It has probably not dawned on our policy-makers that much of India remains at the mercy of monsoon-swollen rivers. Days after the horror of Uttarakhand, one-third of the country was swamped by the monsoon floods displaying, once again, the status quoist attitude of the authorities that as usual remained confined to the rituals of token relief and rescue. Odisha and Punjab are still trying to recover from the recent flood fury while the trouble is not yet over in Assam, UP and Bihar where millions have been doomed to a silent suffering. The warning is loud and clear, the devastation wrought by flood is still considered an annual phenomenon to be faced and forgotten. But for those who take the hit, the real endurance begins with the receding of water.

Clearly, the business of flood management in India has remained dismal. Floods occur not merely because of rain; poor embankments, badly managed dams only aggravate the situation. Decades of deforestation, soil erosion and sand mining have stripped the countryside of natural cover and the country is being pushed to one ecological disaster after another.

True, the government or the policy-makers cannot push the black clouds away. But it cannot absolve itself from its half-hearted approach to predict, respond and recover from such disasters. It is now a fight for survival against climate change. The country must initiate reforms in the water management agencies to bring about more accountability and for better preparedness. The idea of linking 37 rivers through 31 links during the Vajpayee regime has been conveniently shelved with opinions divided. Even the river regulation zone to regulate construction and development near rivers, much like the coastal zone regulation, has not seen the light of day. The country urgently needs to shift its focus from superficial flood control regime to disaster avoidance.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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