Syllabus-Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location‐ changes in critical geographical features (including water‐bodies and ice‐caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Floodplain is an area of low-lying ground adjacent to a river, formed mainly of river sediments and subject to flooding during the period of high discharge.
It includes the floodway, which consists of the stream channel and adjacent areas that actively carry flood flows downstream, and the flood fringe, which are areas inundated by the flood, but which do not experience a strong current.
Ecological significance of floodplains:
- Flood protection: It provides river, the more room as it rises.
- Most fertile land for Agriculture due to annual inundation
- Improves water quality: Acts as a natural filter when inundated (removes excess sediments and nutrients, without which it may suffer from Eutrophication).
- Natural recharge of Aquifer: Water slowdown in floodplain hence there is more time for percolation and recharge which leads to ground water recharge ultimately benefitting communities for quality drinking water, irrigation needs etc
- Increase biodiversity: Since flood plain is an ecotone (Transitional phase between river and terrestrial ecosystem), it supports rich biodiversity and facilitates wider adaptation.
- Recreation and aesthetic functions: Recreational functions like, swimming, boating, bird watching, hiking etc. are provided.
- Carbon sequestration: Supports huge flora which also helps in fixing atmospheric carbon into the soil and hence helps fighting global warming.
Anthropogenic activities and their impact on floodplain ecosystem:
- Urbanization and land use changes: Increase in area for both agricultural and non-agricultural use; diversion of flood plains for commercial purposes in an unsustainable way (about 34,000 ha of the water spread area of the Kolleru lake in Andhra Pradesh have been reclaimed for agriculture in recent years)( It results in no protection from floods, depletion of ground water, loss of biodiversity, reduced capacity to filter water and associated water borne diseases due to pollution)
- Sand mining: Changing course of the river, increased threat of flooding in nearby areas, reduced ground water recharge and ground water depletion.
- Agriculture and Industrial activities: Eutrophication, water borne diseases, toxicity of water bodies due to harmful algal blooms.
- Construction of artificial embankments and levees: Reduces flood plain formation and hence increases the silt accumulation in river bed. More prone to heavy flooding due to burst of artificial levees
- Organization of Socio religious events: Like Maha Kumbh Mela, Art of living religious gathering permanently changes the floodplain landscape due to intrusive actions and development activities.
- Flood is a state of higher water level along a river channel or on coast leading to inundation of land that is nnormally submerge. Flood therefore is a natural disaster which causes considerable damage to the crops, livestock and human life.
- National Disaster Management division of Ministry of Home Affairs has reported that over a million of people in 8 to 9 states have been affected by floods.
- States like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand are badly affected.
- World Bank report says there is equivalent loss of 2% of our GDP because of natural disasters.
- According to National Flood Commission about 40 million hectares of land area is prone to flood in the country. On an average, the area affected by floods annually is about 8 million hectare, out of which the cropped area affected is about 3.7 million hectare.
- The Central Water Commission has flood zone map for every river and there is also Flood Commission Report. It is the duty of the state to implement these recommendations.
Flood prone regions of India:
1) The basin of the Himalayan rivers covering a part of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Kosi and the Damodar are the main rivers causing floods.
2) The Central and Peninsular river basins covering Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, contain the Narmada the Tapi, the Chambal and the Mahanadi. Heavy floods occur in the Godavari, the Krishna the Pennar and the Cauvery at long intervals and flood problem is generally serious.
1) Heavy precipitation: Rainfall of about 15 cm or more in single day may be beyond the carrying capacity of the river and this causes the spilling of river over natural banks. Areas affected include west coast of Western Ghats, Assam and sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Indo-Gangetic plains.
2) Irregularities of Monsoon: About 75% of the annual rainfall in India is concentrated in 3-4 months of the monsoon season.
3) Rise in river bed: Due to large gradients the Himalayan rivers carry a large amount of silt and sand which are ultimately deposited in the catchment area, and on the river bed. Siltation reduces the carrying capacity of river.
