Solution Exchange discussion: ways to improve flood management in Odisha

Advice, examples

Compiled by G Padmanabhan and Nitya Jacob, Resource Persons and Nupur Arora and Sunetra Lala, Research Associates

From Ranjan Panda, Water Initiatives Odisha. Orissa

I am the Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO), an informal network working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state of Odisha.

 

Odisha, a disaster prone state, was ravaged by two spells of devastating floods this September, affecting more than 5.6 million people in 21 districts (with eight districts overlapping between the two floods) out of the 30 districts in the state.  This is about 13.3 per cent of the total population.  The officially recorded human casualty is 83 and livestock casualty is in several thousands.  More than 8 thousand villages have been affected, 3 thousand out of which were completely been submerged for some time.  One third of a million houses have been damaged and crop damage has been enormous.

 

The floods have virtually caught the state and its floods response system unawares.  The state is among the first in the country to have set up a Disaster Management Authority but there seemed a big vacuum in all the three stages of response: flood forecasting and management (including dam management), rescue and relief; and, rehabilitation.   

 

When the floods occurred, the mismanagement of the Hirakud big dam over river Mahanadi came to the limelight and this time, unlike the 2008 floods – the issue was picked up by both political and civil society circles, and the Governor of Odisha ordered an inquiry.  Some civil society groups filed a PIL in the Odisha High Court in this regard.  People of the state say these floods have been more damaging than the 1982 floods, the worst recorded till now.

 

Each disaster prompts short-term responses from the government, civil society and media that ends once the event is over. We at WIO are now trying to change this ‘short lived memory’ system and are promoting several debates/discussions at the grassroots level, in the media and other forums.  On the 23rd of this month, WIO along with its member and support organisations and individuals are organising a State Level Consultation to discuss the history of floods in Odisha to find a solution towards its management.  WIO believes that we have to live with floods and should now gear up to manage these floods in a more systematic, participatory, decentralised and scientific manner, with a proper flood management policy.  This debate is to seek your help and suggestion in that regard.

 

I request community members to please share experiences of the following:

  • Can an integrated river basin management system where the people take the centre stage of participation and governance help to improve flood management along rivers?
  • What kind of a flood plain zone management will be of use in today’s scenario where there is widespread urbanisation and encroachment of flood plains?  Please share examples of flood and flood plain management in your state or country.
  • Is there a need to revisit the Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning that was circulated by the Central Water Commission to all states in 1975 and your thoughts on the kind of inter-state agreements that should exist for river basin management?  Should they be legally binding or not?

The information thus provided by you would help us to enrich the debate we are hosting in the state at the moment and will also contribute towards our recommendation for a Flood Management Policy.  It will also help the state and its people adapt to floods and other disasters.

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1.    Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad

2.    Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, New Delhi

3.    Jyotiraj Patra, Centre for the Environment and Public Policy, Bhubaneswar

4.    Gyana Ranjan Das, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Cuttack

5.    Nandini Sen, KIIT School of Rural Management, Bhubaneshwar

6.    Ramakrishna Nallathiga, Centre for Good GovernanceHyderabad

7.    Sanchit Oza, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad

8.    Jena Pradosh, Orissa

9.    Karthik Pyramanic Shyam Sundar, KISEA, Pudukkottai, Tamilnadu

10.  J. James, Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon

11.  Subrat Dash, Bhubaneswar*

Summary of Responses

Comparative Experiences

Related Resources

Responses in Full

Summary of Responses

Effective flood management needs reliable and timely data and proactive reservoir management. Both seem to have been lacking in the case of the recent floods in Odisha, as well as earlier floods in Surat and Andhra Pradesh. Poor management of the Hirakud dam appears to be the main cause of the latest round of floods in Odisha since its operators maintained high reservoir levels, leaving little room to absorb heavy seasonal rainfall. As a result, they had to discharge large volumes of water that caused the floods.

