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"More rain mean flood and meager rainfall is drought in India: causes and solutions"
India is a vast country where almost every year, many regions face draught, others flood while a very few get sufficient rainfall. Most parts of peninsular, central and northwest India regions most prone to periodic drought, receive less than 1,000 mm of rainfall.
The states falling within the periphery of "India Flood Prone Areas" are West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. The intense monsoon rains from southwest causes rivers like Brahmaputra, Ganga, Yamuna etc. to swell their banks, which in turn floods the adjacent areas. Thus, few regions face heavy rainfall causing flood while others face meager rainfall resulting in draught.
The principal cause of drought may be attributed to the erratic behavior of the monsoon. The southwest monsoon, or 'summer monsoon' as it is called, has a stranglehold on agriculture, the Indian economy and, consequently, the livelihoods of a vast majority of the rural populace. The southwest monsoon denotes the rainfall received between the months of June and September and accounts for around 74% of the country's rainfall.
In 2011, more than 60 people died and 4 million were affected by flooding in eastern India. India, being a peninsular country and surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, is quite prone to flood. As per the Geological Survey of India , the major flood prone areas of India cover almost 12.5% area of the country. Every year, flood, the most common disaster in India causes immense loss to the country's property and lives.
Several traditional measures to control floods have been tried so far like building embankments to control the flow of river and constructing reservoirs to ensure release of water at a controlled rate. However experience has shown that these structural measures to control floods are negated by large scale deforestation that has taken place over the years in several parts of the country. Advancement in construction technology has also has had a negative impact on flood control as large scale construction activities have started to take place on the flood plains. Economic factors become more important and those who support the construction activity on the flood plain turn a blind eye to the disastrous impact it can have on the environment.
It has also been argued by some environmentalists that in order to control floods, the level of water in the reservoir of the dam should be kept at minimum level. However in order to generate hydro-electricity and bring more agricultural area under irrigation, the level of the water in the reservoir is kept high which leads to flooding in the upstream areas. Thus the measure that is often touted as a solution to the flood woes itself becomes a cause of it.
For instance, 2010 Delhi floods were caused by the release of water in Hathnikund Barrage in Haryana. Release of water was essential as storage above capacity may cause flash floods aggravating the crisis. Such projects are also necessary for irrigation and drinking water supply.
Hence it is high time for the government to look for ecological measures that can help in the management of floods on a durable, long-term basis. Afforestation of the flood plains must be encouraged as trees not only absorb rainfall water but also obstruct its flow to the rivers. Those living in flood plains for these activities should have an efficient early warning mechanism that ensures their evacuation before the calamity strikes. With the advancement in space technology that India has achieved, remote-sensing should be effectively used for prediction of rainfall and floods. It is only with these comprehensive and holistic measures that an efficient management of floods can be ensured in India with least damage to life and property.
Drought prone area should be made less vulnerable to drought associated problems through soil moisture conservation measures, water harvesting practices, the minimization of evaporation losses, and the development of the ground water potential and the transfer of surface water from surplus areas where feasible and appropriate. Pastures, forestry, or other modes of development, which are relatively less water demanding should be encouraged. Moreover, rainwater harvesting, micro-irrigation and modern irrigation facilities must be applied. In planning water resource development projects, the needs of drought-prone area should be given priority.
Thus, different regions of the country face draught and flood according to the geographical and climatic conditions and therefore, control measures should also be applied accordingly. Since no one can control the vagaries of monsoon, control and mitigation apparatus must be strengthened to minimize the effect of floods and droughts.
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