Natural Disasters

Reality of floods

Rivers breached danger mark, lakhs of hectares of standing crops were destroyed and millions were displaced. It's time we stepped back and understood why urban floods have become a new normal

 

Reeling under floods

In 2013, a multi-day cloudburst in Uttarakhand caused devastating floods, killing more than 5,000 people. A year later, Kashmir suffered disastrous deluge due to torrential rainfall. Thousands were displaced and more than 500 people were killed on both sides of Kashmir.  At the end of 2015, Chennai had its brush with an equally catastrophic flood that paralysed the city.  2016 saw Assam and Madhya Pradesh grapple with the reality that floods of massive intensity have become the new normal for India.

While it is convenient to push the blame to extreme weather events for unprecedented rains, but not all of it is of nature’s doing. For instance, rains could cause so much havoc in Uttarakhand because the state had already witnessed indiscriminate developmental activities carried out in the ecologically fragile regions of the state. Chennai, which is no stranger to cyclonic storms and heavy rains, especially during the annual northeast monsoon in November–December, saw the worst flood in its history. In its bid to expand, the city has been encroaching upon its rivers, sacrificing wetlands to accommodate development and eating into the marshlands for developing public infrastructure.

On this note, let’s take a look at the reasons pushing urban floods and the price we are paying for not reading the signs.

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  • The immediate and perhaps workable strategy would be to properly demarcate and geo-reference ALL wetlands, marshes, lakes, river banks and seasonal drainage channels in and around cities and then to notify these as PROTECTED FORESTS. Any tinkering with them will invoke provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which is the one legal instrument, backed by the judiciary, that has saved many forests, grasslands, alpine pastures and Protected Areas. Why can't it be used to protected wetlands within cities?

    Posted by: Vinay Tandon | 3 years ago | Reply