This has been the case in other recent floods. In Surat (Gujarat2008, the operators of the Ukai dam on the Tapi River had to release large quantities of water following heavy rain in the catchment areas. They had maintained too a high reservoir level for the dam to effectively play its flood control role. When the rain water reached the reservoir, it reached the full reservoir level (FRL) very quickly. The floods affected large parts of Surat district and the town. The operator claimed it maintained a high reservoir level for power generation, but this is not borne out by the actual figures for power generation from the dam.

In Andhra Pradesh in 2009, there were floods along the Krishna River that affected eight districts. There is a series of dams and barrages on the river and the lack of coordinated operations was partly responsible for the floods. For example, the back waters of the Srisailam dam released from the Potireddipadu Head Regulator, KC Canal and Telugu Ganga canals entered the Kunderu River and flooded Nandyal town in the Kurnool district and downstream villages. There are similar examples from north India as well, where operators of the Bhakra and Pong dams on the Sutlej River resorted to heavy discharges when the dams were filled to capacity in September 2011.

The solution suggested is taking a river basin approach to flood management. This can include rainfall, soil conditions, underground water levels, vegetation, physiography, hydrology, etc., at multiple points from the catchment area to the flood-plains. It is about managing catchments, managing reservoirs, managing flood plains, with community involvement. The critical thing in effective river basin management is timely and accurate data.

River basin management can cover reservoir operations, that have to be based on current data. This data should cover forecasts of rainfall in the catchment and downstream river basin, timing of and forecasts related to tides, current carrying capacity of downstream channel, current reservoir capacity (reduced due to siltation) at various levels), status and operation of upstream reservoirs, changing status of catchment and the changing patterns of rainfall. One point that emerged from the Odisha floods is that sand bars across the mouth of the Mahanadi River prevent free flow of river water into the Bay of Bengal, accentuating floods.

A 19th century British engineer made the most radical suggestion to flood control, that was to destroy all irrigation infrastructures to let the water flow as quickly as possible to the sea. A more practical approach is river basin management that will take into account the overall water flows, flood plains, settlements, upstream and downstream effects of any structures on the river and its tributaries, as well as groundwater. RBM can help demarcate flood plains, that can be protected in a manner similar to coastal zones (under the Coastal Regulation Zone regulations, certain types of construction are banned within a specified distance of the high tide line).

For effective RBM, a suitable governance structure is also needed. This can be a zonal authority which that can take care of the entire river basin as an ecosystem. It will need to be a multi-level institutional mechanism to ensure that technical solutions are implemented in resonance with the constraints of different communities. An effective legal and legislative framework is needed for such an institution to function. As water is a state subject, states much take the lead in coming up with such a framework.

The Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning needs to be revisited as ground realities have changed substantially since it was first proposed. Nearly all floodplains of rivers, when they pass through cities, have been heavily built up or channeled. This was not the case in 1975 when the Central Water Commission circulated the bill to the states. The effects of this were visible in 2005, when large parts of Mumbai, Maharashtra were flooded as the Mithi River has been channeled and an airport built over it.

Incremental changes in flood management can also have a large impact. The most effective of these is a more responsive and accessible administration. While disaster management plans are in place, an administration that can be reached during emergencies and acts quickly can make a large difference to the quantum of loss and suffering. This is another lesson to emerge from the most recent round of floods in Odisha.

Comparative Experiences

Andhra Pradesh

 

Mismanagement of floods through reservoir hate, Kurnool (from Ramakrishna NallathigaCentre for Good Governance, Hyderabad)

In 2009, there were floods along the Krishna River that affected eight districts. There is a series of dams and barrages on the river and the lack of coordinated operations was partly responsible for the floods. Research shows that the mismanagement of floods through reservoir flood gate operations led to submergence of Kurnool town flooding from the Krishna River. The lack of information, knowledge and skills also led to the submergence of Alampur.