4) Meandering tendency of river-flow: In the flat terrain rivers have the tendency to meander or change the course within a specific boundary. Lower reaches of Gangetic plains and Brahmaputra.
5) Cyclones: Tropical cyclones accompanied by strong winds, high tidal bores causing inundation of coastal regions. Floods due to cyclone are common in the East coast of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
6) Silting in Delta areas: Sea tides deposit silt on the river-mouths and discharge channels leading to steady deterioration of their discharge capacity.
7) Obstruction of free-flow of rivers: Embankments, railways, canals etc. obstruct the free flow of rivers leading to flood.
8) Inadequate drainage arrangement: After introduction of irrigation in some areas, the sub-soil water table rises fast unless adequate arrangement are simultaneously made for both surface and sub-surface drainage. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
9) Earthquake and Landslide: These natural disaster change the river course and consequently cause flood.
10) Deforestation: Deforestation causes the acceleration of runoff and lowering of infiltration. Deforestation of hill slopes leads to greater run-off which raises the water level in rivers. Western Ghats, Siwaliks and Chotanagpur plateau region.
11) Cloud burst: Cloud bursts leads to high amount of rainfall within a short time leading to flash floods. Flash flood generally occurs in Himalayan region.
How to control Flood?:
- Construction of embankments, flood walls and ring bunds.
- Construction of flood control reservoirs which can temporarily hold a part of flood within the storage space provided in the reservoir so that the rate of flow below the reservoir is kept within safe limits.
- Improvement of surface drainage.
- Arrest of bank erosion by river training works such as spurs and revetments.
- Reducing the rate of runoff by watershed management.
- Improvement of river channel.
- Construction of raised platform to be used during times of flood emergency.
- Afforestation of the catchment areas of the rivers.
- Building of storage dams across those small streams, which have devastated large areas in the past.
- Desiltation of those reaches of the rivers course and drainage channels which obstruct the free flow of flood water.
- Straightening of the meandering river channels.
- Establishment of proper flood warning systems.
- There should be proper planning of urban areas near river embankment, and command areas.
- The flood zone should be free of any economic activity.
Recent Floods in India:
- Uttarakhand Flood, 2013
- Jammu & Kashmir Floods, 2014
- Chennai Floods, 2015
- Assam Floods, 2016
Flood Management in India:
Presently India has two tier flood management systems viz. state level mechanism and central government mechanism. The State Level Mechanism includes the Water Resources Departments, Flood Control Board and State Technical Advisory Committee. The Central Government Mechanism includes several organizations and various expert committees to enable the State Governments in addressing flood problems in a comprehensive manner. National Flood Commission was established in 1980. National Water Policy 2012 focusses on flood control and management.
Urban sprawl is characterized by dispersed outgrowth of areas outside the city’s core, engulfing many villages around it.
It describes the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into low-density, monofunctional and usually car-dependent communities, in a process called suburbanization.
According to a UN projection, among the world’s top ten urban sprawls by population, New Delhi is already at the second largest behind Tokyo and will continue to retain second position till 2025.
1) These areas are often characterized by the absence of basic infrastructure and services like water, sanitation, electricity, roads and transportation. (The recent water-logging crisis in Gurgaon demonstrates how untrammelled development without the provision of basic urban amenities like a proper drainage system can result in an urban dystopia; In Bengaluru, the civic woes of peri-urban areas like Whitefield have arguably gotten worse.)
2) Private developer-led growth in these areas only leads to the development of certain pockets like gated communities, with no attention paid to public infrastructure.
3) With changes in land use the ecosystem of the region is also threatened.
4) In the midst of such a transformation, the livelihoods of people in peri-urban areas increasingly become precarious.
5) Even when the state takes a proactive role to peri-urban growth through ventures like industrial corridors, the interests of the people living in these areas are often ignored.
6) Agricultural land in the urban periphery is acquired for mega-projects from farmers at very cheap rates and then transferred to various business and commercial units.
7) The landowners and cultivators are left out of the development process and are often made to relocate.
