Urban Floods

Himachal Floods: A man-made disaster?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Himachal Flood


Central Idea

  • Himachal Pradesh has experienced devastating flash floods during the recent monsoon season, resulting in a significant loss of lives and assets.
  • This article explores the factors contributing to the floods, including climate change and anthropogenic actions, and raises questions about the current development model’s sustainability.

Reasons for amplified Flood Impacts

[A] Climate Change and Floods

  • IPCC’s Warning: The IPCC VI report predicts that the Himalayas and coastal regions of India will be the hardest hit by climate change. Increased precipitation in shorter periods is evident in the Himalayas, leading to heavy rains and floods.
  • Abnormal Rainfall: Normal rainfall is expected to be between 720mm and 750mm, but instances of exceeding 888mm in 2010 and 926.9mm in 2018 have been observed. The current precipitation has been a result of the combined effect of the southwest monsoon and western disturbances.

[B] Impact of Development Model

  • Dr. Parmar Model: Himachal Pradesh’s development model, initiated in 1971, transformed the state into a model of development for mountain regions. It focused on land reforms, social welfare investments, and human resource development.
  • Shift in Development: Liberalization brought demands for fiscal reforms, forcing the state to generate its own resources. Exploitation of natural resources such as forests, water, tourism, and cement production became the focus of development efforts.
  • Hydropower Projects: Dominant focus on hydropower projects led to uncontrolled construction, transforming mountain rivers into streams, and causing ecological damage.
  • Tourism Expansion: Road expansion for tourism promotion resulted in bypassing geological studies, leading to landslides and destruction during rainfall.
  • Cement Plants: Establishment of massive cement plants altered the landscape, reducing the land’s water absorption capacity and contributing to flash floods.
  • Changing Crop Patterns: Shift from traditional cereal farming to cash crops increased the demand for hastily constructed roads without proper drainage, leading to rapid swelling of rivers during rainfall.

Way Forward

  • Commission of Inquiry: Instituting a Commission of Inquiry involving major stakeholders can address policy framework failures and project aspects.
  • Empowering Local Communities: A new architecture is needed to empower local communities over their assets. Insuring assets and involving local communities as custodians can expedite rebuilding efforts.
  • Sustainable Infrastructure: With climate change as a reality, infrastructure planning should adapt to avert disasters and mitigate the impacts of heavy rainfall.


  • The flash floods in Himachal Pradesh demonstrate the consequences of both climate change and human-induced development.
  • It calls for a comprehensive approach that considers sustainable development practices, empowers local communities, and prioritizes environmental conservation to protect lives and assets in the region.

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