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

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.

Right to health and informed consent: Why 'revisit' Mission Indradhanush?

By Deepika*  Extending on to the subject of Misleading ads and acting responsibly , another aspect that needs highlighting is our right to health and to be made aware of quality of products, as pointed out by the Supreme Court.

Indian authorities 'evading' discussion on battery energy storage system

By Shankar Sharma*  In the larger context of the ever growing need and importance of renewable energy sources for a sustainable energy/ electricity sector in our country, the critical role of energy storage systems, especially the battery energy storage system (BESS), is being emphasised frequently at the global level, such as the one by  the International Energy Agency (IEA). Unfortunately, our authorities in India seem not to attach the same level of importance, which the BESS deserves.