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Flood Management in India: National Guidelines

India is affected by severe floods on an average, every third year. Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectare more than 40 mha is prone to floods. On an average floods affect 75 lakh hectare of land and result in a loss of more than 1600 lives annually. Average annual damage to crops houses and public utilities is more than Rs. 1800 crores.The monetary value of the flood damage is showing an increasing trend. The average annual damage during the last 10 years (1996-2005) was Rs. 4745 crores as against the last 53 years average of Rs.1805 crores.The economically and socially weaker segments of the population are the worst affected.

On 25 December 2005 the Disaster Management Act 2005 was enacted. The Act seeks constitution of National Disaster Management Authority, State disaster Management Authorities and District Disaster Management Authority at national, states and district levels respectively. It also envisages development of National Institute of Disaster Management as centre of excellence. The National Disaster Response Force is to be established for effective and prompt response. The NDMA has the responsibility of laying down the policies, plans and guidelines for effective Disaster Management.NDMA is also responsible for coordinating the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plans for DM.

The emphasis of the state government has so far been on structural measures of flood management requiring long period of time for execution and huge investments. These guidelines emphasize importance of non-structural measures which are very effective in reducing loss of life and property and can be implemented in a short time. Flood management works in one state may affect the other basin states and increase flood vulnerability of the area. The guidelines recommend establishment of River Basin Organizations as a mechanism for inter state coordination to overcome above problem. It is proposed to set up a National Institute of Flood Management for taking up training, research and development activities related to floods and their management. Flood forecasting and warning is an important measure for minimizing loss of life and property. It is proposed to expand and modernize the existing network to cover all flood prone rivers and rivulets and develop a decision support system for managements of floods. Both natural and man-made reservoirs, lakes and ponds play an effective role in moderating floods. It is proposed to review and modify if necessary the reservoirs operation rules and curves for optimizing the flood moderation benefits and simultaneously ensure safety of dam and other structures.

Unplanned and unregulated developmental activities in the flood plains of the rivers and encroachments in the waterways have led to the increase in flood losses as well as flooding of the town and cities. The guidelines envisage that the states will enact and enforce the flood plain zoning regulations on the lines of model bill circulated by the ministry of water resources. The state governments will prevent reclamation and promote conservation of lakes, ponds, chaurs and depressions. The amendments to building bylaws and measures for making the structures and buildings flood safe have been proposed. The existing system on education, training, research and development and documentation will be strengthened. Measures for creating awareness about floods and simple ways to cope up with them to save life and property are also proposed.

Effective and prompt response to floods is very important in minimizing loss of life and property and providing immediate relief to the affected people. Institutionalizing the role of communities and NGOs in search, rescue, and relief and recovery operations is recommended. Immediate medical assistance to the affected people and steps for prevention of outbreak of epidemics after the floods are essential components of flood response. Over and above a mechanism for coordinating approach for effective response, a system of Incident Command System will be used.

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