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National Concerns: Assam floods

Assam floods

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In News: Assam floods

  • Brahmaputra and three of its tributaries are flowing above the danger level at a few stretches in Assam.
  • The deluge was triggered by heavy rainfall in the region.
  • The total death toll due to floods in Assam reached higher than 50.

Potential Impact of Floods:

  • Threat to human lives by large scale inundation of homes and other buildings.
  • Economic losses due to damage to buildings like houses and infrastructure like power, telecom, communication and transport.
  • Surge in vector borne diseases like dengue, malaria in water-logged areas.
  • Destruction of natural ecosystems and wildlife.
  • In case the disaster management of floods is not timely or effective, these can transform into a humanitarian crisis.
Assam floods
Flood map of India:

Disaster Management of Floods in India- The Legal & Administrative Framework:

  • Disaster management of floods falls under the purview of National Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • National Disaster Management Authority laid out the “Guidelines for Disaster Management of Floods in India” in 2008.
  • Subsequently, the National Disaster Management Plan 2019 also covers floods as one of the disasters.
  • As per the National Disaster Management Act, the generalised disaster management process in India is a four step process covering both pre and post disaster stages.

Disaster Management of Floods in India- Process or Cycle:

  • The process for flood management in India as per the National Disaster Management Plan, 2019 is as follows:
Assam floods
Topic: Assam floods

Understanding Flood Risk or Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment (HRVA):

  • Floods affect an average area of around 7.5 million hectares every year. As per National Commission on Floods, about 40 million hectares of area is flood prone in India.
  • Riverine flooding which is common to most of the river basins of India is closely related with the monsoonal activity in India.
  • The HRVA of floods requires preparing detailed maps to delineate all the regions vulnerable to floods in the country.
  • The regions which are prone to flooding in India are-
    1. Riverine basins of the country
    2. Coastal Areas which are prone to storm surges and cyclones
    3. City regions prone to urban flooding
  • In present times of anthropogenic climate change, it is important to understand enhanced risk of flooding due to intense precipitation events driven by global warming.

Mitigation or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through Non-Structural Measures:

  • These comprise of the laws, regulations, enforcement mechanisms and techno-legal regimes for reducing the risk of floods.
  • Ecologically sound land-use zonation of flood plains is a critical component of non-structural measures. This is called as Flood Plain Zonation which was suggested by National Commission on Floods in 1970s.
  • Land-use zonation of other low-lying areas (apart from flood plains) is also important as these are flood-prone regions.
  • Preserving and restoring natural ecosystems like wetlands, especially in urban areas and over flood plains of rivers are nonstructural measures for flood management. Conservation of natural ecosystems is increasingly important in present times of ecological degradation.
  • For riverine flood management, a very important non-structural measure is ecologically sound management of catchment area or afforestation over the catchment area.
  • There is also a need of robust dam and reservoir management guidelines for scientific management for these engineering constructions.

Mitigation or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through for Structural Measures:

  • These comprise of construction of engineering structures like reservoirs, dams, weirs and barrages to store and regulate the flow of water. 
  • These are especially used for monsoonal months when most of the rainfall occurs in India.
  • However, scientific usage and proper maintenance of dams and reservoirs is must. India needs to enhance the safety of its dams and reservoirs throughout the country, especially as was revealed by the 2018 Kerela flooding disaster.
  • The structural measures also comprise of infrastructure like drainage and waterways for cities, roads and highways.
  • To prevent riverine flooding, an important structural measure includes desilting and dredging of rivers to improve the river flow; drainage improvement; floodwater diversion through existing or new channels.
  • Focus should also be given to hazard resistant construction, strengthening, and retrofitting of all lifeline structures and critical infrastructure.
  • It is critical to install Early Warning Systems (EWS) and State Wide Area Network (SWAN) to disseminate the information to last mile of impending floods due to heavy rainfall.

Preparedness before Floods:

  • It depends upon capacity development. Capacity Development means building resources, skills and capacities of all the stakeholders- including government agencies; NGOs and communities to develop their resilience for flood management.
  • Awareness generation amongst community members about Do’s and Don’ts is also an essential part of capacity building for flood management.

Response:

  • It starts immediately after receiving the warning of very heavy rainfall which may result in flooding in a river basin. It extends in short run till after the occurrence of floods.
  • It includes quick and effective evacuation of people and livestock upon receiving flood warnings; information dissemination to the last mile; providing adequate shelter and basic amenities to people in disaster relief shelters.
  • The administration may also need to carry out swift and effective rescue of people and livestock trapped or injured in floods.
  • Response also includes providing all affected with the medical care and essential supplies.

Recovery:

  • It is a long-term process after flooding and must focus on Build Back Better (3Bs) for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Inter-Agency coordination:

  • It’s needed for the entire process of flood management is an important pivot of any disaster management as multiple agencies are involved.
  • Ministry of Jal Shakti is the nodal Ministry for riverine flood management in India.
  • Ministry of Urban Housing and Affairs is the nodal Ministry for urban flooding in India.
  • But effective flood management requires multiple ministries like MoHA, MoEF&CC; State Governments; ULBs and PRIs and departments like IMD, Central water Commission to perform their functions.

Also Read: National Concerns: 46 million girls went missing in India

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