Understanding Floods

Understanding Floods

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Understanding Floods”. The topic “Understanding Floods” has relevance in the “Disaster Management” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is Flood, its causes, effects, and implications?

Basics of Disaster Management

For Mains:

GS1: Physical Geography, GS3: Disaster Management

Why in the news?

Heavy rainfall during the 2023 monsoon season has caused severe flooding across Northern India, primarily affecting residents in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.


Understanding Floods 

  • Floods occur when an overflow of water submerges typically dry land and are one of the most frequent and devastating natural disasters worldwide. 
  • India is highly vulnerable to floods with over 40 million hectares of its 329 million-hectare geographical area prone to flooding. 
  • Floods cause significant loss of lives and damage to livelihood systems, property, infrastructure, and public utilities. The average annual flood damage in the last 10 years (1996-2005) was Rs. 4,745 crore, compared to Rs. 1,805 crore in the preceding 53 years. 
  • This vulnerability can be attributed to factors such as population growth, urbanization, increased developmental and economic activities in flood plains, and global warming.


Types of Flood 

There are several different types of floods, each with its own characteristics and causes. These include flash floods, river floods, coastal floods, and urban flooding, which is often the result of rapid land development.


Causes of Floods 

Natural causes 

  • Prolonged or intense rainfall, which saturates the soil and leads to increased surface runoff. 
  • Relief characteristics, such as mountainous or hilly areas, can accelerate the flow of water from higher to lower elevations, making low-lying regions more susceptible to flooding. 
  • In addition, climate change has been linked to the increase in extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall and storm surges, which can contribute to flooding.


Anthropogenic causes

  • Deforestation, for instance, removes the protective vegetation cover that helps regulate water flow and promotes infiltration into the soil. 
  • Poor land use practices, such as over-cultivation and overgrazing, degrade the soil’s fertility, reducing its ability to absorb water. 
  • Urbanization plays a significant role as well, as the replacement of permeable soil with impermeable surfaces like concrete and asphalt prevents water from infiltrating into the ground, leading to increased runoff and potential flooding. 
  • Other human activities, including improper waste disposal, quarrying, and the collapse of dams, can also exacerbate the risk of flooding.


Implications of Floods 

  • Drowning is a significant cause of death during flood disasters, accounting for a majority of the fatalities. 
  • Low- and middle-income countries with limited resources and weak flood response systems are particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of flooding. 
  • Beyond the immediate risk to human life, floods can lead to physical injuries, health issues, and disrupted health systems, amplifying the challenges faced by affected communities. Water- and vector-borne diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, and malaria, can spread more easily in the aftermath of a flood. 
  • Injuries resulting from evacuations and disaster cleanup efforts are also common. 
  • Moreover, the mental health effects associated with emergency situations and the loss of homes and livelihoods can have long-term consequences.
  • In addition to the human toll, floods cause substantial damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, and utilities. This leads to disruptions in access to basic services such as healthcare, food, and clean water, further compounding the challenges faced by affected communities. 
  • The economic losses incurred by both the state and individuals are significant, as flood damage often requires extensive recovery and rebuilding efforts.


Preventive Measures 

  • Improving drainage systems through proper planning and expansion is essential to ensure efficient water flow and reduce the risk of flooding. 
  • Diverting flood water through natural or constructed channels can help alleviate pressure on vulnerable areas and redirect water away from populated regions. 
  • Implementing watershed management measures, such as afforestation and soil conservation, promotes the development of a vegetative cover that helps retain water and reduce the intensity of runoff. 
  • Anti-erosion works, such as building structures to deflect or reduce the current along riverbanks, can minimize bank erosion and stabilize vulnerable areas. 
  • Constructing seawalls and coastal protection works, such as groins, helps safeguard coastal areas from erosion and the destructive impact of storm surges. 
  • Regular inspection, rehabilitation, and maintenance of structural works are essential to ensure their effectiveness in flood prevention and management.

Flood as a National Calamity 

In recent times, there have been several calls to declare floods as national calamity.

Significance of National Calamity Declaration

  • Assistance at the national level provided when a calamity is declared of “rare severity” or “severe nature.”
  • Additional support considered from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) established, with shared contributions from the Centre and states.
  • Insufficient CRF resources may lead to additional aid from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), fully funded by the Centre.
  • Possibility of relief measures for affected individuals, including loan repayment assistance or concessional loans.


Criteria for Classifying a National Calamity

  • There is no legal or executive provision to declare a natural disaster a national disaster.
  • The intensity, magnitude, and assistance needed are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Factors considered include the capacity of the state to address the problem and available alternatives for relief.
  • The National Committee on Disaster Management (2001) examined parameters for defining a national calamity.


Legal Definition of a Disaster

  • According to the Disaster Management Act, 2005, a disaster is defined as a catastrophic event caused by natural or man-made factors, accidents, or negligence.
  • Natural disasters encompass various events like earthquakes, floods, landslides, cyclones, tsunamis, urban floods, and heatwaves.
  • Disasters result in significant loss of life, human suffering, property damage, environmental degradation, exceeding the affected community’s coping capacity.


Declare floods as national calamity, compensate farmers: Samyukt Kisan Morcha
Delhi under water as Yamuna breaches danger mark


plutus ias current affairs eng med 18th July 2023


Q1. With reference to Floods, consider the following statements: 

  1. Floods can be caused by both natural and man-made factors.
  2. The declaration of floods as a national calamity is mandatory in all affected regions.
  3. Encouraging deforestation in flood-prone areas can help in mitigating floods. 

Which of the statements given above is/are NOT correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (b) 


Q2. Consider the following statements with reference to floods: 

  1. Implementing watershed management measures
  2. Constructing buildings and infrastructure in floodplains
  3. Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans
  4. Replacement of permeable soil with impermeable surfaces 

How many of the statements mentioned above can be considered as preventive measures against disasters like flooding?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) Only three 

(d) All Four 

Answer: (b)

Q3. Explaining the causes, impacts, and mitigation strategies for floods in India, examine how effective are current flood management policies, and what measures can be taken to increase flood resilience in the country?


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