Click Here to Subscribe For FREE SMS Alerts on Disaster Awareness

Refresher Training of CERT by FOCUS

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another flood coming up...

Southern India has just suffered one of the worst floods ever, but these are hardly the last we are likely to see. Most at risk are the 11 states that share the Ganga river basin — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. A K Bajaj should know. He's chairman of the Central Water Commission and member of the Ganga Flood Control Commission. He says, "Forty million hectares in India are flood-prone and the Ganga river basin accounts for half of that." 

    Most of this is unprotected area. Just 15,000 of the 231,000 hectares in Himachal that would be affected by flooding have flood-control measures such as dams and embankments. 
    Orissa is exceedingly vulnerable too. Experts at The Environment Research Institute (Teri) point to a severely increased risk of flooding. "Past data shows that areas with prolonged drought have a tendency to get flooded after four-five years," says senior Teri scientist Pradhan Parth Sarthi. Just weeks ago, he says, most parts of Andhra and Karnataka were reeling under a severe drought. Now, those areas are under water. "A similar situation is now developing in Orissa," he warns. 
    So, is there no stopping the deluge? And does the scale of misery have to be so immense? Not really, say experts, India just hasn't learnt to manage its river resources properly. "Unplanned, unregulated developmental activity in the flood plains of rivers and encroachments in the waterways has already led to an increase in flood losses and may cause more flooding in future," says Bajaj. 
    He says the Central Water Commission had advised flood-plain zoning a few years ago. A formula was devised for usage of land adjacent to a river, based on river bed characteristics and water levels. Bajaj says that in an ideal world there would be no permanent structures in areas 
most prone to floods, even though that land would be rich to farm. "But in a country as vast and overpopulated as India, implementing all this has not been possible," he says. 
    Officials say the Capital is an excellent example of a disaster just waiting to happen. Many permanent structures have come up on the Yamuna flood plain, including a Metro station, a temple and even a flyover. Just last month, due to heavy rain in the catchment areas, the Yamuna breached its banks and lowlying areas had to be evacuated. And yet, say officials, further "development" of the Ya
muna flood plains is underway. That includes multi-level parking and sports stadia. This shortsightedness is surprising for a city that suffered frequent flooding between 1956 and 1988. Delhi's worst flood was recorded in 1978. Experts caution that two uneventful decades floods-wise can be no guarantee of safety. 
If anything, the Capital reflects a nationwide complacency. The government has a 54-year-old formula to calculate flood plain: Land equivalent to 3.5 times the width of the river on either side is deemed the flood plain, where permanent settlements are not allowed. The formula would mean that even if a river changed course suddenly, there would be little devastation. But, officials say, the formula has never been implemented. This, despite parts of Bihar and UP being at constant risk from the Ganga and Kosi, which frequently change course, bringing death and destruction in their wake. 
Parth Sarthi warns against the Brahmaputra as well. It's a very turbulent river and "if there are floods in upper Assam, it could lead to submergence of lower Assam areas and there would be no way to control it." 
R K Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says climate change has aggravated the problem and "floods are increasing in frequency and intensity." Parth Sarthi cites a recent IPCC report that warns that "South Asia may be prone to extreme events of flooding owing to climate change." 
The 2006 Barmer floods are a case in point. "Such a thing is unimaginable in a parched desert. The recorded history in Barmer points to scarce rainfall in the past 90 years or so. This may be a sign of climate change," says Parth Sarthi. 
He adds that there are warning signs elsewhere and they need to be read correctly — and acted upon. "Parts of Punjab and Haryana states may also be flooded in the near future after short spells of extreme rainfall and populations near the Ravi and Chenab may be affected."

THE EXODUS OF 2008: Course-changing rivers like the Kosi cause havoc almost every year


Popular Posts

Slide Presentation


Enter a Youtube URL to download:

Powered by KeepHD.com
Custom Search

Daily Green News


blogger templates | Make Money Online