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India’s Vulnerable Flood Prone region

  • Published
    21st Oct, 2023

As per a new study, published in Nature journal, led by the World Bank, has found that the risks of urban flooding have been exacerbated by the rapid and continuous expansion of cities into areas at high risk of flood regions.

Recent flood events:

  • Earlier this year, as the summer monsoons struck the country, Bengaluru, Gurugram, and Mumbai were quickly under several feet of stagnating water.
  • Similar scenes played out in settled areas in many parts of the country, with officials evacuating several thousand people in anticipation of floods.

Impact of flooding in Urban Settlements:

  • These urban floods lead to life and livelihood loss, and can push governments into economic crises.
  • There is a risk of unsustainable urbanisation in India while highlighting the urgent need to account for flood-related risks in how urban expansion is planned and executed.

Exposure to flood risk

  • The researchers found that worldwide,
  • East Asia had the highest rate of settlement expansion in flood-prone areas versus those that are flood-safe.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and North America on the other hand had the least expansion into flood-prone areas.
  • The study also found that middle-income countries have more urban settlement in flood-prone zones than that in low- and high-income countries.

In the World Bank’s estimate, India is a low-middle-income country (or LMIC).

Who are suffering?

  • People living in flood prone areas in informal structures are at disproportionately more risk and vulnerable to floods.

Risks at flood prone areas in India:

  • Disproportionate risk by class
    • The expanding urbanisation in flood-prone areas is a story of both the elite and the poor.
    • Experts provided the Yamuna floodplains as an example, with its three kinds of settlements: “informal settlements, government structures, and unauthorised colonies.
    • The risks were disproportionately higher for those living in informal structures. The geography of environmental risk is also the geography of informal low-income housing.
  • Protect low-income housing
    • As cities and their populations continue to expand, they can no longer avoid expanding into flood-prone areas.
    • Market forces tend to push expansion into flood-prone areas. But recognising what these areas are and that are actually expanding into them is the first step towards sustainable urban planning that addresses the resulting risks.
    • Some forms of adaptation are necessary and they need to differentiate between low-income residents and unauthorised structures erected for the elite.

Way forward:

  • Scientific mapping of the flood prone areas: Every city needs to do a proper scientific mapping of the flood prone areas. Also better storm-water management plans have to be put in place – including more “storm-water drains that collect and divert rainwater” being installed in the flood-prone areas of cities.
  • Effective management of drainage system: The storm-water drains are only one solution; urban governments also need to make housing in such areas more resilient to floods as well as upgrade and protect low-income housing.
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