Gujarat

Surat Floods: how it was a preventable disaster, Surat (From  Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, New Delhi)

A study carried revealed that the 2006 Surat floods which caused damages of over Rs 21,000 crores were completely preventable. Had the authorities released even 3 lakh cusecs of water from the Ukai dam starting from August 1, 2006, Surat may not have experienced such a disaster. The storage in the Ukai reservoir was allowed to go beyond the levels it should have, leading to sudden release of unmanageable quantities of water.

Maharashtra

Poor drainage in urban areas, Mumbai (from Ramakrishna NallathigaCentre for Good Governance, Hyderabad)

Mumbai floods 2005, when large parts of Mumbai were flooded as the Mithi River was channeled to build an airport over it, is a classic case on how poor drainage structures and even lack of it in the suburbs paved way for a disaster. It took several days (4-5 days) for water to drain out and restoration of power and other infrastructure.

Odisha

Odisha flood disaster could have been avoided: Wrong operation of hirakud dam responsible (from  Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, New Delhi)

A study carried out by an NGO revealed that the faulty operation of Hirakud Dam was responsible for the current flood disaster in Mahanadi basin in Orissa. Ever since Aug 1, 2008, when the rule curve for current year came into operation, the Hirakud dam operators have kept the water level way above the rule curve recommended for the dam. Had they kept below the recommended level, the current flood disaster could have been avoided, and its impact hugely reduced.

Related Resources 

Recommended Documentation

From  Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, New Delhi

Orissa flood disaster could have been avoided: Wrong operation of hirakud dam responsible

Press release; by Himanshu Thakkar South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People; September 2008

Available at http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Hirakud_Dam_brings_floods_in_Orissa_Sept08.pdf  (Pdf;  89 KB)

Highlights how the wrong operation of Hirakud Dam is mostly responsible for the current flood disaster in Mahanadi basin in Orissa

India’s Man Made Flood Disasters- Why we are not bothered about accountability?

Article; by Himanshu Thakkar South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People; September 2008

Available at http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Man_Made_Floods_in_India-NO_Accountability_Nov08.pdf  (Pdf 87 KB)

Article highlights the importance of accountability of dam operators and calls for forming credible norms for ensuring this

Kosi's tragedy: Blunder after blunder

Article; by Himanshu Thakkar South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People; September 2008

Available at http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Kosi_Tragedy-Blunder_after_Blunder-Sept2008.pdf  (Pdf; 123 KB)

Mentions that the Kosi flood disaster is a manmade disaster which could have been avoided

From Jyotiraj Patra, Centre for the Environment and Public Policy, Bhubaneswar

Southwest monsoon 2011- End of-season report

Report; by India Meteorological Department; 2011;

Available at http://www.imd.gov.in/section/nhac/dynamic/endofseasonreport.pdf  (Pdf; 123 KB)

Reflects the level of uncertainty associated with the assessment and forecasting of some of these anomalies is significant

Public Participation in the design and local strategies for flood mitigation and control

Document; by UNESCO Paris; 2001;

Available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001228/122888eo.pdf  (Pdf;   166 KB)

The technical publication delves into the issue of public participation on flood mitigation and control.

Maintenance of hydraulic gates- Important Parameters (from Ramakrishna NallathigaCentre for Good Governance, Hyderabad)

Report; by P. Madanaiah, Centre for Good Governance. Available at http://www.cgg.gov.in/wp/maintanace%20of%20gates-important%20parameterst.pdf  (Pdf; 144 KB)

Highlights important parameters for maintenance of hydraulic gates to assure safety of dams, storage control and surroundings

Climate Change Impacts in Drought and Flood Affected Areas: Case Studies in India

(from A. J. James, Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon)

Report; by World Bank; June, 2008;

Available at http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2008/08/01/000333038_20080801065948/Rendered/PDF/439460ESW0P0841sclosed0July03002008.pdf  (Pdf 234 KB)

Highlights numerous case studies from India on climate change impacts in drought and flood affected areas.

