Floods are the most frequent natural calamity that India has to face almost every year in varying magnitudes in some or other parts of the country. The annual precipitation including snow-fall is estimated at 4000 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM). Out of this, the seasonal rainfall in monsoon is of the order of 3000 BCM. Rainfall in India is mainly dependent on the South-West and North-East monsoons, on cyclonic depressions and disturbances and on violent local storms. Most of the rainfall in India (80%) takes place under the influence of South-West monsoon between June and September (4 months). Remaining (20%) rainfall is received from North-east monsoon, cyclonic storm, local storms and cloud bursts.
Flooding is caused by the inadequate capacity within the banks of the rivers to contain the high flows brought down from the upper catchments due to heavy rainfall. Areas having poor drainage characteristic get flooded by accumulation of water from heavy rainfall. According to the estimate of the National Commission on Flood, the area prone to floods in the country was of the order of 40 million hectares, out of which it is considered that 80%, i.e., 32 million hectares could be provided with reasonable degree of protection.
Recognizing the gravity of the risk and vulnerability of India to floods, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), soon after its constitution initiated a series of consultations with the various stakeholders to develop Guidelines For strengthening the existing arrangements for flood Preparedness, mitigation, and post-flood emergency
Response, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Senior representatives from the Central Ministries/ Departments and the state governments, related Agencies, academics and professionals attended these meetings. The meetings acknowledged that,While several significant initiatives had been taken by government agencies in the past for addressing the risk and vulnerability of India to floods, it is necessary to undertake measures for the evolution of a holistic and integrated strategy to address the critical factors that accentuate flood risk. On the basis of these deliberations, the NDMA has
Prepared these Guidelines for Flood Management (FM), to assist the ministries and departments of the Government of India (GOI), the state governments and other agencies in preparing Flood Management plans (FMPs).
Vulnerability to Floods
Floods have been a recurrent phenomenon in India and cause huge losses to lives, properties, livelihood systems, infrastructure and public utilities. India’s high risk and vulnerability is highlighted by the fact that 40 million hectares out of a geographical area of 3290 lakh hectares is prone to floods. 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) were lost in the year 1977. The frequency of major floods is more than once in five years. Floods have also occurred in areas, which were earlier not considered flood prone. Eighty per cent of the precipitation takes place in the monsoon months from June to September. The rivers bring heavy sediment load from the catchments. These, coupled with inadequate carrying capacity of the rivers are responsible for causing floods, drainage congestion and erosion of river-banks. Cyclones, cyclonic circulations and cloud bursts cause flash floods and lead to huge losses. The fact that some of the rivers causing damage in India originate in neighboring countries, adds another complex dimension to the problem. Continuing and largescale loss of lives and damage to public and private property due to floods indicate that we are still to develop an effective response to floods.
National Disaster Management Guidelines: Management Of Floods
Guidelines have been prepared to enable the various implementers and stakeholder agencies to address effectively the critical areas for minimizing flood damages.
Urban Flooding: Flooding in the cities and the towns is a recent phenomenon caused by increasing incidence of heavy rainfall in a short period of time, indiscriminate encroachment of waterways, inadequate capacity of drains and lack of maintenance of the drainage infrastructure. Keeping in view the fact that the problem is becoming more severe and losses are mounting every year, the subject of urban flooding has been recognised by the NDMA as one meriting exclusive attention and separate guidelines for its management are being prepared and will be issued soon.
The Objectives of the Guidelines: These Guidelines rest on the following objectives aimed at increasing the efficacy of the Flood Management Plans (FMPs), which will be prepared at various levels:
1. Shifting the focus to preparedness by implementing, in a time-bound manner, an optimal combination of techno-economically viable, socially acceptable and eco-friendly structural and nonstructural measures of FM.
2. Ensuring regular monitoring of the effectiveness and sustainability of various structures and taking appropriate measures for their restoration and strengthening.
3. Continuous modernisation of flood forecasting, early warning and decision support systems.
4. Ensuring the incorporation of flood resistant features in the design and construction of new structures in the flood prone areas.
5. Drawing up time-bound plans for the flood proofing of strategic and public utility structures in flood prone areas.
6. Improving the awareness and preparedness of all stakeholders in the flood prone areas.
7. Introducing appropriate capacity development interventions for effective Flood Management (including education, training, capacity building, research and development, and documentation.)
