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

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.