Bring flood management into concurrent list: House panel

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 05, 2021

Committee also recommends setting up a permanent institutional structure in the form of National Integrated Flood Management Group

The Standing Committee of Parliament on Water Resources, expressing concern at the nationwide menace of floods, has recommended setting up a permanent institutional structure under the Centre in the form of National Integrated Flood Management Group (NIFMG). The panel has also mooted that “flood control and management” should be brought under the concurrent list of the Constitution.

The report of the panel titled, “Flood Management in the Country including International Water Treaties in the field of Water Resource Management with particular reference to Treaty/Agreement entered into with China, Pakistan And Bhutan” was tabled in both the Houses on Thursday. The panel said NIFMG should be chaired by Union Minister of Jal Shakti with concerned Ministers of the State Governments as the members of it and the group should meet at least once a year. “The committee recommends that the first meeting of this group should be held within three months of the presentation of this report to the Parliament,” it said.

Demanding concerted efforts for arriving at a national consensus to place “flood control and management” under concurrent list of the Constitution, the panel said there are practical difficulties in bringing ‘water’ under the concurrent list, but these have to be resolved for the overall national interest of integrated development of water resources. Quoting the National Commission on Floods, the report said the total area liable to flood in the country is 40 million ha (Mha). “The total damage to crops, houses and public utilities from the year 1953 to 2018 has been estimated to be about ₹4,00,097 crore which is a colossal amount. The total human lives lost during this period has been assessed to be around 1,09,374 and around 61,09,628 cattle have also been perished. The high losses and damages caused by floods every year is indicative of poor planning, failure of the flood control policy / measures, inadequate preparedness and ineffective disaster management,” the report added.

River interlinking

The panel was unhappy to note that despite a National Perspective Plan (NPP) in 1980, no project for interlinking of rivers has been executed so far. It said evolving consensus among the States is the biggest obstacle in the implementation of river interlinking, but urged the Centre to take immediate steps to resolve the hurdles considering the huge losses caused by floods every year and huge benefits accruing out of the interlinking of rivers.

The report also expressed concern over the problem of flooding on account of hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh. The report added that any extra water released from these dams uphill lead to enormous inundation of Brahmaputra valley, particularly in Assam. Power projects in Arunachal Pradesh has been constructed without any plan to combat flooding in Assam and the panel urged the Ministry of Jal Shakti to take up the matter with Ministry of Power and Government of Arunachal Pradesh.

The panel asked the Centre to examine the feasibility of making maximum use of the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, in terms of full utilisation of all accessible water of the eastern rivers and maximum utilisation of the irrigation and hydropower potential of western rivers including permissible water storage as per the provisions of the treaty. The treaty, formulated in 1960s, is not addressing the issues such as climate change, global warming and environmental impact assessment, the panel noted. “In view of this, there is a need to re-negotiate the treaty so as to establish some kind of institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin and other challenges which are not covered under the treaty. Hence, the Committee urged the Centre to take necessary diplomatic measures to renegotiate the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan.

Published on August 05, 2021

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