8. Improving the compliance regime through appropriate mechanisms.
9. Strengthening the emergency response capabilities.
Following the unprecedented floods of 1954, the then Union Minister for Planning, Irrigation and Power placed before Parliament on 3 September 1954, the statements on floods which set the objective of reducing the menace of floods. Later on, in a subsequent statement in Parliament on 27 July 1956, the emphasis was laid on doing all that was possible to contain floods in the country. Since then the government has taken various initiatives and set up a number of committees to study the problem and recommend several remedial measures. The most important ones are the High Level Committee on Floods (1957), the Ministers Committee on Flood Control (1964), the Rashtriya Barh Ayog (1980) and Task Force on Flood Management/Erosion Control (2004).
Institutional Framework As per the constitutional provisions, Flood Management is a state subject and as such the primary responsibility for flood management lies with the states. The central government has taken various initiatives and set up a number of organisations dealing with the floods. The most notable one is the enactment of the National Disaster Management Act, December 2005 and setting up of the NDMA, which has been assigned to deal with all types of disasters including the floods. The National Executive Committee (NEC) with the Secretary of GOI of the ministry or department having administrative control of the subject of the Disaster Management as the Chairman and Secretaries of other ministries concerned and the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of the Staff Committee (CISC) as Members, will assist the NDMA in the discharge of its functions and ensure compliance of the directions issued by the central government apart from preparing the National Disaster Management Plan. The state governments are to set up State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) and State Executive Committees (SECs) to perform similar functions at the state level. These are in addition to existing organisations dealing with the floods in the states. There is a need to set up a central organisation to lay down policy and implement Flood Management measures in consultation with the states and other stakeholders as floods are not confined to one state and flooding in one state leads to flooding in adjoining states.
Accordingly, it has been proposed to set up River Basin Organisations to deal with the management of water resources at river basin level. It is also proposed to set up a National Flood Management Institute (NFMI) at an appropriate location in one of the flood prone states, to impart training to engineers, administrators, personnel of the police departments, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based organizations (CBOs) etc.
Floods being the most common natural disaster, people have, out of experience, devised many ways of coping with them. However, encroachments into the flood plains over the years has aggravated the flood problem and a need to take effective and sustained Flood Management measures has been felt. Various measures, structural and nonstructural, have been taken by the central and state governments and as a result, considerable protection has been provided to the people. However, more efforts are required in this direction and there is a need to put in place a techno-legal regime to make structures flood-proof and regulate the activities in the flood plains of the rivers. Flood forecasting and warning and Decision Support System (DSS) should be established on a scientific basis taking into account the latest technological developments in the world.
The central government and the state governments are required to take steps for capacity development for taking effective and sustainable preventive, preparatory and mitigative measures in pre-floods stage and effective and prompt response during- and post-floods stages. Appropriate recommendations have been made by NDMA in this regard.
The activities proposed to be undertaken aim at minimising the flood risk and losses and are to be implemented in three phases in addition to recurring activities.
Phase-I These activities include identification and marking of flood prone areas on maps, preparation of close contour and flood vulnerability maps, formulating plans for expansion and modernisation of flood forecasting and warning systems, identification of priority flood protection and drainage improvement works, identification of reservoirs for review and modification of operation manuals and rule curves and undertaking special studies on problems of river erosion.
Phase-II These include implementation of the schemes for expansion and modernisation of the flood forecasting and warning network, execution of flood protection and drainage improvement schemes, modification and adoption of revised reservoir operation manuals, enactment and enforcement of flood plain zoning regulations and planning and preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for storage reservoirs and implementation of the schemes for real-time collection of hydrometeorological data on rivers in Nepal, Bhutan and China.
Phase-III Implementation of activities, which include construction of dams and catchment area treatment (CAT) works in India as well as neighboring countries, is likely to take considerable time as they entail major environmental, social, inter-state and international implications. These need careful study and interaction with the stakeholders.
Recurring Activities These activities which include inspection of dams, embankments and other structural measures, execution of restoration and strengthening works and expansion and modernisation of flood forecasting and warning systems, are to be taken on a regular basis for ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of various measures for minimizing flood risk.
