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Floods - control versus management
PTI
May 08, 2003
First Published: 21:14 IST(7/5/2003)
Last Updated: 22:06 IST(8/5/2003)

Since independence, the area prone to floods has actually gone up in India. Despite all the flood control that successive state and central governments have taken, the destructive power of floods has progressively worsened in India. From the approximately 19 million hectares affected by floods in India about five decades ago, the figure today stands at about 36 million hectares - almost double the figure then. And these figures come from a paper prepared by the Central Water Commission in 1997 - the non-government experts estimate of the flood prone areas is nearly three times the 1947 figure.

So what is the problem? Despite technological advancement, despite the construction of huge storage reservoirs including some of the largest dams in the world, an extensive canal network, spending millions of public money, why have the floods got more destructive?

If we look at the monetary efforts alone, the government has been increasingly spending more on floods. From Rs. 132.1 million in the first five year plan to Rs. 16916.8 in the eighth five year plan, there has been a manifold increase, even when one compares the amounts at a single year's prices.

There has been a tendency to blame floods on various factors - rapidly worsening land-man ratio, increased population in vulnerable areas, lack of adequate drainage due to over construction, urbanization, deforestation and other such reasons. However despite the presence of all these factors, what cannot be denied is that what has worsened is the management of floods.

Climate pattern: India's peculiar weather system sees most of the rainfall concentrated in three -odd months. So all the river generally tend to have more water in these months. And sometimes overflow their banks, causing floods.

Looking at the killer floods that most of the twentieth century has seen, it would seem like a foolish step to stay next to the river. Unless there has been a change in the way floods have been perceived.

A natural phenomenon: Floods are a natural part of the Indian water system. The four months in which the Himalayas take a battering from the monsoon wreak havoc on the hills, which in turn passes on the surplus water to the plains. In the sub continent, the Ganga-Brahmaputra and Indus systems are most prone to flooding.


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