13 killed as flash floods hit yatra camp
GS Paper 1,3; Natural Disaster, Disaster Management, Conservation.


At least 13 people were killed and scores more were missing when flash floods triggered landslides at the Baltal base camp in the Ganderbal district.

Flash Floods:

  • A flash flood is a quick flooding of low-lying geomorphic features such as washes, rivers, dry lakes, and basins. Heavy rain connected with a strong thunderstorm, hurricane, or tropical cyclone, or meltwater from ice or snow pouring over ice sheets or snowfields, can all create it. Flash floods can occur as a result of the collapse of a natural ice or debris dam, or of a man-made structure, such as a dam.
  • Flash floods are very localised, short-duration occurrences with a very high peak, with fewer than six hours between the occurrence of the rainfall and the peak flood.
  • There is a common dearth of flash flood warning skills and capacities across governments worldwide.
  • Recognizing that flash floods have a particularly devastating impact on the lives and properties of affected populations, the Fifteenth World Meteorological Organization (WMO) approved the implementation of a global Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) project developed by the WMO Commission for Hydrology in collaboration with the WMO Commission for Basic Systems and in collaboration with the US National Weather Service, the US Hydrologic Research Centre (HRC), and USAID/OFDA.

Flash Floods in India:

  • According to the World Meteorological Organization, flash floods account for 85 percent of flooding incidences worldwide, resulting in around 5,000 deaths each year.
  • While the standard flood warning system is completely developed, India has yet to build a viable flash flood warning system.
  • In India, the Central Water Commission (CWC), which monitors dams, is currently warning of rising water levels in reservoirs, which are normally seen as warnings of impending floods.
  • Recently, CWC collaborated with Google to create a software application that visualises rising water levels following heavy rains.

Flash Flood Causes:

  • A flash flood is a sudden flooding of geomorphic low-lying places such as washes, rivers, dry lakes, and basins. Heavy rain connected with a strong thunderstorm, hurricane, or tropical cyclone, or meltwater from ice or snow pouring over ice sheets or snowfields, can all create it.
  • However, floods are not necessarily the result of heavy rain. Flash Floods may be caused by a variety of factors, the most common of which being exceptionally high rainfall from thunderstorms.
  • Flash floods can occur as a result of dam or levee failures and/or mudslides (Debris Flow).
  • Flash floods have also occurred in locations on or near volcanoes after eruptions, when glaciers have been melted by the extreme heat.
  • The strength of the rainfall, the location and distribution of the rainfall, land use and terrain, plant kinds and growth/density, soil type, and soil water content all impact how soon and where Flash Flooding may occur.

New Role for India:

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has identified India as the nodal centre for building a tailored model to provide flood warnings to Asian nations such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  • The model’s is Flash Flood Guidance System.
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) will endeavour to personalise this weather model.
  • Several Southeast Asian countries, including India, rely on the monsoon and are vulnerable to its whims.
  • India presently has its own tsunami warning system, which also serves as a backup warning system for numerous Asian countries.

Flash Flood Guidance Services (FFGS):

  • In 2020, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) debuted the South Asian Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS).


  • Intended to assist disaster management teams and governments in developing prompt evacuation plans prior to the occurrence of flooding.
  • India is leading a delegation of countries, including Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, in the exchange of hydrological and meteorological data in order to prepare flash flood forecasts.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority of India and the Central Water Commission have also collaborated on this technology.

Flash Flood Guidance System:

  • The model will anticipate probable floods by assessing the chance of rainfall and soil moisture levels.
  • Forecasts will be made using a combination of satellite mapping and ground-based observation.
  • It will be a customised weather model developed by the United States and provided to the World Meteorological Organization to warn about flash floods at least six hours in advance.
  • It has already run a test version of this model.
  • Pakistan was on the list of nations that might benefit from this forecast model, but it declined to participate.

