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Floods top the list of disasters in India, says a report

Jan 24, 2018

A new report reveals that flooding ranks top on the list of disasters in India, and is morphing into new and devastating forms.

New Delhi: Floods as a calamity rank top on the list of disasters since the year 2000, claims a joint report by SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

The report titled ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ is based on disaster data from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Myanmar between 2000 and 2017, reveals that 56% of smart cities fall in high flood prone districts.

The report has been developed under the ‘Safer Communities Innovation Lab’ initiative centred around Bangladesh. The primary function of this initiative is to support community-led innovations focussed on disaster preparedness.

The report reveals that floods rank top on the list of devastating disasters in the region. It indicates 361 flooding events (from both floods and cyclones) across these four countries over the last 18 years. This makes up three quarters of the total disasters in this part of the Asian continent.

Dr Manu Gupta, Executive Director, SEEDS, underscored the need for use of data for informed decision making by governments, civil society, and the public that is at risk. He said, “Business as usual is not an option when humanitarian needs are increasing and the gap between need and aid is widening.”

Gupta said that disaster management plans need to be disruptively innovative. “They need to be able to fill this gap within available resources, and innovations must be led by what works at the community level,” he said.

Dr Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), hailed the report as a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events. “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters, led by flood events that are impacting communities globally. Higher resolution data at regional, national and community levels will enable a better understanding and better contextualised solutions to growing disaster risks that affect us all,” he said.

According to the report more than 2, 200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years. The study discovers that 56% of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events, signifying the scale of investments that need to be secured against future risks.

The report underlines that when the scale is this huge, the nature of the losses is informal and resources at hand are limited, coping practices at the community level are of great help.

The report suggests that investment in supporting and scaling community innovations on flood resilience can have very significant impacts. The concluding remarks of the report share insights on how to prepare for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons, both at policy and community levels.

Discussing the findings of the study, Dr Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS, highlighted unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk as major concerns that need to be addressed urgently.

Sharma said that Assam was the most flood prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh reporting over 30 flood events within this period. “Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77% of all disaster events. Even known drought prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” he said.

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