Skip to main content

Centre's decades-old Flood Plain Zoning directive ignored: Gujarat, other states may face Kerala-type devastation

By BN Navalawala*
Incessant rainfall and heavy flooding have caused devastation in large parts of Kerala which now faces the ravages of the worst monsoon floods in 94 years, with 373 dead and more than 1.2 million in relief camps after 2,378 millimetre (mm) of rain over 81 days between June 1 and August 20, 2018 – 42% above normal or three times more than the Indian average for that period, according to data from the India Meteorological Department(IMD).
Now many theories, on such unprecedented flood fury in Kerala, have started being discussed. Amongst the major reasons for such catastrophic incident are: Near absence of Flood Plain Zoning and failure of maintaining the natural drainage system are the two critically important factors.
The basic concept of Flood Plain Zoning is to regulate the land use in the flood plains to restrict the damage caused by floods, which are bound to occur from time to time. Flood Plain Zoning, therefore, aims at determining the locations and the extent of areas likely to be affected by floods of different magnitude/ frequencies and to develop those areas in such a fashion that the damage is reduced to the minimum.
It, therefore, envisages limitations on indiscriminate development of both the unprotected as well as protected areas. In the former case, boundaries of forbidden areas are to be established to prevent indiscriminate growth while in the protected areas development can be allowed which will not involve unduly heavy damage in case the protective measures fail. Although zoning cannot remedy existing situations, it nevertheless can definitely help in minimising flood damage in new developments.
A Model Bill for Flood Plain Zoning was prepared by Central Water Commission (CWC, an apex technical body for water resources in Government of India) way back in 1975 and circulated to all States/Union Territories. The Bill was again circulated in October 1996. In view of lukewarm response from the State Governments towards enactment of Flood Plain Zoning legislation, the Ministry of Water Resources has time and again been impressing upon the State / Union Territory Governments to enact the legislation.
However, the response is quite dismal, as much as only three states, Manipur, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, have enacted legislations for the Bill and other States are yet to respond. Strangely enough, States of UP and Bihar, which are amongst the worst flood affected states almost every year, have conveyed that Flood Plain Zoning Bill is neither practicable nor implementable.
Further, in a related development, the CWC initiated a programme through Survey of India for carrying out surveys for preparation of flood risk maps to a scale of 1:15,000 with a contour interval of 25 cm for the areas/reaches, identified in a few flood-prone river basins. The work was taken up in a phased manner as per the priorities indicated by the States.
With the available data, the State Governments could then take up preparation of flood risk maps and demarcate areas corresponding to different flood frequencies, for effective implementation of regulations after the enactment of Flood Plain Zoning legislation. The progress on preparation of Flood Plain Zoning/flood risk maps by the State Governments was, however, not satisfactory and the programme of surveys had been discontinued during the Eighth Plan (1992-97). Unfortunately, not much progress was achieved by the State Governments in this respect also.
Another major reason for Kerala situation is the lack of effective implementation to maintain the original carrying capacity of our rivers as well as all natural drainage systems by not ensuring, through adequate legislation, that they are free from any encroachment, siltation and obstructions. With this kind of situation, practically everywhere and more in urban areas, Kerala like situation can happen in any state, including Gujarat.
In this context, it is worthwhile to mention that Flood Plain Zoning is not only necessary in the case of floods by rivers but is also useful in reducing the damage caused by drainage congestion, particularly in urban areas where on grounds of economy and other considerations, urban drainage is not designed for the worst conditions and presupposes some damage during storms, whose magnitude exceeds that for which the drainage system is designed.
Let us take the case of Surat city. Twenty years ago, the safe carrying capacity of flood waters in Tapi River, passing through the city, was 6.5 to 7 lakh cusecs, which is now reduced to 2.5 lakh cusecs only due to man-made interventions, haphazard urbanisation and encroachments in flood plains of the river. More or less similar situation is with Gujarat's other rivers like Sabarmati (in Ahmedabad) and Vishwamitri (in Vadodara).
---
*Former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Water Resources

Comments

Anonymous said…
The Sabarmati River Front can become a cause to meander the river course causing un imaginable disaster and irreversible damages.

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.