs
Flashy rivers (Travel time < 12 hours): Forecasts are being formulated based on any primary hour water level data and issued multiple times (more than twice) in a day with warning time less than 12 hrs
These forecasts are disseminated through radio, television and news agencies. The Indian government collaborates with the neighbouring countries for the flood control information. But often the lack of smooth functioning between the governments and the miscommunication leads to delay in sharing the information. This, in turn, leads to immense loss of human lives and property.
Another problem that results in massive losses is the fact that the forecast is unable to predict the areas of inundation. Authorities involved in relief and rehabilitation would benefit from the forecast of inundation of land, thus facilitating quick action.
Considering the current plight of so many people in some districts of India and also keeping in mind the fact that this takes place almost every other year, The Logical Indian community urges the concerned government authorities to look into the flood control measures and bring about modernisation in whichever way possible.