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Controlling Flood Fury:VITAL TO SET-UP TASK FORCE, by Col (Retd) P K Vasudeva, 15 Sept, 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 15 September 2010

Controlling Flood Fury


By Col (Retd) P K Vasudeva


India is vulnerable, in varying degrees, to a large number of natural as well as man-made disasters. Of these 58.6% of the land is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity and over 40 million hectares (12%) to floods and river erosion. Of the 7,516 km long coastline about 5,700 km is susceptible to cyclones and tsunamis and 68% of the cultivable area is disposed to drought and hilly areas are at risk from landslides and avalanches.


Vulnerability to disasters/ emergencies of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) origin also exists. Heightened propensity to disaster risks can be related to expanding population, urbanization and industrialization, development within high-risk zones, environmental degradation and climate change.


India is the most flood-affected nation in the world after Bangladesh. It accounts for one-fifth of global deaths due to floods and on an average 30 million people are evacuated every year to safe places and relief camps. “Unprecedented floods” and disasters take place every year in one State or other in the country. 


Significantly, 22 States and one Union territory (Andaman & Nicobar) are prone to floods. Among the States, the most vulnerable are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. In all there are 137 districts exposed to various natural and man-made disasters including floods.


The recent floods in the last two months have caused vast devastation resulting in hundreds of deaths, thousands of people rendered homeless and millions of rupees worth of property destroyed. Think. More than 45,000 people, mostly marginal farmers were badly hit by five consecutive flooding of the Brahmaputra in Bhuragaon and Mayong revenue circle of Morigaon district.


In Leh thanks to the flash floods and cloudburst on 6 August last, 28,000 quintals of food-grains of different standing crops in 1400 hectare of agriculture land were damaged.  At least, 193 people died, thousands were injured and many more rendered homeless as heavy rains caused flash floods and mudslides resulting a loss of million of rupees.


What is a lasting solution for this regular feature in the country? Importantly, considering frequent floods and other disasters in the country, the time has come for setting up a Task Force comprising 50,000 retired Armed forces personnel every year. This Task Force could function under the aegis of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), chaired by the Prime Minister and has former Army Chief Gen Nirmal Vij as Vice-Chairman. It includes eminent disaster experts as members to spearhead and adopt a holistic and integrated approach to disaster management including floods.


This Task Force’s primary job would be to carry out de-silting of rivers and convert the river banks into motorable metalled roads. Two, creating tourism spots along the bundhs where water sports like canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, angling et al could be organised. The other task of this Force should be to link all national rivers so that water is conserved and could be used for irrigation purposes. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has floated this idea as also former President Abdul Kalam.

Further, as India rapidly urbanizes, the ddemand for water is increasing in most cities as every urban citizen requires almost double the amount of water than his rural counterpart. In the last five decades the urban population has grown almost five times from 1951 (62.44 million) to 2001 (286.08).

Not long ago, most cities were self sufficient in meeting their water needs from extensive urban water bodies. Today these bodies have completely disappeared. Municipalities are stretched to their limits in finding water for ever-growing populations. Add to this, the Government along-with private parties are busy extracting groundwater. Thus, the Task Force could undertake rainwater harvesting to overcome the shortage of potable and clean water for drinking purpose.

Undoubtedly, the Task Force should be organised and structured on the lines of the Armed Forces units with its supporting units. Namely, signals for communication, engineers for rowing, de-silting of rivers and construction of roads, Army Service Corps personnel for provision of transport and rations, ordnance employees for provision of disaster management equipment, infantry and other army workers for carrying out skilled work of digging and man management.


The Task Force should comprise of about 2 lakh retired servicemen of various services and ranks. Given that the retired service personnel are already well trained in handling disaster management. Also, the Force should be self sufficient in handling disasters including floods with the latest equipment. This includes tracked and non-tracked vehicles, dozers, digging equipment, rowing boats, motorboats etc.


Add to this, the Task Force should be available to all the vulnerable States at short notice for immediate relief. It should have the where-with-all to cope with all types of disasters. The pay and allowances of the Force workers should be commensurate with the amount spent every year on disaster management. The Government might also deduct the pension from the personnel’s fixed pay which works out much cheaper than the monies spent every year to overcome disasters.


In sum, this will not only solve problems of all devastating disasters costing the nation crores of rupees every year but also help in the re-employment of ex-servicemen who are fully trained to carry out such duties sincerely and efficiently. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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