"Our flood policy has converted a welcome flood into a deluge and that has created employment for disaster managers"
Source: Toxics Alert, Date: , 2009
Excessive rain fall, spilling of the
banks of the rivers, drainage congestion, breaches in the embankments, roads,
canals and other such structures lead to flooding. Floods are also caused
because of cyclones and tsunamis etc. Indo- Gangetic plains and the Brahmaputra
Basin is the most affected flood basin within India because of its geographical
location. Flash floods are also known to strike in flashes like
Nagpur, Bhopal, Hoshangabad, Jallundhar, Surat, Bangalore, Nashik, Jaypur, Alwar,
Bharatpur and Barmer etc.
- What kinds of flood control measures have been undertaken by
After adopting the first Flood Control
Policy in 1954, Government of India
through various state ‘s Water Resources or Irrigation Departments proceeded to
construct 33928.642 kilometers length of embankments along its rivers,
38809.857 kilometers length of drainage channels dug to drain unwanted
floodwaters and protect 2458 towns against floods and raise 4716villages above
the maximum observed flood level till 2006 Constructing embankments along the
rivers has been the major intervention to provide protection against floods.
Raising the villages above the maximum flood level has been abandoned after its
failure but the other works are continuing. Some dams like the ones of the
Damodar Valley Corporation and the Hirakud Dam in Orissa is said to have some
- Under whose jurisdiction state or central does flood control
Flood control is state’s subject and the state’s Irrigation
or Water Resources Departments take care of flood control.
Uttar Pradesh (1998 and 2002), Bihar (1998, 2002, 2004,
2007 and 2008), West Bengal (2002), Orissa (2002 and 2008) and Assam almost
every year figures in news for floods. Floods are quiet usual in these states
but unexpected floods have occurred at places mentioned earlier.
Last year’s flood in the Kosi following a
breach at Kusaha has revived the flood debate and accountability of the
state in maintaining the structures that were built to combat floods.
The Union Ministry of Water Resources claim that the
irrigation potential created and utilized has been increasing every year.
However, according to SANDPR study published in 2007 the net area irrigated by
big irrigation projects have in fact dropped between 2004 and 2009.In the light
of this please evaluate the UPA performance over the last decade.
Irrigation performance has been questioned from time to
time and that has led to the constitution of various committees and commissions
to look into the non-performance of irrigation establishment. Over rated
targets, poor maintenance and lack of accountability of the irrigation
bureaucracy are the reasons behind such dismal performance. It has got little
to do with who is ruling where. Irrigation is a state subject and the center
only has an advisory, monitoring and funding role. Rest every thing is taken
care of by states. In Bihar, for example, the actual irrigated area in 1989 was
to the tune of 21.5 lakh hectares and it came down and stayed on to nearly 16
lakh hectares during 1990-2000. Between 1990 and 2000 (when the state was
bifurcated into Bihar and Jharkhand), there was additional potential irrigation
of 113,000 hectares created but actual irrigation fell by 653,000 hectares.
There has been no recovery on that front so far. I think lack of resources may
be a problem to some extent but it is mainly a result of lethargy, and not
having any accountability to the farmers.
SANDRAP did an excellent job by exposing the failure of the
irrigation set up within the country and let me tell you that the flood prone
area of the country, as per the first Five Year Plan document, was only 25 m ha
at the beginning of the plan period. It rose to 33.516 m ha. when Rashtriya
Barh Ayog assessed its extent in 1980. Of late, the Working Group on Flood
Control Programme set up by the Planning Commission for the 10th
Five Year Plan has estimated the flood prone areas as 45.64 Mha., out of which
an area of 16.457 m. ha. was estimated to be protected to the end of March
2004. Central Water Commission suggests that the state has protected 18.222
million hectares of land against flooding till March 2006 which leaves a
balance of 27.418 m ha yet to be provided with any kind of flood protection
implying that the flood control measures adopted so far have not yielded any
result. The area yet to be protected is more than what was the total flood
prone area of the country in 1950s. Obviously, the investment in the flood
control sector in the country is doing more harm than good and the flood spread
area is on the rise.
The government must evaluate its performance
before embarking upon such an ambitious program. The irrigated area is coming
down and the flood prone area is on the rise and if that is the achievement of
the past 62 years, the nation should think twice before handing over the ILR to
the same set up.
Compared to other flood countries
how does India fare in controlling the deluge
It makes no sense to compare because the local
geographical, social and political conditions are different but there are
possibilities of learning from other countries if some good work has been done
there. When it comes to adopting those things in our country, one needs to be
very careful. Fake success stories of flood control in the Hwang Ho and the
Mississippi basin were circulated to tame the Kosi River. We all know what
happened to Damodar Valley Corporation that was said to be the replica of
Tennessee Valley Authority. The establishment is hell bent on proving the
manmade floods everywhere as disaster and treats, say, Barmer in Rajasthan with
Supaul in Bihar on equal footing without ever realizing that the conditions
there are poles apart. Unless we diagnose the problem rightly, we will always
write wrong prescriptions. Our flood policy has converted a welcome flood into
a deluge and that has created employment for disaster managers. Correct the
policies and their implementation, deluge will disappear.