Floods are there every year in India. During rainy season from July to September, many parts of the country suffer from devastating floods. Flood is one of the major calamities that afflict the country regularly. Floods result in much havoc and vast scale destruction of life and property. India can very proudly boast of an extensive network of rivers. They are the very life-giving natural gifts of nature, but they turn into things of sorrow and suffering when they are in spate and floods.
In Northern India the Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Gomati, Gandak, Kosi, Chambal etc. are the main rivers. They are often in floods during monsoon when there is excess of rains in their catchment area. The heavy to very heavy rainfall causes them to discharge maximum quantity of water, resulting in frequent floods. consequently, large parts of many states including, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat are affected by devastating floods.
During floods, millions of people are evacuated from flood-affected areas and temporarily settled in safer places and shelters. They are provided with drinking water, food, medicines, clothes, toilet facilities and such other measures are taken. It involves a huge expenditure which a developing country like India can ill afford. Then there are possibilities of breaking out of epidemics if quick and adequate measures are not taken.
Floods result in breaches of bunds, inundation of riverbanks, and sweeping away of roads, rail-lines, bridges, collapse of buildings, houses and wide-spread destruction of standing crops over very large areas. In towns and cities, sewers back flow into streets and houses. Business, traffic, all activity virtually come to a standstill, and there is chaos and destruction all around. The poor and the weaker sections of the society suffer the most in floods. They are deprived of their huts, houses, meager belongings, cattle and crops. In such a situation army troops are pressed into service to help the flood-victims. Other paramilitary forces too are deployed to help the authorities in the relief and rescue-operations. Food, medicines and water-packets are then dropped from the helicopters to the marooned people. In spite of these measures, hundreds of people lose their life; still many more people suffer serious injuries. Thus, floods claim many lives and destroy property on a large scale. For example, the recent floods of 1995 have affected millions of people of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal on a very large scale. All the rivers of these states are flowing much higher above their danger marks. And they are still rising and sub-merging large tracts of cultivated land, low lying areas and hundreds of colonies. In the wake of these ravaging floods, now there is a danger of breaking out of epidemics. The quick and proper disposal of corpses and carcasses also become a serious problem during such calamities.
In Delhi, recent floods have presented a terrible scene of suffering, loss and devastation. Several trains have been cancelled, Inter-state Bus Terminals closed, sewer water has sub-merged many areas, and traffic has come to a standstill in many areas. Thousands of people are being evacuated and rescued by army and paramilitary personnel. Fire-brigade men are busy with their boats to rescue the marooned people. The floods in Delhi on such a scale have surfaced again after 17 years, causing enormous damage to crops, life and property.
The various State Governments and administrations take immediate measures to alleviate the sufferings of the affected people. The Central Government also extends all possible help and assistance. But prevention is always better than cure. Such long- term and meaningful measures should be taken so as to prevent or minimize the dangers of floods. During floods massive relief-work and operation are taken. But it is not enough. What is needed is the stoppage of the recurrence of floods? Effective steps such as afforestation on a massive scale, distillation of rivers, construction of small and large dams at appropriate places etc. should be taken. In cases, where rivers are common to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh etc. common and joint efforts be made to tame the rivers.
When floods are unexpected, the losses are still greater, for then the people are taken unawares. When floods are expected, precautionary measures can be taken to save men, animals and property. Floods are not only natural, they are also man-made. Cutting of trees, destruction of forests for fuel and timber should be immediately banned. Social forestry and afforestation on vast scale be taken and encouraged to check the overflowing of rivers. Another effective method of checking floods can be inter-linking of rivers of the country. It would help the excess of water in taking to areas where there is drought and lack of rains.