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Zoning of flood plains in India

  • Published
    31st Aug, 2023

Punjab has been reeling under floods, especially villages along the rivers Sutlej, Beas, Ravi and Ghaggar are facing flood crisis. This has led to the need for zoning of India’s flood plains.

Flood prone region in Punjab:

  • Areas along the rivers in the districts of Ropar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Moga, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Patiala, Sangrur, Mansa, Patiala, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Taran Taran, Hoshiarpur, and Nawanshahr all come under flood plains – further highlighting the risks that Punjab faces if it does not prepare adequately for floods.

Four states (Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand) have adopted floodplain zoning on paper but implementation is limited.

What is a floodplain?

  • A river expands and contracts naturally over seasons.
  • A flood plain is an area adjacent to the river which normally gets flooded when the river swells.

India’s Model Bill for Flood Plain Zoning, 1975, defines “floodplain” to include the “water channel, flood channel, and that area of nearby lowland susceptible to flood inundation.”

Significance of floodplains:

  • They are also useful for recharging groundwater levels and maintaining the water table.
  • Well maintained flood plains, free from wanton construction and concrete, are natural defences against flooding farther inland.

What does Zoning means?

  • Floodplain zoning is a land use planning strategy that designates specific areas along rivers and water bodies for various uses based on their susceptibility to flooding.
  • Aim: The aim of floodplain zoning is to regulate development in these areas to minimize the potential damage and risks associated with floods.
  • Floodplain zoning has been recognised as a “non-structural measure” to mitigate flood disasters as development in the floodplains reduces the carrying capacity of rivers and exacerbates the effects of floods.

How Zoning is helpful?

  • Zoning involves demarcating areas around rivers likely to be affected by floods of different magnitudes and frequencies, in order to specify the types of permissible developments there.
  • This is done so that whenever floods do actually occur, the damage is minimal.
  • Well-maintained flood plains are crucial to reduce the damage caused by deluges and recharge the groundwater table.

Guidelines by Government bodies:

  • By NDMA: As per guidelines on floodplain zoning by the National Disaster Management Authority, defence installations, industries, and public utilities like hospitals, electricity installations, water supply, telephone exchanges, aerodromes, railway stations, commercial centres, etc. should be located such that they are above the levels corresponding to a 100-year frequency or the maximum observed flood levels.
  • By NGT: According to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), there should be no construction within 500 m area from the central lining of a river.

Adverse Effects:

  • Lack of zoning leads to encroachment and mismanagement of flood plains.
  • Unsuitable constructions push floods further inland and delay floodwater drainage.
  • Floodplain degradation affects soil fertility and quality.


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