8) Lack of proper institutional framework:
- Even after the passage of the 74th constitutional amendment which sought the empowerment of elected municipal governments, India’s urban governance and planning regime remains paralysed.
- Though the amendment tasked the ULBs and the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) with urban planning, various ‘development authorities’ working under the state governments continue to perform this function in most cities.
9) Increased Traffic: Populations will begin to use their cars more often, which means that there is more traffic on the roads, and there is also more air pollution and more accidents.
10) Health Issues: When people use their vehicles, even to go to a very short distance, people are going to be more overweight and are also going to have to deal with ailments such as high blood pressure and other diseases that come about with obesity.
11) Environmental Issues: One of the major environmental problems associated with sprawl is habitat loss and subsequent reduction in biodiversity.
12) Impact on Social Lives: People don’t have neighbors that live as close, which means that they won’t really stay as social as they were.
Challenge to urban planning.
1) Encroachment of the green belt.
2) Rise of land mafias.
1) Urban sprawl may also benefit the environment. A Congressional report on sprawl states low-density development is better for air quality because it disperses air pollution over a wider area.
2) Additionally, low-density areas make more room for green spaces, trees, parks and yards which help minimize both air and water pollution.
3) Less expensive land in outlying areas around cities. (People will be able to afford larger houses on larger lots)
4) Traffic congestion is less in these areas than the cities.
5) Quality of life is similar to cities but at a affordable and cheap way.
6) Less stress on the civic amenities.
7) Can bring about dispersal of developmental activities and hence can help in reducing economic disparities.
- A better approach is to plan for the future by identifying areas for growth and taking steps to ensure that these areas are first provided with basic urban infrastructure and services. An interesting venture in this regard is the Urban Expansion Initiative, which promotes a “making room approach” to urban expansion by identifying areas that are projected to urbanize and procuring land for public amenities beforehand.
- In India, the Union government’s Syama Prasad Mukherjee National Rurban Mission, JNNURM, AMRUT, PURA etc. seek to provide high-growth rural areas with infrastructural amenities, economic activities and planned layouts similar to those available in cities.
- For responding to a phenomenon like peripheral urban growth, an institutional framework that provides for a metropolitan-level planning and governance mechanism is essential.
- Useful framework for multi-scale urban planning is provided under the Union government’s Model Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, which provides for planning at state, metropolitan and local level.
- Focus on schemes like JNNURM, PURA, AMRUT etc.
- Making the green belt mandatory.
- Encouraging vertical expansion of cities.
4. Earthquake in India:
- Nearly 59 per cent of India is perpetually prone to earthquakes.
Reasons why some regions are prone to Earthquakes in India:
- The geological stress in the Northeast’s hills, due partly to frequent tremor-driven weakening of the Himalayas, and the colliding of the Himalayan plate with the Indo-Burmese plate, has put the entire region on high alert.
- Most earthquakes occurring in the region are related to subduction of the India-Burma tectonic plate under the Java-Sumatra tectonic plate.
- North India:
- North India is located near boundary between the Eurasian and Indo-Australian plate. Obviously, there’s immense pressure where these two plates meet. Every once in a while, the stress releases in the form of vibrations.
- Besides, seismologists feel that the tectonic plates west of the epicentre of the recent Nepal earthquake are still locked, indicating that another trigger is about to go off.
- Peninsular India:
- The general understanding of earthquakes in Peninsular India is that the Precambrian terrain is heterogeneous in strength, criss-crossed with rifts, shear zones and old orogenic belts and these ancient zones of weak crust get reactivated from time to time and rupture.
- When Indian and Eurasian plates collided because of intense pressure the peninsula has up warped in many places. The ancient rifts that had crisscrossed the nations subsurface strata are suddenly being activated.
Threats caused by earthquakes:
- Quakes do not kill people; collapsing buildings do: Poor people dwelling in multi-storied tenements built on weak foundations and without any quake-proofing as is the case with most slum areas in small and big towns, including Delhi are the most at risk during earthquakes
- Casualties: loss of life and injury.