Responses in Full 

Dinesh Kumar, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad

You have started off a very useful debate.  The description of the problem of flood management in Orissa is excellent. The study of floods in Surat would an eye-opener. The root of problem is poor flood forecasting, as you rightly pointed out. The key to this lies in having trained hydrologists who can generate flood hydrographs; and to do “flood routing”, and flood plain mapping. But, over and above, good rainfall forecasting in the catchment is essential.

This is not enough. Reservoir operation rules are an issue. This is supposed to be in place for all major reservoirs.  We also need very alert staff. The Machchu dam (Gujarat) failure is a case in point. It was because of the criminal negligence of the ID staff, who did not open the spillway gates on time.

Unfortunately, we in the civil society do not discuss the fundamental problem of poor institutional capacity in the water sector. It has been declining alarmingly over the years. The crisis is mainly of human resources. Most irrigation departments don’t have technical staff who can do planning and design, and these are now outsourced to private firms.

Integrated river basin management is a great idea. But, it should not be limited to the idea of people living with floods. It is about managing catchments, managing reservoirs, managing flood plains, and finally community involvement should come in all these efforts. We need people who can understand floods, plan for its management, and execute programmes. I am sure your group would focus on some of these issues as well

Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, New Delhi

Firstly, congratulations to WIO and others in Orissa, as they have been highlight this year how the flood disaster in Orissa was majorly because of wrong operation of the Hirakud dam. 

We at SANDRP, through analysis did the same 2008 floods, as can be seen from: http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Hirakud_Dam_brings_floods_in_Orissa_Sept08.pdf and 

http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Man_Made_Floods_in_India-NO_Accountability_Nov08.pdf. We had done similar analysis of Surat floods of August 2006 (see: http://www.sandrp.in/floods/surat_floods_Aug-06.pdf) which also found corroboration from People's flood commission in Gujarat for that flood. We also attempted similar analysis of the Kosi flood disaster of August 2008 where we found that the neglect of the basic repair and maintenance of the embankment was major cause (see for example: http://www.sandrp.in/floods/Kosi_Tragedy-Blunder_after_Blunder-Sept2008.pdf).  All this did lead to some media attention and also responses from some official agencies, but did not lead to any effective change, as is evident from the repeat of what happened this year. 

We hope that the Orissa efforts this year would be more successful. 

The answer to the first question posed in this query is YES, but the key question is how to achieve it? That seems a difficult nut to crack in current situation! While we attempt that, we need to look for key legal and institutional changes that would help us go in that direction. 

Flood plain zone protection has to be an important aspect of flood plain zone management. The MoEF has initiated the process to arrive at River Regulation Zone guidelines on the lines of CRZ guidelines. Looking at various issues, including complexities involved, past track record and the way current effort is going on, I am not too hopeful of this initiative, but this can be seen as an opportunity to move in that direction. 

One of the key factors is how to make the reservoir management both individually and collectively at river basin level more participatory, accountable and responsible. Today, flood forecasting done by the Central Water Commission (CWC) is pathetically inadequate and many times shockingly off the mark. Moreover, the decisions of reservoir operation are not based on hard facts that include current (say previous week's) rainfall, forecasts of rainfall in the catchment and downstream river basin, timing of and forecasts related to tides, current carrying capacity of downstream channel, current reservoir capacity at various levels (reduced due to siltation), status and operation of upstream reservoirs, changing status of catchment and the changing patterns of rainfall. All of these are important factors that decide what will be the character of floods that will visit a basin. Moreover, the characteristics of floods with the same amount of rainfall in the initial and final phase of the monsoon would be very different.  

