Scourge of floods

Why  In news?

Floods have caused havoc in many parts of the country especially in Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh. Thousands of people are affected with many dead.

Facts (For Prelims)

1.India is highly vulnerable to floods. Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares (mha), more than 40 mha is flood prone.

2.On an average, every year, 75 lakh hectares of land is affected, 1600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities is Rs.1805 crores due to floods. The maximum number of lives (11,316) was lost in the year 1977. The frequency of major floods is more than once in five years.

3.The subject of flood control, unlike irrigation, does not figure as such in any of the three legislative

lists included in the Constitution of India.Drainage and Embankments are the two measures

specifically, mentioned in entry 17 of List II (State List).

The primary responsibility for flood control thus lies with the states.

4.National Institutions that deal with Floods-

i)National Disaster Management Authority- It was formed under The Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM

Act,2005)  which lays down institutional, legal, financial and coordination mechanisms at the national,

state, district and local levels.

ii)National Executive Committee-. It is the executive committee of the NDMA, and is statutorily

mandated to assist the Authority in the discharge of its functions and ensure compliance of the

directions issued by the central government, apart from preparing the National Plan and securing its

approval by the NDMA and performing such other functions as required by the NDMA

iii)National Disaster Response Force-for specialised response to a threatening disaster situation or disasters both natural and man-made.

iv)National Institute of Disaster Management- Its functions include capacity development, along with training, research, documentation and the development of a national level information base.


v)The Central Flood Control Board (CFCB)/Irrigation Ministers Conference.


vi)Central Water Commission-)It is an apex agency in the field of water resources including flood management in India.

vii)National Remote Sensing Agency- It is an agency under the Indian space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) disaster

management support (DMS) programme.

It basically an operational service provider for space-enabled inputs together with other important data layers for its

use in disaster management.

ANALYSIS (For Mains)

Floods are a recurrent phenomenon, which causes huge loss of lives and damage to livelihood systems, property, infrastructure and public utilities.



The term flood is generally used when the water-flows in rivers, streams and other water bodies cannot be contained

within natural or artificial banks. According to the estimates of the National Flood Commission (1980), commonly known as the Rashtriya Barh Ayog, Assam and Bihar are the States worst affected by floods followed by U.P. and West Bengal.

Floods in this region are common during the monsoon because of the combined impact of monsoon and glacial melt.It is natural because of the rivers in the Northeast, mostly originating in the Eastern Himalayas, experience a sharp fall in gradient as they move from Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan to reach Assam’s floodplains. This fall in altitude causes a large volume of water to gush to the floodplains.


Factors affecting Floods –

The severity of flooding at any location is a function of factors such as

i)intensity and extent of rainfall

ii) antecedent conditions of the catchment area,

iii)physical characteristics of the river, topography etc.

iv) In many cases, the natural process of flooding is aggravated by man-made hindrances to free outflow or absorption of floodwater both in agricultural and urban areas.



A.Structural measures-

1.Building embankment, flood walls and flood levees.

2.Lakes, low-lying depressions, tanks, dams and reservoirs can store significant proportions of flood water and the stored water can be released subsequently when the flood has receded.

3.Channel Improvement to carry flood discharge at levels lower than its prevailing high flood level.

4.Selective desilting/dredging of riverbeds in specific areas drainage Improvement and diversion of Flood Water.

5.Watershed management measures such as developing the vegetative cover i.e. afforestation and

conservation of soil cover in conjunction with structural works .

B.Non-Structural Measures-

1.Flood Plain Zoning-The basic concept of flood plain zoning is to regulate land use in the flood plains in order to

restrict the damage due to floods while deriving maximum benefits from the same.

2.Flood Proofing-It is essentially a combination of structural change and emergency action, the techniques adopted consist of providing raised platforms for flood shelter for men and cattle, raising the public utility installations especially the platforms for drinking water well above flood level.

3.Flood Forecasting and Warning.

4.Integrated Water Resources Management- It aims for sustainable water resources development.  Focus areas for IWRM are water resources assessment,socioeconomic assessment, water resources planning, implementation of action plans, day-to-day water resources management and water resources protection and conservation.

5.Increasing water literacy among the people.


The dominant narrative of flood protection should undergo a paradigm shift towards flood governance .

That is, in addition to flood management and mitigation the focus should also be on Strategic environment assessment of development activities and resilience building by reducing vulnerability, increasing access to services, and maximising productivity through the optimal use of available resources.