- Loss of housing.
- Damage to infrastructure.
- Disruption of transport and communications.
- Panic and Looting.
- Breakdown of social order.
- Loss of industrial output.
- Loss of business.
- Disruption of marketing systems.
- Disruption in food and energy supply.
Nature of preparedness needed:
- Structural safety of buildings:
- The whole country has been divided into different seismic zones, and standards have been set for buildings constructed in these areas.
- For instance, the Imphal Municipal Corporation has notified building bylaws that specify standards for earthquake resistant design for construction of buildings and guidelines for repair and seismic strengthening of buildings.
- The key to tremor-resistant buildings is strong foundation and construction based on interlocked concrete pillars.
- Researchers have come out with numerous cost-effective designs and construction materials, such as concrete or mud houses reinforced with bamboo, for building houses for the poor. These need to be promoted in risk-prone areas to safeguard precious lives, property and vital infrastructure during earthquakes
- Better urban regulation and facilities are needed. Even existing endangered and unsafe houses should be repaired and suitably restructured and reinforced, even with government assistance, if need be.
- The Bureau of Indian Standards has put together a large number of building codes for different situations, most of which are effective against earthquakes.
- Securing lifeline buildings:
- Successive disasters have shown that lifeline buildings – hospitals, government buildings, schools – in our cities are not secured. The World Health Organisation has been coaxing governments to retrofit hospitals and make them fit enough to withstand disaster impacts, but very little has been done. Simple steps like not locating key facilities in basement and ground floor can help save lives.
- Emergency response system:
- Every state is supposed to have a functional emergency response system in place, starting from disaster warning agencies like the met department to villages. The cyclone warning system in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh is a good example of how timely communication of warnings and measures like evacuation can save lives.
- Disaster risk reduction awareness:
- It is the people who will have to implement and make success an emergency system. Therefore, massive disaster risk reduction awareness campaigns have to be run round the year, not just for awareness but also training people and communities for emergencies. Such exercise, wherever carried out, have paid rich dividends.
- Strengthening warning systems:
- In the past one decade, India has made tremendous progress in cyclone warning and its communication to people, through large scale investment and modernisation. The same should be extended to warning about droughts, floods and landslides and even earthquakes. It is only through combination of these steps that we will be able to reduce risk from disasters in future, save lives and protect property.
5. Forest Fires:
- The India State of Forest Report 2015 mentions that it is the tropical thorn forest, tropical dry evergreen forest and subtropical pine forests that are most prone to heavy, moderate and occasional forest fires.
- Almost 50-55 per cent of the total forest cover in India is prone to fires annually, normally between February and mid-June. This is the time when soil moisture is at its lowest. More than any other part of India, it is the Himalayan belt that is prone to such fires, especially when there is less rain in the pre-monsoon period.
- According to environment ministry data, a total of 18,451 incidents of forest fires were reported from across the country in 2013, compared with 19,054 in 2014 and 15,937 in 2015. This year has seen a jump in such instances, with at least 20,667 fires already reported as on 21 April.
- Natural causes:
- Largely related to climatic conditions such as temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells.
- Lightning set trees on fire.
- Other natural causes are friction between bamboos swaying due to high wind velocity and rolling stones that result in sparks setting off fires in highly inflammable leaf litter on the forest floor.
- Dry forests are prone to fire in summers
- The coniferous forest in the Himalayan region comprising of Fir (Albies spp), spruce (Picea smithiana), Cedrus deodra, Pinus roxburgii and P. Wallichiana etc. is very prone to fire.
- Australian forests
- The most vulnerable stretches of the world to forest fire are the youngest mountain ranges of Himalayas. With large scale expansion of chir forests in Himalayan mountains, the frequency and intensity of forest fires have increased alarmingly.
- The recent forest fire in Uttarakhand is because of high temperatures with no atmospheric moisture and lack of rainfall
- Anthropogenic factors:
- Fire is caused when a source of fire like naked flame, cigarette or bidi, electric spark or any source of ignition comes into contact with inflammable material.
