Now that the floods have receded, life is getting back to normal... But not for those who have been affected...! For those affected communities life has changed forever. And it is very difficult, and many a times, impossible, for them to get back anywhere close to their normal life no matter how much money & resources the government might spend.. In fact the situation gets worse from now onwards. And there are several reasons for this. Some of the key issues and concerns are discussed below:
The immediate impacts of flooding are mostly the loss of human life, property damages, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, damage to infrastructure facilities and degradation of health and living conditions due to epidemic outbreak and waterborne diseases. In fact flash floods, with very little or just no warning, kills more people than gradually riverine flooding. If we have to calculate the financial losses, then the extent of damage caused by the floods is dependent on the intensity and duration of the flooding, and the flow rate in and around the flooded areas. It is also dependent on the type and kind of economic activities and communities that are affected.
There is certainly great amount of damage to infrastructure that causes long-term impacts including loss of water distribution, power supply, communication, education, transport, health-care, etc.. Apart from these, the loss of livelihoods, in turn leading to the reduction in the capacity of purchasing power of communities and the loss of land value in the flood affected region also leads to increased vulnerability of communities living in the region. In addition, the cost of rehabilitation and relocation of affected communities and infrastructure and property is spent out of the government fund that is actually the capital for regular investment and production schemes and projects. Therefore, many future community based development projects and programmes of the government take the beating.
Another important issue is the impact on communication links and infrastructure such as rail and road links, bridges, power plants, water distribution, etc., are severely damaged and disrupted, thereby affecting the economic activities which come to a standstill, further resulting in the dislocation and dysfunction of normal life for a much longer period than the flooding period itself. Similarly, there is also a direct and indirect impact on the production system, whether it is agriculture or industry which can severely affect the growth and development and eventually lead to loss of livelihoods which in turn will bring down the overall economic structure. These losses can be felt in most of the business and commercial activities not just in the flood affected regions, but also in the nearby and adjacent areas as well as its ripple effect.
Another important impact that we can observe due to regular and intense flooding that results in loss of livelihoods, production and other economic destabilization is the migration and displacement of large number of people to nearby and developed urban centres, thereby overcrowding and burdening these cities. These migrants contribute to the swelling urban poor and finally end up living in informal settlements that are again either prone to floods or other environmental risks. Either keeping this migrant population happy or trying to push them out of these cities will have serious socio-cultural implications in the longer run.
There is also one another very significant impact of flooding, which is not clearly evident and not something that cannot be observed superficially. And this is the psychological impact.. The psycho-social impact and its effects on the flood victims and their families can severely affect them and traumatize them for a very long period. Displacement from one's home, loss of property, livelihoods, lower levels of security in future, loss of business, disturbed socio-economic affairs and system - all this can cause severe stress, which isn't visible to all. Even loss of near and dear ones can create irreversible impacts, especially on children. In fact the stress of overcoming all these losses is overwhelming and builds in lasting psychological impacts.
The question now is - Can we avoid all this …?
There is no simple answer for this…! But, to a large extent - Yes, we could have avoided this situation.. Either from happening or at least from repeating itself…! Proper planning with a focus on sustainable development and green economic policies is the answer and the future....