Flood-prone villages in Indian state to be moved

Gujarat's decision follows heavy monsoon rains that triggered worst floods in a decade

MUMBAI • The western Indian state of Gujarat will move 15 villages that were affected by floods this year to higher ground, officials said, as they look for new ways to tackle the increasing frequency and intensity of flooding.

Villages in northern Banaskantha and Patan districts will be moved to within a 10km radius of their existing locations, after consultation with residents, State Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told reporters.

"These villages are in low-lying areas and were affected by similar floods in 2015. They will now be moved to higher ground in a nearby location," he said. The state will offer financial support to rebuild homes and also build schools and other facilities, he added.

The relocation will be modelled after a similar move following a massive earthquake in 2001 that levelled several villages in the state, Mr Patel said.

Heavy monsoon rains in South Asia this year triggered the worst floods in a decade in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, killing hundreds of people. India has the most exposure to damage from river flooding, according to research organisation World Resources Institute.

While monsoon rains trigger floods in northern and eastern India every year, Gujarat state - which is in a semi-arid region - has also experienced floods more frequently in recent years as warming temperatures bring heavier rains.

HARD TO UPROOT

People have deep ties to where they live; you cannot move everyone affected by floods to higher ground.

MR DINESH MISHRA, from non-governmental organisation Barh Mukti Abhiyan, on how relocation will not be easy.

Analysts have criticised the government's flood mitigation measures, including massive embankments and river-linking schemes that they say will only exacerbate the damage.

An official audit of India's flood management schemes over the last decade has found that they lacked forecasting mechanisms, pre-emptive safety measures and effective post-flood management.

Mr Dinesh Mishra from the non-governmental organisation Barh Mukti Abhiyan said officials in Gujarat must not coerce people into moving, and need to ensure that residents are given adequate compensation. "What about other states where there is nowhere to go?" he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "People have deep ties to where they live; you cannot move everyone affected by floods to higher ground."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Flood-prone villages in Indian state to be moved'. Print Edition | Subscribe