- Grazers and gatherers of various forest products starting small fires to obtain good grazing grass as well as to facilitate gathering of minor forest produce like flowers of Madhuca indica and leaves of Diospyros melanoxylon.
- Shifting cultivation (especially in the North-Eastern region of India and imparts of the States of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh)(Jhum Cultivation, Podu etc.).
- The use of fires by villagers to ward off wild animals.
- Fires lit intentionally by people living around forests for recreation.
- The broken power lines, sparks from trains, or sparks from tools and forestry machinery doing work in the forest can cause fires.
- It has been estimated that 90% of forest fires in India are man-made.
- Ecological Impact:
- Loss of biodiversity and loss of plants and animals.
- Loss of vegetation and reduction in forest cover.
- Forest fires pollute nearby water and air with particulate matters, chemicals and harmful gasses.
- Loss of carbon sink resource and increase in the percentage of carbon dioxide in atmosphere amplifying global warming.
- Change in the micro climate of the area.
- Soil erosion affecting the productivity of soils and production.
- Modifying the quality of water and water sources.
- Economic Impact:
- Loss of valuable timber resources.
- Affects tourism adversely.
- Loss of livelihood leading to instability in local markets.
- Social Problems:
- Health problems such as respiratory disorders due to release of particulate matter, carbon monoxides and oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and organic compounds.
- Can lead to life loss or loss of property.
- The pine needles, the main fire hazard, need to be converted into a resource for the community by extending capital, technological and industrial support for their effective utilisation and as a livelihood opportunity. They can be used in briquettes, compost, boards, tiles, etc.
- Some of the measures can be tried through the creation of forest self-help groups (FSHGs) or local forest special purpose vehicle (FSPV) with an industrial linkage to the removal of dry needles with the help of villagers for making bio-briquettes, compost or vermicompost, composite boards, panels, etc.
- This activity can also be linked with employment generation schemes like MGNREGA, Skill India and Make in India, as well as women’s empowerment schemes. This will provide a double benefit — removing the pine needles from the forest and generating employment and incomes. It’s a bio-fuel and bio-energy resources are always welcome.
- Migration is an indirect issue that needs to be addressed to control forest fires. The willingness of local village communities to stay in the state can be strengthened by an assurance of employment and basic facilities like healthcare, education and communication. They can be motivated by nature-related activities with a market tag, for example, organic crops and products like millets, milk, mushrooms, fruits, colourants, fibres, etc. All these activities make people vigilant and also protect their surroundings.
- The conventional centuries-old method of making fire lines or firebreaks (also used as inspection paths) and burning and clearing them before the summer is also not practised properly due to a lack of manpower. Usually, a forest guard or beat guard would look after a large forest area, which is difficult to cover even over several days on the tough terrain. Therefore, the forest department needs to exclusively recruit forest-fire-fighting staff acquainted with modern technologies.
- There can be other approaches to reducing the fire hazard in the monoculture/ pure chir pine forest, like the inclusion or plantation of indigenous broad-leaved, moisture-conserving species, particularly banj oak, Myrica, Alder, Rhododendron etc. at higher elevations and sal, khair, Harad, Baheda, Arjun, sissoo, etc at lower elevations. The selection of species must be done after understanding the local ecology and public needs. Besides, it’s necessary to strictly follow scientific and advanced bore hole methods for resin extraction.
- Modern fire-fighting techniques like the Early Forest Fire Detection Using Radio-Acoustic Sounding System, Doppler radar, etc can also be used. Further, the use of modern forest fire detection and monitoring systems with help from the Forest Survey of India (FSI) and ISRO, as well as creating awareness among locals along with their participation, can be a better solution.
- On the scientific forestry front, a gradual arrest of the spread of chir pine forest, specially above 1,000 m, is leading to a change in forest composition. The selective green-felling of chir pine, as silvicultural thinning and improvement thinning to help the deodar-oak forests, needs to be done by presenting the case in the Supreme Court.