Jyotiraj Patra, Centre for the Environment and Public Policy, Bhubaneswar

It’s a timely initiative indeed. We have been following some of your informed and persistent arguments on issues around the recent flood in Odisha. As you plan for this I would suggest you to consider the following: 

  • What governance structures including policy level changes we need to initiate to bring about a paradigm shift fromflood management to flood risk reduction in the state. This is crucial given the fact that the intensity and frequency of many such hydro-meteorological hazards are on the rise and need of the hour is to have context-specific and culturally sensitive disaster risk reduction measures in place. And more importantly, the level of uncertainty associated with the assessment and forecasting of some of these anomalies is significant as very categorically reflected in the very recent End of Season Report 2011 of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), (available athttp://www.imd.gov.in/section/nhac/dynamic/endofseasonreport.pdf);
  • In addition to the planned activities to revisit the Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning it would also be appropriate to relook the Orissa State Disaster Management Policy vis-à-vis investment in programmes around this;
  • The consultation would also gain from insights and approaches of many externally  donor supported projects around disaster risk reduction and resilience building among communities;
  • I would also urge you to make this more participatory, in the truest sense of the term. Two of the communities which often don’t find the required space are the communities-at-risk, who always bear the brunt and the other one being the scientific and research community engaged in research on these issues and
  • For public participation on flood mitigation and control, you can refer to UNESO-IHP technical publication available athttp://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001228/122888eo.pdf

Best wishes for this timely and participatory process which you have initiated.

Gyana Ranjan Das, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Cuttack

It is nice to see the query on latest floods in 2011.

Let us admit that the level of water discharge in 2011 was less than that of 2008 and flood affected was also less although it was intensive in some of the western as well as coastal districts.

I was assisting the district administration, Cuttack during this flood. The damage in Cuttack district has not been that much if we compare the same with that of 2008.

Some of the important aspects of flood management in Cuttack are indicated below.

  • Flood forecast was in time and far and less accurate 
  • Due to proper watch and ward as well as timely intervention of Water Resources Department, no major breach occurred even though areas like Banki suffered a lot.
  • The Administration was in constant touch with affected community with top administrators/disaster managers of the district being accessible to people (with mobile phones open round the clock) regarding administration of assistance as well as the quality of materials provided.
  • Good interface among various stakeholders
  • Personally I feel that that the community-government interaction was best during this flood.

Regarding basin management, these issues are under discussions quite for some time and the Experts are giving diverse opinion. This was also put forth by the Community members during visit of the Central team to flood affected areas of Banki. They felt linking River Rana to Chilika Lake to drain out water coming from Mahanadi which submerges vast areas of Banki. It was further shared that such proposal has been put on hold for some time since the experts gave opinion that this would change the course of the river and convert Rana from a channel to a bigger river causing much more threat. 

Flood Plain Zoning Act has not yet been passed in Orissa, even though there has been debate and discussions during last decade. It is true that rapid urbanisation has led to serious problems with non-permissible type of constructions being taken up in flood plain zone. Such constructions particularly in urban areas are poising sever threats. The Act with due restrictions need to be passed and better and effective disaster management planning needs to be taken linked to developmental planning. While taking up developmental scheme we need to address Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment (HRVA) aspects. We should aim to reduce existing vulnerabilities. We should not accentuate existing vulnerabilities or create new ones.

The Hirakud Management Authorities may address issues raised regarding the basin management (both inter and intra state), revision of rule curve and other related issues.

Nandini Sen, KIIT School of Rural Management, Bhubaneshwar

I would definitely like to point out that some experiments being undertaken in Africa (Zambezi River Basin) and in China (Mekong River Basin Authority), the second in collaboration with a University in Belgium. There are actually three things that need to be considered:

         technical mapping of the rainfall/ soil conditions/ underground water levels/ vegetation/ physiography, hydrology etc. at multiple points from the catchment area to the flood-plains : thus to map the volume, quality and flow of water when any of these parameters are varied. I understand there is software which can model the variations and help inscenario building and in flood projection. This is very important before any mitigation measures are thought of or implemented. It should also help in mapping different levels of risk across different areas.

 

         Institutional Framework that is required: Creation of a zonal authority which can take care of the entire river basin as an ecosystem. A multi-level institutional mechanism has to be mapped to ensure that the technical solutions are implemented in resonance with the constraints of different communities.

