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Asia

Flood Situation Grave in India’s North and East

Thousands of people have been displaced by the floods in northern and eastern India as heavy rains continue. The latest floods came just a month after the monsoon-swollen Kosi River, a tributary of the Ganges that flows from Nepal to India, burst its banks and submerged nearly 1,000 villages in the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar.

Flood victims at a relief camp organised by aid agency Care in Bihar

Flood victims at a relief camp organised by aid agency Care in Bihar

Destroyed crops, snakebites, disease-stricken cattle and, most of all, hundreds of thousands of people flushed out of their homes -- stories of the misery inflicted by torrential rains and overflowing rivers across India continued to replay themselves.

It was another day in the grip of floods for residents of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. Even in the capital New Delhi, the Yamuna River was flowing above the danger mark. The gates of the Gobind Sagar reservoir of the Bhakra-Nangal dam on the Himachal Pradesh-Punjab border were opened for the first time in 10 years to release excess water.

Millions affected

In India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, 2.5 million people are affected. The army has now been called out to assist the civil authorities for rescue and relief operations.

According to official numbers, this monsoon season has killed more than 1,100 people in India. Rajeev Ranjan Roy, a flood expert, says this has been an unusually difficult period for the country.

"It is of course one of the world floods ever, having affected India particularly the northern states like Bihar, Orissa and parts of Assam and lots of people have been uprooted because of the floods. The number runs into millions. In fact in Bihar itself around 3 million people have been uprooted because of the floods,” says Roy.

Floodwaters also entered the Dudhwa National Park, northern India's second largest tiger reserve and parts of the forest area got cut off by rising waters.

Many areas unreachable

In Orissa, weeklong floods in the Mahanadi River have proved devastating. At least 29 people have died in rain-related incidents and four million people have been affected -- of whom around 100,000 people are still marooned.

Relief and rescue officials are yet to reach some areas because heavy currents make it difficult for boats to ply.

In Bihar, where floods triggered by the Kosi river floods have claimed over 50 lives and destroyed fertile land, people are now worrying about their cattle. The threat of foot and mouth disease looms large even as the waters continue to recede.

Effective management needed

Flood expert Roy says the current spell of floods in many states should be a wake up call to the union government.

"Its high time the government thinks in terms of effective water management. That's the most important thing -- and proper embankment wherever the chances of rivers changing their course. At the same time the government should also think of in terms of effective and fine tune the disaster management units in all states, particularly those states that are vulnerable to floods."

The annual monsoon season, which runs from June to September, brings rains that are vital to agriculture in India but can also cause widespread destruction.

  • Date 26.09.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan (New Delhi) 26/09/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/Lrw4
  • Date 26.09.2008
  • Author Murali Krishnan (New Delhi) 26/09/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/Lrw4