- Dry-spell periods are increasing and the moisture regime is gradually depleting. This needs to be redressed by proper soil and water conservation measures to maintain soil moisture and recharge the natural springs.
- A participatory approach is key to success in all initiatives, which reflects on joint forest management (JFM) areas by strengthening JFM committees. Similar approaches are needed in strengthening van panchayats and other local bodies.
- Communication — via print or electronic media, social media, community radio, Doordarshan — can also boost public awareness and action. Communication measures should be activated at the start of summer and some reward and recognition should be announced to motivate locals. This job can only be done with the active participation of local communities who need to be trained, equipped, authorized and supervised by local staff of the forest department.
- In the US and Canada, specialized aerial fire-fighting aircraft are used to drop water, foam- and gel-based water enhancers, and other fire retarders. Hence, provision of helicopter-squads and watch towers would certainly help, especially during a crisis.
Forest fire Management:
- Strengthening of organizational framework:
- Through appropriate modification and alteration in State Forest Departments’ structural framework and providing sufficient human power.
- Financial support to States through provision of Aids/Loans from GOI to States/UT’s according to their action plan for Systematic Forest Fire Management.
- Inclusion of Forest fire management in National Forestry Action Plan .
- Revision of Indian Forest Act: The relevant section of the Indian Forest Act needs to be revised to give due importance to legal protection against man-made forest fire.
- Creation of a national forest fire control board: With the task of supervising the control of devastating forest fire in exigencies in fragile areas like Himalayan zone, Western Ghats etc
- Implementation of National Master Plan for Forest Fire Control: This plan proposes to introduce a well-coordinated and integrated fire-management programme that includes the following components:
- Prevention of human-caused fires through education and environmental modification. It will include silvicultural activities, engineering works, people participation, and education and enforcement.
- It is proposed that more emphasis be given to people participation through Joint Forest Fire Management for fire prevention.
- Prompt detection of fires through a well coordinated network of observation points, efficient ground patrolling, and communication networks.
- Remote sensing technology is to be given due importance in fire detection. For successful fire management and administration, a National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) and Fire Forecasting System are to be developed in the country.
- Fast initial attack measures.
- Introducing a forest fuel modification system at strategic points.
- Also designing and installing a network of fire forecasting at National and State levels in collaboration with the Meteorological Department.
- Government efforts implementation should improve:
- Indian forest authorities have been using satellite images to detect active forest fires.
- Incidences of such forest fires are uploaded daily to the INFFRAS– the Indian Forest Fire Response and Assessment System website during the February to June season.
- Daily listing of forest fire information and also provides a forest fire map. Then there are pre- and post-fire warnings to look at and also forest sensitive zone maps.
- All this information need to be available right up to the district and tehsil levels.
- There is also forest fire vulnerability mapping done by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, which is shared with the state governments for controlling forest fires and reducing damage arising out of it.
- International coordination:
- The FAO runs a special TCP project program in the country under which main emphasis was given to human resource development in forest fire management.
- Organising seminars, training programs, conferences, and study tours in different countries leading in Forest Fire Management, e.g., U.S.A., Australia, U.K., Spain, France, etc.
- In addition to the ongoing schemes for forest fire management, the Government is also considering for setting up of a National Institute of Forest Fire Management with satellite centres in different parts of India with an objective to bring the latest forest fire fighting technologies to India through proper research and training of personnel.
- Effective fire fighting tools and machinery: Provision of modern and effective tools and machinery e.g. Fire Beater, Forest Fire Showel, Pulaskis Tool, Fire Rake, McLeod Tools, Brush Tools, Power Blowers, Back-Pack Pump Sets, Fire Tenders etc.
- Training and education:
- Designing syllabus for planning, management, ground level firefighting courses in Forestry Institutions.
- Institution of National Awards:
- Institution of Gallantry Awards for exemplary works in forest fire prevention, protection, and suppression.
- Promotion of people’s participation:
- Through involvement of NGOs, Voluntary Organisations, Village Forest Committees (VFCs) etc.