 

         The Legal Framework: Given that the implementation of the above task will require participation and co-operation of different state governments, urban authorities, rural bodies, the legal instruments and issues would need to be outlined as well.

A mapping of the Kosi River Basin was also being undertaken on similar lines and People's Science Institute, Dehradun was involved, about a year and half.

I hope some of these leads can help to develop a fuller a plan. 

Ramakrishna NallathigaCentre for Good Governance, Hyderabad

This posting and discussion going on is interesting.  I only have some points to add:

Can an integrated river basin management system where the people take the centre stage of participation and governance help to improve flood management along rivers?

Argument for better governance (decentralised decision making, decentralised administering institutions and decentralisation of political systems) leading to better outcomes was made in a special issue of Economic and Political Weekly after the notorious Mumbai floods of 2005.  In particular, the article by V K Phatak looks at how such improved governance would have proved more effective than chaotic administration by Bombay   Municipal Corporation which went by rumours and hunch of feeling than facts. Similarly, J. B. D'Souza also shares in the same issue on how the administration worked in the past relentlessly during floods as compared to the poor administration during 2005. That issue also discusses other aspects of how faulty planning that led to reducing Mithi River into a drain and airport built on the drain have all exacerbated the outcome. In fact, it led to revival Mithi River through an action plan. 

What kind of a flood plain zone management will be of use in today’s scenario where there is widespread urbanisation and encroachment of flood plains?  Please share examples of flood and flood plain management in your state or country.

Mumbai floods 2005 is a classic case that can be visited (through media search) on how poor drainage structure and even lack of it in the suburbs paved way for a disaster. In fact, it took several days (4-5 days) for drainage of water and restoration of power and other infrastructure. The whole episode is an eye opener and well documented.

Also, the mismanagement of floods through reservoir flood gate operations has led to the majority of Kurnool town submerging due to flooding of river Krishna. Here, the lack of required information, knowledge and skills came to the fore as it is these that led to the submergence of majority of town and another pilgrim place Alampur. The technical summary can be found at:http://www.slideshare.net/saibhaskar/krishna-river-floods-30-sep-to-07oct09

In fact, the operating guidelines themselves are not standardised and practised by the technical personnel in charge of the flood gate operations. They may not even refer to those documents. CGG developed some simplistic guidelines that can be applied to different contexts. A copy of the same can be found at http://www.cgg.gov.in/wp/maintanace%20of%20gates-important%20parameterst.pdf

Is there a need to revisit the Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning that was circulated by the Central Water Commission to all states in 1975 and your thoughts on the kind of inter-state agreements that should exist for river basin management?  Should they be legally binding or not?

Although the model bill is a good beginning, it is very difficult to bring all the states on board. Every state would like to meet with floods in their own way and even use it for political gains. If there is an inter-state agreement for such river basin management, I am afraid that may not lead to any improvement, but in the guise of it the states may demand for grants (like the plan grants of the Central government) and that becomes fiscally inefficient as it gets into general pool of accounts to get disappeared (even if spent on capital works, their efficacy is questionable).

Sanchit Oza, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad

Gyana Ranjan Das has made key points. We at AIDMI find that a lot more is needed to institutionalize flood risk reduction in Orissa. The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority ()OSDMA has made excellent progress in various policy level changes that were overdue and now time has come to take these changes to strategic level. In this role of District Disaster Management Plan and local authorities such as yours is crucial. During our ToT with local NGOs we found great potential. How to further empower district level with resources, knowledge, human resources, and more?

Flood management in Orissa can benefit more with preparation and revision of geographical and sector plans which OSDMA and UNDP-Orissa are best suited to do due to their joint work on capacity building.

The role of IAG in this flood was unique in many ways in shaping projects and proposals.

Jena Pradosh, Orissa

I have read Mr. Gyana Ranjan Das’s  experience note on disaster management relating to flood in this year. I would like to submit two points , Firstly the natural course of drainage line are closing day by day, which it to be totally checked. (For example, in this year due to illegal construction and encroachment by builders, inhabitants of Bhubaneswar experienced with unexpected unbelievable floods).

