Economics of Flood Protection in India
The peculiar rainfall pattern in India renders the country highly vulnerable to floods. Forty million hectares of land, roughly one-eighth of the country’s geographical area, is prone to floods. Each year, floods cause extensive damage to life and property, losses being exacerbated by rapid population growth, unplanned development and unchecked environmental degradation. The country has been tackling the problem through structural and non-structural measures. While non-structural measures like flood forecasting aim at improving the preparedness to floods by seeking to keep people away from floodwaters, structural measures involve the construction of physical structures like embankments, dams, drainage channels, and reservoirs that prevent floodwaters from reaching potential damage centres. Almost 48% of the vulnerable area has been provided with reasonable protection, though floods continue to cause widespread losses year after year. This paper examines the incidence of floods and the trends in consequent losses in the eastern region of the country — one of the most vulnerable — with the objective of studying the efficacy of flood protection measures in the region. Based on a simple regression exercise for three highly vulnerable states in the region, the paper argues that flood protection measures have been inadequate in controlling losses and reducing vulnerability. Regressions for the three states over the period 1971 to 1996 indicate that the level of protection is an insignificant explanatory variable in explaining the number of people (adjusted for increases in density) affected by floods; while area affected, as an indicator of the intensity of floods remains the main loss-determining factor.
Key wordsNatural disasters Flood Management Eastern India Population growth Geographical Information System (GIS)
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