Urban Floods

Urban floods mitigation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: disaster management


  • Bengaluru floods are alarming us to go for robust disaster management strategies.

What is flood?

  • Floods are the most frequent type of natural disaster and occur when an overflow of water submerges land that is usually dry. Floods are often caused by heavy rainfall, rapid snowmelt or a storm surge from a tropical cyclone or tsunami in coastal areas.

Causes of frequent urban floods


  • Meteorological Factors:Heavy rainfall, cyclonic storms and thunderstorms causes water to flow quickly through paved urban areas and impound in low lying areas.
  • Hydrological Factors: Overbank flow channel networks, occurrence of high tides impeding the drainage in coastal cities.
  • Climate Change: Climate change due to various anthropogenic events has led to extreme weather events.


  • Unplanned Urbanization:Unplanned Urbanization is the key cause of urban flooding. A major concern is blocking of natural drainage pathways through construction activity and encroachment on catchment areas, riverbeds and lakebeds.
  • Destruction of lakes: A major issue in India cities. Lakes can store the excess water and regulate the flow of water. However, pollution of natural urban water bodies and converting them for development purposes has increased risk of floods.
  • Unauthorised colonies and excess construction: Reduced infiltration due paving of surfaces which decreases ground absorption and increases the speed and amount of surface flow
  • Poor Solid Waste Management System: Improper waste management system and clogging of storm-water drains because of silting, accumulation of non-biodegradable wastes and construction debris.
  • Drainage System:Old and ill maintained drainage system is another factor making cities in India vulnerable to flooding.
  • Irresponsible steps: Lack of attention to natural hydrological system and lack of flood control measures.

floodsImpact of the devastation due to floods:

  • On economy: Damage to infrastructure, roads and settlements, industrial production, basic supplies, post disaster rehabilitation difficulties etc.
  • On human population and wildlife:Trauma, loss of life, injuries and disease outbreak, contamination of water etc.
  • On environment:Loss of habitat, tree and forest cover, biodiversity loss and large scale greenery recovery failure.
  • On transport and communication: Increased traffic congestion, disruption in rail services, disruption in communication- on telephone, internet cables causing massive public inconvenience.

Solutions for effective flood management

  • Improved flood warning systems: effective flood warning systems can help take timely action during natural calamities and can save lives. Pre-planning can significantly reduce the effects of floods, giving people time to migrate to safer locations and stock up essentials.
  • Building flood-resilient housing systems: concreting floors can be very useful during floods. Houses should be water proofed and electric sockets should be placed at higher levels up the walls to reduce the chances of shocks.
  • Constructing buildings above flood levels: buildings should be constructed a metre above from the ground to prevent flood damage and evacuation during floods.
  • Resilience to Climate change: drastic climate changes have increased the frequency of natural disasters in many parts of the world. Governments should bring about environment-friendly policy level changes and eliminate the ones hazardous to the environment to tackle the problem of global warming.
  • Create wetlands and encourage reforestation: creating more and more wetlands can help soak up excessive moisture since wetlands act as sponges. Wooded areas can also slow down heavy water flow, minimizing the effects of floods. Reforesting upstream regions can significantly reduce the effects of flood damage.
  • Improve soil conditions: improper soil management, animal hooves, and machinery can make soil compacted. As a result, instead of holding water in and absorbing moisture, the water runs off immediately. Properly drained soil can absorb large amounts of rainwater and can prevent it from flowing into the rivers.
  • Installing flood barriers: these are flood gates designed to prevent the area behind the barrier from flooding. They can also be kept around buildings to keep floodwaters outside the boundary created.
  • Development of GIS– Geographical Information System (GIS) based National Database: for disaster management. GIS is an effective tool for emergency responders to access information in terms of crucial parameters for disaster-affected areas.
  • Developing a Federal flood management plan: with responsibilities of union and state clearly defined.
  • Creation of 2nd flood commission: (Rashtriya Barh Aayog, created in 1976) to study the flood situation in India under rising challenges of climate change and propose a national-level flood resilience and management plan.

Way forward

  • Resilience of people: The rapid transformation in rainfall characteristics and flooding patterns demand building people’s resilience.
  • Reconsider projects: Construction projects that impede the movement of water and sediment across the floodplain must be reconsidered.
  • Use of technology: At the same time, climate-imposed exigencies demand new paradigms of early-warning and response systems and securing livelihoods and economies.


  • We can learn to live with nature, we can regulate human conduct through the state and we can strategically design where we build. We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water without causing so much misery and so much damage to the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Mains question

Q. We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water. Discuss the statement in context of urban flood management strategy in India.

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