deluge-after-deluge

Context:

  • Kerala and Uttarakhand are reliving their flood nightmares of recent years. 
    • Over 80 people have lost their lives in these two States, with crops and property worth thousands of crores being destroyed.

Background

  • In 2018, Kerala lost nearly 500 people to floods, while in Uttarakhand a greater number of pilgrims were washed away in the swirling waters of the Bhagirathi, Mandakini and Alaknanda in 2013. 
  • These might have been epochal disasters, but cloudbursts, flash floods and very heavy rain in September and October have become the norm. 
    •  It coincides with the now-destructive retreating Southwest monsoon and cyclones originating in both the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

Impacts 

  • This is leading to crop losses as well. 
  • The ‘unseasonal’ rain could impact the output of tea, coffee, rubber, and cardamom in Kerala, besides West Bengal’s premium rice variety, Gobindobhog. 
  • It is expected to have damaged soybean, onion, urad, moong and cotton crops in central India. 
  • Climate change is here; scientists attribute the extreme weather events to the warming of our oceans, the Arabian Sea in particular in recent times. 
  • Its economic effects cannot be wished away any more.

Concerns

  • Steps to mitigate the impact of weather events are not on the radar of the political class. 
  • The effects of floods are rendered worse by illegal mining and construction on river beds and ecologically sensitive zones, as has been documented by a recent CAG report on such violations in Kerala. 
  • The report documents wholesale violations of Coastal Regulatory Zone rules by hotels, builders and other commercial entities. 
  • The Gadgil Committee report had earlier observed in 2011 that Kerala should not promote commercial activity in the ecologically sensitive zones earmarked by it. 
    • Kerala has rejected the Gadgil report, making common cause with neighbouring Karnataka. 
    • The two States are not willing to accept the watered-down proposals of the subsequent Kasturirangan panel report either. 
    • Not surprisingly, the hilly and touristy regions of Munnar, Wayanad and Kodagu are badly affected year after year. 
  • In Uttarakhand, the excessive construction of hydel and road projects has led to increased floods and landslides.

Way Forward

  • As the CAG report makes obvious, powerful vested interests are allowed to violate laws and rules with impunity. 
  • A civil society response alone can exert pressure on the political class to change course. 
  • Climate change needs to be combated not just through a technology shift in transport and energy, but also by creating carbon sinks — green cover that will help contain episodes of freak weather as well as keep its destructive effects to the minimum.

Related facts

Flash Floods:

  • These are sudden surges in water levels generally during or following an intense spell of rain.
  • These are highly localised events of short duration with a very high peak and usually have less than six hours between the occurrence of the rainfall and peak flood.
  • The flood situation worsens in the presence of choked drainage lines or encroachments obstructing the natural flow of water.

Causes:

  • It may be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane, tropical storm, or meltwater from ice or snow flowing over ice sheets or snowfields.
  • Flash Floods can also occur due to Dam or Levee Breaks, and/or Mudslides (Debris Flow).
  • In areas on or near volcanoes, flash floods have also occurred after eruptions, when glaciers have been melted by the intense heat.
  • The intensity of the rainfall, the location and distribution of the rainfall, the land use and topography, vegetation types and growth/density, soil type, and soil water- content all determine just how quickly the Flash Flooding may occur, and influence where it may occur.

Mitigation:

  • Instead of valleys, people should live in areas on slopes with firm ground for safety reasons.
  • In areas where ground fissures have developed, appropriate steps should be taken to check the infiltration of rainwater and surface water.
  • Banning "indiscriminate" and "unscientific" construction works.

Mains Question

The high losses and damages due to floods show the poor adaptation and mitigation status of India and inadequacy in disaster management and preparedness. In light of this statement, analyse the need for an integrated flood management framework in India. (250 words)

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