The importance of flood forecasting
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with chief ministers and ministers of Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra to review the flood situation in these states. During the meeting, PM emphasised the need for better coordination between central and state agencies to have a permanent system for forecasting floods and the extensive use of innovative technologies to improve the forecast and warning system. Mr Modi’s recommendations are significant because every year floods upend lives and livelihoods and destroy critical infrastructure and biodiversity. They also put enormous stress on finances.
While the government’s Central Water Commission (CWC) has modernised its flood management system over the years, there are still massive gaps that need to be filled to make it a much more responsive system. Two types of measures are taken for flood protection: Structural (embankments, dams, reservoirs, and natural detention basins), and non-structural (flood forecasting and warning, floodplain zoning).
There are several problems with both. On the structural side, the management of reservoirs and dams, maintenance of embankments and data collection on a river’s silt-bearing capacity have to be improved. On the non-structural side, data on river flow and discharge must be enhanced; the installation and maintenance of technical equipment such as gauges have to be expedited. Also critical is how the information on floods is given to the public; it has to be timely, useful (location) and in a non-technical language. Finally, an independent evaluation of the flood forecasting system must be put in place to identify the gaps in the system, and ensure that CWC performs its role better than it is doing now.