Giving Compass' Take:

• As monsoon season approaches in India, residents brace themselves for intense flooding that could induce displacement during the COVID-19 crisis. 

• How can donors pivot and provide support for disaster relief on top of COVID-19 relief efforts?  

• Learn more about disaster relief and recovery funding. 

If one travels from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh to Siliguri in West Bengal and then on into Assam, circumscribing the Brahmaputra and finally entering the Barak valley, one gets a panoramic sense of flood-prone India. This densely populated region—with a population density that exceeds 1,000 people per square kilometre—is prone to annual floods. Most of us hear about these floods only when they are very severe or catastrophic, as in the case of the barrage breach of the Kosi river in 2008. Otherwise they remain ignored and forgotten by the rest of the country. Poverty in the densely packed and perennially flood-prone plains in the Gangetic, Brahmaputra, and Barak basins is intense and has defied any solution till date.

There are several categories of flooding that often turn into disasters in this region. These include months of waterlogging due to drainage lines being blocked by river embankments, floods caused by water flows spilling over the river banks in rivers without embankments, severe floods caused by breaches in embankments, and flash floods caused by intense rains in the Himalayan hills, which often cause rivers to swell and change course. Riparian towns and cities such as Patna, Varanasi, and Guwahati are also flood-prone. The government and print and electronic media tend to take notice only when floods hit these cities. Occasionally, floods in rural areas of Bihar, West Bengal, or Assam are reported on as well.

The most common occurrence across most flood categories is that water enters and fills up farmlands and habitations in villages. Flood waters rise high enough to drown the homes of people. Another occurrence—flash floods—are less common and the extent of loss to life and property usually depends upon the speed with which water enters and rises. There is very little scope to save much during a flash flood.

Read the full article about monsoons during the COVID-19 crisis by Sanjiv Phansalkar at India Development Review.