Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - II (General Studies – I) - 14 August 2018


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-II: General Studies - I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)

Q. Kerala is currently reeling under the flood causing widespread damage and destruction. What are the factors responsible for floods? Analyze the need for flood governance in India. (250 words)

Model Answer:

Approach:

  • Introduction
  • Factors responsible for floods
  • Need for flood governance
  • Conclusion

Introduction

As many as 39 people have lost their lives in the flood-hit Kerala followed by incessant rains. A torrential rain that struck the southern state of Kerala had triggered a series of landslides and caused heavy floods in Idukki and Wayanad district, leaving a trail of destruction across the state.

Factors responsible for floods –

  • Inefficiency of drainage system:  The preservation of the many traditional lakesand canals to absorb the intense downpour of rain has not been ensured.
  • The mindless draining of wetlandsand their conversion into expensive real estate has catastrophic consequences. The finding from one study in 2013 shows that 27 tanks have totally disappeared and another 400 have lost almost their entire capacity. This underscores the need to revive such natural sponges.
  • Urbanization: A big factor behind the flooding is the rampant construction of buildings on water bodies, wetlands and areas that were originally floodplains. Large tracts of land in the suburbs have seen a real estate boom. The concretizations of cities aggravate the problem of water drainage.
  • Lack of expertise in flood management: Indian cities are poorly planned and managed, exposing them to cyclical weather havoc. There is a lack of domain expertise in urban flood management. City planning today fails to integrate public health engineering which looks at issues such as design of water supplysewerage and drainage lines from the health and environment perspective.
  • With increased deforestation, the surface run-off has increased at the cost of infiltration, leading to tons of sediment being deposited on the riverbed on reaching the plains reducing carrying capacity.
  • Other factors such as climate change and indiscriminate disposal of solid waste also lead to urban flooding.

Need for flood governance –

  • It is imperative that civic bodies produce flood risk maps and restrict development in the areas. Given that monsoon flooding is inescapable, citizens and communities need to prepare. Putting new constructions on stilts, retrofitting houses to locate electrical installations high above, and creating a first response protocol are all important. Introduction of insurance cover for householder losses will provide financial protection and, crucially, require city administrations to provide professional management. If there is a single priority that every city needs, it is to reopen the veins of natural drainage that have been callously built over.
  • Inviting the community to monitor the health of the tanks and lakes can keep out encroachers, who are often protected by patron-politicians. Yet, such measures can work only when the deficit of good housing and civic infrastructure is actively addressed.
  • The priority for the State should be to integrate flood management using expert opinion and public consultationRemedial structures should be built for existing localities. Poor waste management is exacerbating the problem by blocking drains, canals and lakes, while ill-planned road projects are cutting off flood flows. These have to be immediately addressed.
  • There is a need to understand the natural drainage systemand rainfall pattern which is essential to mitigate floods; the State must have a weather unit manned by climatologists along with the meteorological department.
  • Compounding the problem of urban wasteclogging drains was widespread encroachments that have whittled down the carrying capacity of many water channels.
  • The government must also look for sound hydrological solutions to address the shortcomings in the city’s water storage and drainage system, and revisit present policy priorities. There can be no smart city without intelligent planning.

Conclusion

The government should take initiatives to develop early warning systems, which will tell civic authorities which areas are likely to be inundated, by how much, and for how long for a particular rainfall forecast. This will enable them to take measures such as alerting the publicdiverting traffic, and evacuating residents. The second objective, a more long-term one, is to improve drainage system in the cities, declog existing networks, adopt better solid waste management practices, and regulate new construction in low-lying areas.

There should naturally be an inquiry into whether the reforms proposed over time, ranging from clearing of drainage channels and removal of encroachments to the creation of holding ponds to temporarily store large volumes of water, gained any traction.

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