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Understanding the 2007 floods in South Asia

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Situation Report
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KEY IDEA

Floods, A Social and Technical Problem?

This issue of southasiadisasters.net aims to provide an overview of the current flood situation in South Asia and the situation at the beginning of the monsoon season. It also sheds light on technical aspects of monsoons in South Asia and related problems of flooding. The second and third issues will go into the activities of international organisations, local governments and communities in dealing with floods, and more.

Asia is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. Prevalent poverty and vulnerability in Asia combine with natural hazards, affecting a large number of people. Within Asia, India is prone to disasters to a large extent and it is hit by many natural hazards: windstorm-cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes-earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, landslides and floods. India is only spared of volcanic eruptions. In this issue, the focus will be on the annual recurring event of floods in India and South Asia. After a short description of the contents of this issue of southasiadisasters.net, an overview of the situation in South-Asia in the beginning of august 2007 is given in order to give scope to the current situation. This is compared to the situation in South Asia at the beginning of the monsoon season, as described in the first article. This issue of southasiadisasters.net is the first in a series of three issues about flooding in South Asia.

The first article describes the situation in South Asia just after the start of the monsoon. The second article explains the current situation in Gujarat based on fieldwork of AIDMI, newspaper articles and sources of international organisations. In the third article, the situation in Jamnagar district is detailed, followed by a description of the flood situation in Rajasthan. Both articles are based on intensive fieldwork of AIDMI.

Then, in the fifth article, meteorological aspects of the monsoon in India are explored in order to have more understanding in the physical causes and characteristics of the monsoon. Also, monsoon weather systems in other parts of the world will be mentioned. In article six, an example will be given of a country in Europe that has to deal also with problems of flooding: the Netherlands.

In the final article, an example is given of an application that is used by AIDMI for flood prevention. An easy-to-use public programme is used to make an elevation map on a relatively small scale (1:16,000) in order to estimate which areas are prone to floods and which path the water will possibly follow in case of flooding.

South Asia in August 2007

Several organisations report that the floods of this year are the worst in many years in South Asia. Tens of millions of people are affected and over 2000 people are killed.

In the first week of August, heavy rains fell on the states of West-Bengal, Orissa, northern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and also on coastal regions of Kerala. Further, northern parts of Bihar State

are heavily affected with over 1.1 million hectares (11,000 km2) of farmland inundated and millions of people affected. State government responses to the floods vary as can be seen in Orissa and Bihar, the state of Orissa has more resources to use in dealing with floods.

Since the third week of July 2007, rains have caused serious flooding in the North Bihar plains, affecting as many as 19 of the 38 districts in the state causing extensive damage to infrastructure, human lives, livestock, crops and other property and assets. According to initial estimates made by the disaster management department of the state government, about 11.5 million people are affected. Assistance from the government was delayed; though currently the authorities have undertaken action. Also the army has been deployed in rescue actions.

This is also due to the experience people gained after the 1999 cyclone in Orissa. Additionally, Gujarat State was hit by floods in Jamnagar, Junagadh and Surendranagar Districts. Over 8000 people have been evacuated after water overflowed a dam. AIDMI teams are currently visiting the affected areas in Bihar and Gujarat. The heavy flooding of this monsoon season will affect agricultural harvests; this will possibly results in increasing future vulnerability. Also, drinking water, health and other essential needs are affected by the floods. The monsoon rains and floods out of it affected over 30 million people and claimed 1250 deaths in India alone, so far.

In Bangladesh, floods-affected over tens of millions of people, displacing eight million people and over 340 reported deaths. About half of the country is inundated. The floods are

In Bangladesh, floods-affected over tens of millions of people, displacing eight million people and over 340 reported deaths. About half of the country is inundated. The floods are

caused by the heavy rains in the beginning of August and water coming from rivers. Additionally, many people suffered from snakebites in the floodwaters. Myanmar has also been hit by floods, especially areas around the City of Mandalay. Outbreaks of diseases in the 2nd week of July have been reported. Further data on affected and/or people killed by floods or other natural disasters is unfortunately unavailable.

In Nepal, flash floods and landslides-affected over 330,000 and killed over 90 people. Floods mainly affect the southern part of the country; landslides mainly affect the north.

Jaap Vuijk,
All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI)

Sources:
1. www.reliefweb.org
2. www.alertnet.org
3.The Times of India