Skip to main content

Not just climate change, mismanaged rivers, towns also led to deluge in South Asia

By Bharat Dogra 

Most countries of South Asia have suffered excessive flood losses this year, peaking in Pakistan. In the last week of August Pakistan, overwhelmed by surging waters, declared an emergency. Nearly 1500 human lives have already been claimed by the disaster. With excessive rains affecting almost half the country and a third of the country submerged during the peak of the flood, nearly 33 million people were reported to be temporarily without shelter. This meant about one out of every seven persons in a country with a total population of around 220 million. With over 700,000 houses destroyed or damaged, these families were likely to be deprived of shelter for a much longer time.
In neighboring India, the most flood-prone state of Assam had experienced waves of extreme floods at a much earlier stage of the monsoon. Around 22 June, over 5.5 million people out of a total population of around 31 million were reported to be affected by floods in Assam, or more than one out of six. Some next-door provinces were battered too.
While Assam is a known flood-prone state in the north-east of India, some of the least flood prone desert areas in the north-west also received exceptionally heavy rain, submerging parts of Jodhpur, city of palaces and forts much favored by tourists. In southern parts of India, Bengaluru, the leading hub of informational technology in the country, suffered very extensive damage in floods.
Several parts of the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh in India were battered very badly by flash floods and landslides. While rains continued relentlessly, the authorities said that by the end of August, there was already damage estimated at Rs. 20 billion in this small state (population less than 8 million). It has become even clearer during this rainy season that most hilly regions are becoming much more susceptible to landslides and flash floods.
This was much in evidence in Nepal and Bangladesh as well. Bangladesh experienced waves of destructive floods around the same time as Assam, with more to follow. In Afghanistan, in August, widespread and very ferocious floods threatened large parts of the country which was earlier ravaged by a prolonged drought.
In many river-bank areas, particularly in India and Bangladesh, the extent of land erosion by ferocious rivers has increased greatly and tens of thousands of farmers have been rendered landless.
In these times of climate change, rains have been more concentrated and heavy in short spells, inflicting more damage. In Pakistan, rain during certain spells has been reported to be several times the expected norm. This, as well as the much higher glacier melt during the scorching summer, have been identified as the leading cause of floods by official sources. This can be abnormal in terms of historic weather patterns, but is not to be considered unexpected in times of climate change.
This is climate change at work, but not all the damage can be blamed on this alone. Local mismanagement, also linked in some contexts to climate change (as in the case of deforestation) or other factors not so linked (such as indiscriminate constructions in paths of natural water flow) has also contributed a lot to the fury of floods. Deforestation is a serious problem. In Pakistan forest cover is reported to have reduced from over 33 per cent to just around 4 per cent during the last 75 years or so. A significant part of this has been often been blamed on notorious timber mafias. In India it is the bulk felling of trees for several development projects of dubious merit which has been more controversial in recent times. The Ken-Betwa River Link involves the felling of well over 2 million trees, even though its viability has been repeatedly questioned.
Many dam reservoirs have been unable to fulfill the flood role envisaged for them, partly because of their rapid siltation caused by deforestation and partly because for economic reasons these tend to be managed much more prominently for hydro power and irrigation rather than for flood control. In reality, the larger than anticipated release of water from these dams often becomes the cause of more destructive floods.
Embankments have been constructed over vast areas in South Asia, but their real flood protection role too has diverged much from what was originally envisaged. Over the years the embanked rivers, unable to deposit their silt over a wide area, continue to rise, till the walls can stop them no more. Poor maintenance of embankments also continues to cause frequent breaches. Inability of natural rain-flows to enter embanked rivers contributes to new kinds of prolonged floods and waterlogging over substantial areas. The floods unleashed by breached embankments are much more furious than normal floods.
River-beds have been mined recklessly for construction materials. Wetlands and ponds which could absorb much of the flooded water in the past have been encroached upon. In urban areas well-connected builders have even encroached on land of natural water-flows, diverting water towards previously built and often denser residential areas. Corruption and cost- cutting lead to neglect of drainage while carrying out construction works.
Climate change requires much better preparation and adaptation to face the challenge of climate change. If highly destructive deluges are to be avoided, South Asia will need a much better response to new emerging threats.
The immediate concern should be to make the humanitarian response in flood affected areas as good as possible, but in the longer run, South Asia really needs to improve its response towards floods -- as floods become more disastrous in times of climate change, the region cannot afford to further worsen the threat by mismanagement and policy distortions. The demand for developed, rich countries to make compensatory payments for having contributed the most to climate change is justified, but this should not lead to neglect of much-needed local improvements. What all can agree immediately is to rush more and better managed relief to those suffering the most from floods.
---
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril', ‘Protecting Earth for Children' and ‘A Day in 2071’

Comments

TRENDING

Clive Lloyd among great batsmen Alan Border, Javed Miandad, Rahul Dravid,Ted Dexter

By Harsh Thakor  Few batsmen struck a cricket ball with such vengeance or contempt as Clive Lloyd, who was the ultimate embodiment of power. Perhaps no left-hander batted more like Gary Sobers. Hard to think of any left hander in is time, with such wide range of strokes or at best batting in a more cavalier or imperious manner. At his best Clive could take domination to the scale rarely transcended and was a spectacle to witness.. It is hard to do justice to the joy Clive radiated out on the middle. Clive Lloyd nurtured and knitted a bunch of talented individuals to transform into possibly the best test team ever in the 1980's.Literally led a renaissance or gave a new dimension to Caribbean cricket. Never did West Indian cricket nurture such father figure.  Clive made a great contribution in elevating the morale or epitomising the spirit of the Afro-American West Indian Community and image of black people in the eyes of the white Community. As a cricketer he gave the ultimate knock