The relevance and status of various activities should be continuously monitored and reviewed. The activities should be modified, if felt necessary. The preparedness of the central ministries and departments concerned and the state governments should be reviewed in April/May every year and appropriate corrective measures should be taken before the commencement of the monsoon. A post-monsoon review should be held every year in November/December so as to finalise the action plan for preparatory measures to be implemented before the onset of the next monsoon.
Flood Management Plans The flood management plan should be holistic, participatory, inclusive, eco-friendly and gender-sensitive in nature and the implementation of which will result in a flood- resilient India. The plans should focus on the community and the collective efforts of the government and NGOs.
Flood management plans should focus on the following: Mechanism for joint formulation of forecasts by the CWC/IMD/NRSA/states should be evolved. flood prone areas (villages/ blocks/tehsils/districts) should be identified. The state governments should make an assessment of the area suffering from drainage congestion and erosion of rivers.
Module on Flood Management in education in schools/technical institutions/defence forces/academies, Administrative Training Institutes (ATIs) etc.,should be introduced by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Ministry of Defence (MOD), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), state governments. Building bye-laws should be amended to make future buildings in flood prone areas floodsafe by the state governments. A mechanism for joint operation for reservoirs on inter-state rivers should be evolved by the concern state governments. Establish a system for monitoring of landslides causing blockages in the rivers, Adequate number of flood shelters should be constructed by the state governments. Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement (FP and DI) works (embankments, anti erosion measures, drainage improvement works and sea walls/coastal protection works) should be identified and implemented in time by the state governments on a priority basis.
The role of CBOs, NGOs, Women’s Groups, Youth Organisations, Corporate Houses and other stake holders in flood response should be institutionalized.
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) models for intrastate rivers should be developed by the state governments. Establish a system for forecasting of flash floods by IMD. Basin wise Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) models for inter-state rivers should developed by the Central Water Commision (CWC) and state governments. Adequacy and if required, increasing the waterways of bridges/ culverts under roads and railways embankments should be examined by the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways (MOSRTH), Ministry of Railways (MOR), Ministry of Defence (MOD), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Border Road Organisation (BRO) and state governments. A comprehensive flood insurance scheme should be formulated to help the people in distress.
Disaster Management plans should be prepared for all the reservoirs. Make public utility buildings/installations flood-safe. Water shed management, Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) and afforestation schemes in critical areas should be taken up by the state governments/ central organisations.
Recurring Activities • Inspections of dams, embankments and other structural measures by the state governments – twice every year, once before monsoon (April-May) and second time after monsoon (November- December).
• Restoration/strengthening works by the state governments–every year.
• Monitoring of structural measures–by the state governments–throughout the year with special attention during monsoon.
• Expansion and modernisation of flood forecasting and warning network and DSS for flood management as and when required.
Important Aspects of the Guidelines While all the activities under the Guidelines are important for minimising flood risk and loss of lives and properties, the issues which need special attention are the following: Indiscriminate encroachment of the flood plains of the rivers and waterways of natural and man-made drainage channels and reclamation of ponds, chaurs, lakes and depressions have led to increased flood risk to lives and properties. The regulation of developmental activities in these areas and an appropriate techno-legal regime is an urgent necessity. The change in priority in use of storage space of the multi-purpose reservoirs for irrigation, hydropower, drinking and industrial water supply by ignoring flood moderation has led to large scale flooding.
The operation manuals and rule curves of all the reservoirs should be reviewed and modified to give priority to flood moderation. Flood forecasting and warning is a non-structural measure, which aims at minimising losses and enabling the agencies concerned to plan rescue and relief measures. The efforts of the CWC, IMD, NRSA and the state governments should be integrated and a mechanism developed wherein during the monsoon, the representatives of all these organizations and the basin states work together in formulation and dissemination of reliable forecasts and warning. The national vision is to minimise the vulnerability to floods and the consequent loss of lives, livelihood systems, property and damage to infrastructure and public utilities and to build a safer India by developing a holistic, proactive, multidisaster and technology driven strategy .
This is to be achieved through a combination of preventive, mitigative and preparatory measures to generate a prompt and efficient response after the occurrence of floods. The entire process will focus on the community and will be sustained through the collective efforts of the government and NGOs.