Flood Fury and Disaster Management – UPSC GS3

  • Only a couple of months back, India was facing draught situation. More than 282 districts were affected by the draught.
  • But now, many states like Bihar, western UP, WB, Assam, MP and Odisha are facing flood situation because of rains and also water coming from Nepal and Brahmaputra.
  • Continuing floods: The flood situation is grim and will continue as the monsoon is expected to last for a month atleast. In this situation it is important to know what kind of gravity it might turn into. Here the preparedness of the forces and people is required.
  •  Based on official data reports, during 1978-2006, there were 2,443 flood events that led to the death of nearly 45,000 people and caused economic losses of $16 billion.
    • At least 600 people are dead and thousands of people are displaced due to recent floods in eastern and western India in 2017
    •  At least 600 people are dead and thousands of people are displaced due to recent floods in eastern and western India in 2017.
      • From Assam in the north-east to Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west, floods are taking a heavy toll on lives and property this year


Steps taken to provide immediate relief
Preparation by flood prone states
  • Most of the states are flood prone states.
  • They are aware of the situation that takes place every year and know how to act in such situations.
  • The flood affected state governments have prepared themselves for situation. They have shown exemplary improvement in terms of disaster management.


  • National Disaster Response Force is deployed pro-actively where the floods are anticipated. The national force and state forces have enough experience in handling such kind of disasters.
  • The national, state and local government machinery is coordinating with each other to tackle the flood situation.
  • People have been taken to safer places, relief camps have been started in few places, necessary troops and relief personnel have been deployed etc.
  • This is a good example of synchronisation between national, state and local government along with engagement of the local people in terms of addressing the current need of relief management.
  • Central Water Commission (CWC) has signed collaboration agreement with search engine giant Google for flood forecasting and dissemination of flood related information to masses.


Decentralised financing
  • The national government has decentralised the financial operation of the relief.
  • 70-75% of the disbursement takes place at the state level.


Long term steps
  • India needs to take information at a regular basis from the neighbouring countries- China for Brahmaputra and Nepal for Kosi. They are also flood affected countries and flood at upper catchment is gliding down to lower catchment, i.e. India.
  • GoI has signed an agreement with these countries. India needs to relook such agreements so that flood situations can be avoided.
  • Necessary to revisit the disaster management approach to make drought and flood management more holistic in nature. The districts or states have surplus water but do not have the capacity to absorb and store the water. Sometimes, even the same state, district and talukas are simultaneously affected by flood and drought.
  • Watershed management, rejuvenating the pond etc. are development initiatives which have to be rigorously implemented.
  • Forming a de-siltation plan: The river is one of the important ingredients when it comes to drainage. The de-siltation plan is very expensive but it is needed.
  • Idea is that a holistic plan should engage all the development partners. It should try to address all the issues and modify it as per local needs.


Following the scientific approach
  • Managing floods requires a sound understanding of the patterns that rivers such as the Ganga and its tributaries display during the monsoon.
  • Governmental understanding of the problem generally relies more on ground-level surveys and anecdotal reporting than advanced techniques such as mapping based on satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems.
  • There should be a silt management policy.


  • At times there are heavy flood and cloudburst situation. The erratic nature of monsoon is also noted now. So, the governments have to adjust accordingly. They have to remould according to the unpredictable nature and the disaster management capacities developed till now.
  • It was predicted that monsoon will be above average. Thus, states were aware of what was coming. The central government had given a road map to the states that the wells ponds and lakes would be revived and building of embankments and other agricultural techniques through which monsoons can be retained but it appears that such measures were not taken in short time.
  • Capacity-building to handle catastrophic weather events is poor, and serious attention is not given to setting up relief camps, creating crisis-proof health infrastructure and stockpiling dry rations and medicines. This results in cascading effect of infections. These challenges require to be met in emergency mode.


Save the river to prevent flood and draught
  • The carrying capacity of the rivers is decreasing due to siltation, garbage dumping, and sand mining in the rivers. The flood plains are also getting encroached. Thus, the rivers are not able to absorb the additional rains.
  • In Bihar’s case, the shifting patterns and breaches of the Kosi have added to the complexity of the problem. The Kosi itself poses a danger to vast parts of the State as its embankments are no match for the fury of floodwaters.
  • CM of Bihar has demanded that the Farakka Barrage itself be removed to allow the Ganga to flow freely. It comes in the wake of steady silting of the river and its tributaries, raising the risk of annual flooding.
  • The Bihar CM held Farakka dam responsible for slow discharge of water from Ganga which has become shallow due to heavy siltation. This causes flood water to spread to other areas.


