Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Monsoon havoc in India: How floods can be a valuable resource


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Floods in India: A recurring challenge and measures for flood management and shifting focus towards converting calamity into a valuable resource


What is the news?

  • The monsoon season in India this year brought about unprecedented changes, with Mumbai and New Delhi experiencing the onset of rains on the same day after a gap of 61 years.

” Floods are acts of God but flood losses are largely acts of man”

Central idea

  • The events of heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding are occurring in various parts of India leading to significant loss of lives, damage to land, and financial losses. This highlighting the inadequacy of India’s hydro-infrastructure for effective flood management and calls for a shift in mindset towards conserving flood flows as a valuable resource

Floods in India: A recurring challenge

  • Frequency: India experiences floods on a recurring basis, with at least one major flood event occurring each year. This indicates that floods are not isolated incidents but rather a consistent challenge.
  • Loss of Lives: Floods in India lead to the loss of lives, with an average of 1,600 lives being lost annually, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The loss of human lives highlights the severity and recurring nature of the flood challenge.
  • Damage to Land: Floods affect a significant area of land in India, impacting approximately 75 lakh hectares. This demonstrates the recurrent impact of floods on agricultural land, leading to crop damage and agricultural losses.
  • Financial Losses: Floods in India cause substantial financial losses, with damages estimated at Rs 1,805 crore. These losses encompass damages to crops, houses, and public utilities, further highlighting the recurring challenge and the need for effective management strategies.

Flood management measures

Structural Measures:

  • Storage Reservoirs: These reservoirs are constructed to store excess water during high-flow periods and release it gradually, reducing flood peaks. They also serve as a water source for irrigation, electricity generation, and other purposes.
  • Embankments: These structures, also known as levees, act as barriers to prevent floodwaters from encroaching on vulnerable areas such as agricultural lands, cities, and industries.
  • Diversions: This measure involves redirecting excess water away from heavily populated or susceptible areas to less vulnerable regions, helping to minimize the impact of flooding.

Non-Structural Measures:

  • Flood Forecasting and Warning Systems: These systems use data analysis, weather monitoring, and hydrological modeling to provide advance warnings about potential flood events. They enable timely evacuation of people and movable assets, reducing the risk to life and property.
  • Flood Plain Zoning: This measure involves regulating the use of floodplains by restricting human activities and developments in flood-prone areas. By delineating zones based on flood risk, it helps minimize vulnerability and losses associated with floods.

How floods can be a valuable resource?

  • Water Storage: Floods can serve as a valuable resource for water storage. By conserving and capturing floodwaters, the excess water can be stored in reservoirs or other storage facilities. This stored water can then be used for various purposes during dry periods, including irrigation, drinking water supply, and industrial needs.
  • Drought Mitigation: Conserving flood flows can help mitigate the impact of droughts. By storing excess floodwaters, the saved water can be utilized to partially address water scarcity during drought periods, providing relief to agriculture, communities, and ecosystems that rely on water availability.
  • Groundwater Recharge: Floods contribute to the replenishment of groundwater aquifers. The infiltration of floodwaters into the soil helps recharge underground water reserves, ensuring a sustained supply of groundwater for various uses even after the flood event subsides.
  • Ecological Benefits: Floods support ecosystems and promote biodiversity. The article mentions that floods bring essential nutrients, sediments, and organic matter to wetlands and riverine habitats, which nourish the ecosystems and support diverse flora and fauna.
  • Hydropower Generation: Controlled release of floodwaters can be harnessed for hydropower generation. By utilizing the energy of flowing water, floods can be a valuable resource for producing renewable energy through hydropower projects

Why India needs to upgrade its hydro-infrastructure?

  • Inadequate Infrastructure: India’s hydro-infrastructure is currently inadequate for effective flood management. The existing infrastructure, such as storage reservoirs, embankments, and diversions, is not sufficient to address the challenges posed by floods.
  • Insufficient Storage Space: The storage space created in major river basins, such as the Ganga and the Brahmaputra, is inadequate for the available flows. This indicates a need to enhance storage capacity to effectively manage floodwaters and maximize their utilization.
  • Managing Variabilities: With changing rainfall patterns and intensities due to climate change, the variability of water flows in rivers will increase. Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure is seen as crucial to effectively manage these increasing variabilities and address the resulting challenges of floods and droughts.
  • Conservation of Flood Flows: The potential value of conserving flood flows for drought mitigation. Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure would enable the conservation of unutilized flood flows, which can then be stored and utilized during dry periods to partially mitigate droughts.
  • Water Security and Resilience: Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure is important for ensuring water security and resilience. It allows for improved water management, including storage, distribution, and utilization, which can reduce dependence on erratic monsoon patterns and enhance the country’s ability to cope with water-related challenges.
  • Environmental Considerations: An upgraded hydro-infrastructure should incorporate environmental considerations. This includes preserving ecological flows, minimizing disruptions to ecosystems, and promoting sustainable water management practices.

Way forward: Towards comprehensive flood management

  • Shift in Focus: Shifting attention and efforts from flood control to flood management. This involves adopting a comprehensive approach that encompasses structural and non-structural measures, as well as integrating environmental considerations.
  • Upgrading Hydro-Infrastructure: Upgrading the existing hydro-infrastructure includes increasing storage capacity, improving embankments, and constructing new reservoirs. Upgrades should address the inadequacies of the current infrastructure and consider the potential for conserving flood flows.
  • Conserving Flood Flows: By safely storing and utilizing excess floodwaters, damages caused by floods can be reduced, and the saved water can be utilized to partially mitigate droughts. This requires the development of storage facilities and infrastructure to capture and store floodwaters during high-flow periods.
  • Integrated Approach: There is need for an integrated approach to flood management. This involves combining structural measures with non-structural measures such as flood forecasting, warning systems, and floodplain zoning. Integration should also consider environmental considerations and the preservation of ecological flows.
  • Learning from International Experiences: Learning from international experiences in flood management. This includes evaluating the performance of flood control measures, studying integrated approaches, and understanding how other countries have balanced flood management objectives with environmental concerns.
  • Community Engagement and Awareness: Raising awareness about flood risks, promoting community preparedness, and involving local communities in early warning systems and evacuation plans.
  • Policy and Governance: There is need for robust policies and governance mechanisms to support comprehensive flood management. This includes incorporating climate change adaptation strategies, promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration, and ensuring environmental safeguards.
  • Investment and Resource Allocation: Allocating adequate resources and funding for flood management initiatives. This involves securing financial support for infrastructure upgrades, research and development, capacity building, and community resilience programs.


  • It is imperative for India to recognize flood flows as a valuable resource and implement measures that conserve water for subsequent use and water security. By adopting a comprehensive approach, upgrading hydro-infrastructure, and leveraging a mix of structural and non-structural measures, India can effectively mitigate the impacts of floods while ensuring sustainable water management for the future.

Also read:

The lesson from a monsoon-battered North India: Time to be prepared

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