India Floods: Déjà vu

Apurva Kothari

Countless deaths and injuries, families separated, fatal infections, over-occupied hospitals, standstill cities, political finger-pointing and umpteenth promises to be more prepared for the next one.

1985, 2005, 2017: This is neither the first time torrential rains derailed the lives of a million Indians nor will it be the last.

However, each flood highlights the same unpreparedness and scarce planning as the last one. Governmental policies may have changed, but the dirty politics of a blame game and empty promises have remained. A technicality that must be understood is that torrential rains alone cannot cause floods. It is the clogged drainage and insufficient dam structures that lead to this type of calamity. In this respect, floods are more of a man-made disaster than a natural one.

While the municipal administrations throughout India have to shield numerous loopholes in the Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan, many shortcomings are being unveiled in the Contingency Flood Plan. Among the many significant inadequacies of the various governmental mechanisms, the notable ones are: incomplete scientific assessments of recognized flood-prone areas, 93 percent of the dams in flood-prone regions requiring long due repair work and lack of necessary equipment to forecast floods. All in all, to say that the authorities were poorly prepared for the flood is an understatement.

Such unpreparedness is not because of the lack of investment in flood forecasting and post-disaster management; it rather mirrors the corruption on various bureaucratic levels, which impedes the flow of funds from the central government to states and districts. The déjà vu continues as the central government announced, in light of this disaster, that another $10 million will be spent in providing relief and assistance to the suffering population. With relief teams deployed again to rescue the stranded and the National Disaster Management Authority, NDMA, instructed to create another report suggesting reforms in flood control, the 2017 floods have truly culminated like all disasters in India.

There is no doubt that the resilient Indians will return to normalcy. The farmer will harvest crops again, the traders would reconstruct their infrastructure and children will go back to school. However what seems to be a dire concern is the government returning to its normalcy of unpreparedness. Would the NDMA reforms ever see the light of day? Would the relief budget ever reach the people affected? And most importantly, would the next flood be yet another instance of déjà vu?

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Apurva Kothari at [email protected]



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