An umbrella plan to ward off flooding

An umbrella plan to ward off flooding

Amid concerns about flooding, the urban development ministry has listed out standard operating procedures for concerned departments at various stages of preparedness — early warning, response and relief restoration rehabilitation

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Ilustration: C R Sasikumar

Ahead of the rainy season and days after the India Meteorological Department (IMD) projected a normal monsoon this year, the Union urban development ministry released a paper ‘Urban Flooding — Standard Operating Procedure’ that lays guidelines to be followed by various public agencies and government departments such as district collectors, urban local bodies (ULBs), development authorities, the health department, Public Works Department (PWD) and the IMD.

With rising cases, urban flooding has been a growing concern in the last decade and a half, the ministry paper clearly outlines the roles to be played by various agencies at both preparation stage and rescue and relief and rehabilitation stage. Over the past 15 years, there has been an increasing trend of urban flood disasters in India that include flood in Hyderabad in 2000, Ahmedabad in 2001, Delhi in 2003, Chennai in 2004, Mumbai in 2005, Surat in 2006, Kolkata in 2007, Jamshedpur in 2008, Delhi in 2009 and Guwahati and Delhi in 2010. Some of the most recent ones were Srinagar in 2014 and Chennai in 2015. While some of the common reasons cited are unplanned development and encroachments of sprawling habitations alongside rivers and watercourses, a major reason is the new and rapid pace of urbanisation. According to the report, area under urban settlements (7,933 towns) in India has increased over 30 per cent from 77,370 sq km in 2001 to 1,02,220 sq km in 2011, which means that an additional land area of 24,850 sq km of land area has been brought under urban use.

While the risk of flood is only growing and it causes not only destruction of property but loss of life, too. It is only imperative that each city has its flood mitigation plan strongly embedded within the overall land use policy and master planning of a city. A prompt, well-coordinated and effective response mounted in the aftermath of urban floods not only minimises casualties and loss of property but also facilitates early recovery. As standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies can be effective catalysts to drive performance improvement, improving organisational results and to mitigate the disaster, the ministry felt that there is need to have a clear-cut standard operating procedure for mitigating urban flooding.

In the paper, the ministry listed out some of the key SOPs for important departments during various stages of preparedness, early warning, response and relief restoration rehabilitation. The list of SOPs for various departments shows a lot of emphasis at the preparedness stage. Following are SOPs for key departments at various stages:

ULBs and development authority


Some of the key tasks to be undertaken by the municipal corporation or the ULB include setting up emergency operations centres (EOCs) and crisis-control room in the corporation room and municipal wards. Not only it is supposed to drain flood waters from all roads under its control, it has to repair, restore and maintain all roads, storm water drains, etc, along with other infrastructure. At the response stage, the ULBs have to transport/shift/evacuate affected persons and transport injured persons to hospitals or health camps and also dispose of corpse. It has to organise temporary shelters with food and water supply and coordinate rescue plan with departments such as industries (chemical accidents), fire brigade, police and the health department. It also needs to set up information centre for sharing details with the media and the public.

While the municipal corporation has to additionally look into mobilisation of manpower and other resources for emergency support functions, it also has to identify low-lying areas and vulnerable areas for water-logging. The Urban Development Authority, on the other hand, has to be ready with the city master plans, including disaster mitigation plan and integration of city drainage and sanitation plan. Within the SOP for the authority, the paper said that the authority has to also do route planning for relief and rescue work and identify land and areas for storage of relief material along with preparation of temporary and permanent rehabilitation plans for affected people.

Health department

At the preparatory stage, the department has to prepare an emergency health crisis management plan for prevention of epidemic. It has to establish an Epidemic Control Unit (ECU), analyse data received from hospitals and also maintain emergency stock of medicine, equipment and blood. It is also supposed to maintain adequate number of ambulances and mobile dispensaries in good working condition and also undertake vaccination and disinfection drives. At the response stage, the department has to work in co-ordination with EOC for identification of affected zones for surveillance and response.

It has to establish health facility and treatment centers at disaster/relocation sites. Later, at the relief and restoration phase, the department is supposed to not only ensure adequate supply of medicines, but also it has to prepare and maintain crisis/epidemic management report and submit a final one to the EOC.

PWD & irrigation department

At the preparation stage, PWD is supposed to maintain the drains periodically and update the Drainage Master Plan. It must redesign existing storm water and drainage systems in flood-prone areas for adequate flow of volume of drainage. PWD is required to maintain an inventory of all roads and bridges by hierarchy, equipment and tools for response and recovery efforts and prepare a disaster response map identifying safe routes and exits.

At the response and relief stage, while the irrigation department has to coordinate with EOC for quick identification of affected drains and flooded areas and then repair and maintain damaged drainage network in the flood affected area, PWD should undertake emergency structural rehabilitation/retrofitting measures of critical infrastructure and create emergency access in areas where communication links are damaged severely.

PWD is also supposed to maintain an inventory list of all dilapidated buildings, equipment and tools for response and recovery efforts at the preparation phase and undertake repairs of buildings and related infrastructure at the relief stage.

Power supply and telecommunications

While the power supply department needs to identify sensitive locations around high-risk power installations and raise the level of transformers and substations above flood level, it has to ensure that at the response and relief phase, there is availability of mobile DG sets and there are emergency supply lines to the temporary relief shelters.

While Srinagar saw a big impact on the telecom infrastructure, the paper states that the telecom department must identify high- and medium-risk transmission towers and link EOC and other control rooms with necessary communication devices. At the response and relief stage, the department should deploy portable communicable system in the vulnerable flood site and establish a temporary communication facility for use by various authorities/agencies involved in emergency response tasks. It also should establish a temporary communication facility for use by the public.

Police and fire departments

The police has to be prepared with emergency plan on deployment of force, the fire department should repair and maintain rescue boats and ancillary equipment among other actions of training their personnel. While the police should ensure crowd management, it must have a detailed report on evacuation and other rescue. Along with providing safety for property, people and public peace, it must also provide safety in distribution of relief materials.

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