Interlinking of rivers
  • One revisited issue during floods and drought is topic of interlinking of rivers. It has been discussed for last 5 decades. Many committees have given reports. Probably people think it is impractical and not feasible and involves huge financial costs which they cannot afford.
  • But the annual plans say that interlinking of river should be seriously considered. In MP, Ken and Betwa rivers have started the process. Gujarat, Rajasthan and MP for the purpose of drinking water have adopted this solution.
  • Interlinking is one of the alternatives and has been deliberated by many scientists. It was found very useful. Social scientist also approved of it.
  • Many studies say it is a merit to do it. Flood management can’t be done by flood management department alone, whether flood is on its own course, or have human dimension to it. That is to be seen. If human dimension is there, like climate change, the river pattern also changes. So, capacity of governance, people, machinery, all these have to be seen with capacity of rivers and its drainage system and then enhance capacity.


Urban Management crisis
Disturbing trend
  • Big cities like Guwahati, Srinagar and now Bhopal are getting flooded.
  • Thus, drainage capacity of big towns seem to have exhausted their capacities.
  • With population going up and encroaching upon drainage areas and river floodplain areas, somehow water is not getting released out of town.
  • This is slowly becoming an urban management crisis.


Solution of the issue
  • Four towns in Gujarat- Anjar, Bhuj, Bhachau and Rapar- were totally devastated in 2001 earthquake. When the recovery took place, the cities were recreated by taking proper care of land use planning.
  • In the same way, it can be replicated in city planning. The existing cities can’t do much except improvising the drainage system. But where new cities are being planned, there is bound to be growth in population, infrastructure pressure and thus there is a need of proper city planning else it will decapitate the city,
  • Hence, there are two options: Either de-congest the city or expand city capacity.
We have to see the role of and engagement of scientific institutions and research initiation in the country. These educational institutions have to play a larger role in risk reduction techniques. The world as a unity is now dealing with disasters. Everyone is getting affected by one disaster or another. Thus, the common risk, common vulnerability and common resources is expecting common minds to work together on disaster management.


River Systems and Associated Flood Problems
The rivers in India can be broadly divided into the following four regions for a study of flood problem:
  1. Brahmaputra Region
  2. Ganga Region
  3. North West Region
  4. Central India and Deccan region


Statutory Provisions about Flood Management
  • The subject of flood control, unlike irrigation, does not figure as such in any of the three legislative lists.
  • However, Drainage and Embankments, are two of the measures specifically mentioned in entry 17 of List II (State List)
  • Regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys fall under entry 56 of List I (Union List)
  • Thus, flood management falls under states’ purview with schemes for flood control being planned, investigated and implemented by the states.
  • Role of central government is technical, advisory, catalytic and promotional in nature.


Existing Flood Management Mechanisms in India
  • Central Water Commission (1945): to achieve the goal of furthering and promoting measures of flood control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country in the areas of beneficial uses, irrigation and hydropower generation, flood management and river conservation.
  • Brahmaputra Board (1980): it includes among others preparation of master plans to control floods, bank erosion and improvement of drainage system for Brahmaputra and Barak basin
  • Ganga Flood Control Commission (1972): Set up for preparation of comprehensive plan of flood control for Ganga Basin and to draw out a phased coordinated programme of implementation of works and monitoring & appraisal of flood management schemes of Ganga basin States
  • Farakka Barrage Project Authority: To carry out anti-erosion and river bank protection works in its jurisdiction
  • National Disaster Management Authority (2005): the Government of India has set up NDMA under Chairmanship of PM of India to prevent and mitigate effects of disasters including flood disasters and for undertaking a holistic, coordinated and prompt response to any disaster situation


General Flood Management Measures practiced in India
Structural Measures
  1. An artificially created reservoir behind a dam across a river.
  2. A natural depression suitably improved and regulated.
  3. By diversion of a part of the peak flow to another river or basin, where such diversion would not cause appreciable damage.
  4. By constructing a parallel channel by-passing a particular town/reach of the river prone to flooding.
  5. Embankments which artificially raise the effective river bank and thereby prevent spilling and
  6. Channel and drainage improvement works, which artificially reduce the flood water level so as to keep the same, confined within the river banks and thus prevent spilling.


Administrative measures
  1. Facilitating timely evacuation of the people and shifting of their movable property to safer grounds by having advance warning of incoming flood i.e. flood forecasting, flood warning in case of threatened inundation
  2. Discouraging creation of valuable assets/settlement of the people in the areas subject to frequent flooding i.e. enforcing flood plain zoning regulation.
  3. Flood proofing: it involves raising a few villages above pre-determined flood levels and connecting them to nearby roads or high lands.


Key Words:
Flood plain zoning: it is a concept central to flood plain management. It recognises the basic fact that the flood plain of a river is essentially its domain and any intrusion into or developmental activity therein must recognise the river’s ‘right of way’.
Related Questions:
  1. What is flood management? Enumerate measures to prevent and mitigate floods in India.
  2. Major cities of India are becoming vulnerable to flood conditions. Discuss.(UPSC Mains 2016)
  3. The frequency of urban floods due to high intensity rainfall is increasing over the years. Discussing the reasons for urban floods, highlight the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events. (UPSC Mains 2016)
  4. Repeated occurrences of floods bring up the question to shift the focus from relief measures to building resilience in flood-prone areas. Discuss.

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