Secondly, disaster management needs dedicated human resources for proper management and tackling the emergency situation.

Everybody is talking about mismanagement and the lack of planning. But who will manage and who will make plans. We experienced and saw the true facts that nobody wants to remain in emergency section due to its unprofitable nature of job (you may believe it or not), so employment of permanent staff for this need government decision with proper financial power delegation.

At the same time capacity building of community needs fresh financial allocations in each year.

Karthik Pyramanic Shyam SundarKISEA, Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu

An important point for consideration is to include local indigenous and as well as the community knowledge. This kind of approach will bring us vast valuable information we need.

J. James, Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon

The World Bank did a study in 2007-8 of flood management issues in Orissa (in the context of a study of climate change vulnerability and adaptation in Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) and the literature survey and detailed meetings with government and civil society representatives in Orissa brought out several  interesting points regarding flooding in Orissa: 

1. Water infrastructure: creating the problem? A19th century British engineer's report had made the radical suggestion that all the irrigation infrastructure created so far (dams, canals, and embankments) should be destroyed – because the most effective way of dealing with floods was to let the water flow as quickly as possible to the sea. This was the 'traditional' approach in the area, and this infrastructure had only served to 'slow down' the progress of the water and create pools of localized flooding (e.g., when an embankment broke and water accumulated in the low lands below it).

2. New problems: The flood situation had worsened in recent times, not only because of poor O&M of the water infrastructure created (leading to embankment breaches and overflows in canals) but a sand bank had been created at the estuary of the Mahanadi (where it met the sea), which prevented water from flowing smoothly into the sea.

3. Failure of governance to prevent casualties: But the major failure was that of governance - given all the technical information (there were several excellent maps and analysis of the floods in the area) and the expertise – which led to human, animal and infrastructural casualties. Although the following existed: (1) functional early warning systems, based on community participation and mobile phone technology (2) simple preventive maintenance of water infrastructure (with community participation) and (3) community and government co-regulation of potential problems (e.g., people living in the flood plains and other flood-prone areas).

4. Excellent government response systems: However, what was remarkable was the manner in which the government could marshal resources from across departments, put in outstanding work in the field, have excellent coordination across district administrations and organize rescue and relief efforts – ONCE a disaster struck. 

5. Enormous cost of relief: However, this relief effort comes at great cost. Although it was not done for Orissa, the costs of damage and of relief (from the Centre) was estimated as being almost equal to the 5-year budget for the 5 major departments where climate change adaptation work could have been done (Forests, Rural Development, Irrigation, Agriculture and Water Supply & Sanitation, if I remember correctly).  However, actual compensation on the ground was another story.

It is indeed shameful that such a devastating and recurrent problem should still exist on the ground - despite decades of experience. Hopefully the governments will take the issue seriously and undertake the measures necessary. 

Perhaps it is the role of civil society organizations to come together, and with the support of donor organizations, mount a well-planned and well-organized long-running campaign to (a) identify the governance changes required for effective flood control and relief measures on the ground and (b) ensure that these changes are implemented.

I believe there is enough analysis and information on the problem - but not enough on how exactly to resolve it. One attempt to fill this gap is the World Bank Report No. 43946 IN titled 'Climate Change Impacts in Drought and Flood Affected Areas: Case Studies in India (1 June 2008) available at: 

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2008/08/01/000333038_20080801065948/Rendered/PDF/439460ESW0P0841sclosed0July03002008.pdf

Subrat Dash, Bhubaneswar*

It’s quite interesting that whatever Pradosh Jena, has expressed is very true because the Govt. of Odisha has created/ adopted a approach knowingly or unknowingly since time immemorial that is the  "Policy of Adhocism" so far as handling Disaster of any magnitude is concerned which leads to Estrangement within the System. Therefore, why any government officer will handle the least rewarded work in the Emergency Section because there are so many other opportunities available.

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