Vishwanath has been unfairly excluded from global list of 100 best cricketers

By Harsh Thakor  Gundappa Vishwanath scaled zones in batting artistry or wizardry unparalleled amongst Indian batsmen. The best of his batting was a manifestation of the divine. He was also the epitome of cricketing sportsmanship. Sadly 40 years ago he unceremoniously bid farewell to the International cricket world, after the concluding test at Karachi in 1982-83., in January end. Very hard to visualise a character like Vishwanath being reborn today His memories are embedded in cricket lovers today when sportsmanship and grace have virtually been relegated to oblivion with the game of cricket turned into a commercial commodity. Today agro and unsporting behaviour is a routine feature Vishy shimmered cricket’s spirituality. His behaviour on the cricket field was grace personified, No one in his age defined cricket more as a gentleman’s game, than Vishy. Vishwanath could execute strokes that were surreal with his steel wrists. His strokeplay resembled the touches of a painter’s brush,

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Reproductive, conjugal rights of women in India amidst debate of uniform civil code

By IMPRI Team  A Three-Day Immersive Online Legal Awareness and Certificate Training Course on “Reproductive and Conjugal Rights of Women in India” is an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and ran for three consecutive days starting from December 22, 2022 to December 24, 2022. The online paid certification was aimed to provide attendees with an enriching experience on the gender discourse with a special focus on women’s rights and the much-discussed reproductive rights in India.

Covid jabs: Pretexts cited to justify young, healthy succumbing to heart attacks

By Jay Ihsan   Truth is stranger than fiction – when dedicated doctors raised the red flag against the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, they were persecuted and their concerns barred from being heard. These honest doctors unequivocally made it known the Moderna Pfizer vaccines injure the heart and human body. One of them, Dr Peter McCullough, an American cardiologist, has repeatedly issued the clarion call to people to reject these harmful vaccines. An equally alarmed World Council for Health said the harmful Covid-19 vaccines should be removed from the market and the global inoculation must be stopped. “In Japan the vaccines were not mandated or made compulsory. The vaccines are not safe or effective enough to mandate them. The day the vaccines go away will be a day of celebration,” Dr Mccullough had lamented during an interview with India’s media outfit, Qvive several months ago. Meanwhile, the number of people jabbed with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines died soon after or have developed lifelong

Gender gap 17%, SC and ST levels of education between 7% to 14% below upper classes

By IMPRI Team  The treatment of school education in a holistic manner and improving school effectiveness in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and learning outcomes has been the aspiration of all and multiple challenges are faced to maintain and provide proper education. On the occasion of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as part of its series- the State of Education- #EducationDialogue, #IMPRI Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a special deliberation on The State of School Education In India with Prof Muchkund Dubey, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta CEO and Editorial Director of the IMPRI. The chair of the event was Prof Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) National Fellow, the Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and also a Former Professor & Vice-Ch

Rahul Dravid exhibited selflessness in heights unscaled by any other Indian batsman

By Harsh Thakor*  On January 11th maestro Rahul Dravid turned 50. No Indian batsmen were ever more of an embodiment of temperament or grit.as Rahul Dravid. Dravid was the best ambassador of sportsmanship in cricket in his day and age. In his time no Asian batsmen did what the doctor ordered, to the extent of Dravid. Dravid was manifestation of single-mindedess, tenacity and selflessness in sport. One hardly has an adjective to the ice coolness and craft Dravid exhibited in adjusting to the given situation. Rarely did any batsmen exhibit such a clinical o methodical approach to batting.

NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border: *** I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice. From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-bo

Data analytics: How scientific enquiry process impacts quality of policy research

By IMPRI Team  Given the multidimensionality of policy and impact research, tech-driven policy prescriptions are playing a dominant role in the 21st century. As such, data analytics have become integral in this space. IMPRI Generation Alpha Data Centre (GenAlphaDC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute New Delhi has successfully conducted a #WebPolicyTalk 6-Week Immersive Online Hands-on Certificate Training Course on Data Analytics for Policy Research, spanning over 6-consecutive Saturdays from October 15th to November 19th, 2022. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning. Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course, to obtain the certificate. This course comprised hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions on data discourses. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals lo

Brutal assault on Delhi Univ students as fear grips present rulers on rise of dissent

By Arhaan Baaghi  Various democratic student organizations (bsCEM, fraternity, DSU, SIO, AIRSO) had planned a screening of the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question" in the Delhi University Arts Faculty, but the guards of the university and the Delhi police along with paramilitary forcefully detained the students just because we were trying to watch a documentary that scrutinizes the role of Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots. At first when the students started screening the documentary, the electricity of the department building was cut down. Students were brutally beaten by the police and university guards. Female students were also brutally manhandled and beaten. This whole incident shows the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist nature of the government and the university authority that is working as its puppet. An activist of bsCEM was manhandled by a male security guard, who tried to pull out his T shirt. Also various female activist were dragged by male security guards and their h