Millennium Post

This fury of flood can be avoided

The Himalayan Rivers are once again in the spate. There is news of people and livestock having been affected across the northern frontiers from Uttrakhand in the West to Assam in the East.

Grievously affected areas are those falling in the valley of the tributaries of Ganga in Uttarakhand and the terai (Himalayan foothills) region of the seven districts of Uttar Pradesh. Such districts of Bihar, which fall north of Ganga, and are drained by the tributaries of the holy river, have also been affected. In Assam, Brahmaputra is in the spate affecting many districts.

All of these rivers emanate from the Himalayas. Some have their origin in India, many in Nepal and a few in China. Himalayan ranges and monsoon winds are complimentary to each other. Every year the monsoon winds returning after caressing the tall Himalayan ranges shed moisture en route and recharge the rivers with heavy downpour. This phenomenon has repeated itself from time immemorial. Therefore it’s beyond comprehension that why we suffer year-after-year from what we have termed as the fury of the floods.

The flooding of the Himalayan Rivers is a natural process. It’s also necessary for irrigation of a larger part of the Indo-Gangetic plains. The diara (flood plains) areas in eastern Uttar Pradesh and across the state of Bihar, which emerge after the flood waters recede, are covered with fresh top soil rich for purposes of cultivation.

Similarly in Uttarakhand, monsoon rains are necessary to recharge the natural water bodies like the springs and the lakes, which provide drinking and irrigation water to the state the year round. The absence of rains can also disturb the snowfall cycle, which is so necessary to keep the glaciers and glacial rivers in good health. In Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, poor snowfall in winters affects the apple crop. A poor apple harvest spells doom for the local economy in these states.

The question which should then be  asked is, when floods are a natural and necessary phenomenon why do we year-after-year cry hoarse over flood fury. This is an outcome of the conflict humans have entered into with nature. We have come in the way of the natural path of the rivers and encroached upon the river systems. This brings us into conflict with nature every now and then.
Given the government policy of distributing relief in cash and kind to the flood affected too sometimes make the ‘victims’ welcome the ‘fury’, creating a vicious cycle.

The government will have to adopt a flood policy integrating all elements that we have discussed.
Hopefully Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Ganga Mission would take a notice of these issues. Rivers need an integrated approach and not the piecemeal policies that we have followed so far.

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