Need of the System:

  • According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) data, flash floods kill around 5,000 people worldwide each year. Despite such high mortality, there is no reliable flash flood forecasting or warning system.
  • The chiefs of the World Meteorological Organization’s meteorological and hydrological divisions, as well as the leaders of four South Asian nations, expressed their support for the Hydrologic Research Centre’s warning system.
  • According to the Secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), the frequency of extreme rainfall events has risen owing to climate change, and South Asia is particularly vulnerable to flash floods.
  • Unpredictable weather contributes to up to 80% of natural disasters in all of these South Asian nations. Among these, flash floods cause significant loss of life and property.
  • Furthermore, the influence across South Asia is multiplied by the varied geography – mountains, seas, the Eastern and Western Ghats, Myanmar highlands, and so on.
  • The India Meteorological Department has extremely sophisticated processing capacity, numerical weather prediction, a wide observational network (ground, air, and space-based), and a globally regarded Weather Forecasting System.
  • As a result, the World Meteorological Organization has assigned India the role of Regional Centre of South Asia Flash Flood Guidance System for coordination, development, and implementation.

The Role of Glacial Lakes:

  • The majority of the glaciers are also covered in garbage.
  • When glaciers recede as temperatures rise, the snow melts but the debris remains. This debris contributes to the creation of lakes.

Glacier retreat Causes:

  • Glaciers’ bulk and surface area have shrunk significantly.
  • As a result, a huge number of glacial lakes have formed throughout the Himalayas.
  • Because of the potential for flash floods in the case of a breach, many of these high-altitude lakes are potentially deadly.

What are the causes of floods in India?

  • Seasonality – The rainy season is concentrated in a short period of 3-4 months. It causes rivers to overflow, resulting in severe floods at times.
  • Cloud Burst – Heavy rain and, at times, cloud bursts in the hills or upstream flood the rivers. If the rivers receive 15cm or more of rain in a single day, they begin to overflow. This impacts the Western Ghats coast, Assam, sub-Himalayan West Bengal, and the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • Silt accumulation – The Himalayan Rivers, which have vast components, bring in a big amount of silt and sand, which eventually accumulates with no clearance activities taking place for years. As a result, the rivers’ water carrying capacity is dramatically diminished, resulting in floods. For example, Jhelum floods.
  • Obstruction – Floods are generated by the building of embankments, canals, and railway-related operations.
  • Deforestation – Trees are essential for holding the surface of mountains and creating natural barriers for rainwater. As a result of deforestation on hill slopes, river water levels unexpectedly rise, producing floods.
  • Town Planning – The phenomenon of urban floods, as seen in Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Srinagar, is a new addition to this.
  • The main reason is rapid migration from rural to urban areas, which has put enormous strain on land, the inability of civic authorities to control encroachment on land, which is a traditional outlet for overflowing rivers, bad planning, and corruption.
  • Monsoon Pattern – These effects are exacerbated by an irregular monsoon pattern, unseasonal rainfall, or even a disruption in the usual Monsoon periodicity.

Steps taken by the Government for Flood Control Management:

Forecasting Floods-

  • It entails providing advance notice of the advent of floods. It is extremely beneficial in taking prompt action to reduce the loss of human life, animals, and transportable property. The Central Water Commission began flood forecasting in November 1985, with the establishment of the first flood forecasting station near Delhi’s old railway bridge.
  • There are already 175 flood forecasting stations on various rivers around the country. The flood forecasting network encompasses flood-prone states and UTs, with stations issuing daily flood alerts from May to October.

Run-Off Reduction-

  • It is one of the most effective flood control measures. Runoff can be decreased by encouraging and enhancing surface water penetration into the earth in catchment regions. This can be accomplished by large-scale afforestation, particularly in higher catchment regions.

Dam Construction-

  • Dams and multi-purpose projects are being built across rivers to store excess water in reservoirs. Several similar reservoirs were built under the first five-year plan. Many dams were built in following schemes to decrease run-off and store and release water under regulated settings.

Channel Improvements and Embankment Construction-

  • The flood-prone river channels are upgraded by deepening and expanding. These rivers’ water is also channelled into canals.
  • The government have built a number of embankments along rivers to lessen the threat of flooding. Along the Brahmaputra, Krishna, Godavari, Gandak, Kosi, Narmada, Tapi, son, Sutlej, and their tributaries, such embankments have been built.

Zoning for Flood Plains –

  • It is also a key step in controlling floods that are based on flood plain knowledge, notably the identification of floodways’ in connection to land development.


  • If we monitor the glaciers on a regular basis, we will be able to identify the lakes that require mitigating strategies.
  • Several structural and geotechnical remedies can be implemented, and there have been successful cases where the hazard posed by these lakes has been lessened.
  • It is conceivable to build channels for the progressive and controlled release of water from these lakes, which will relieve pressure on them and lessen the likelihood of a breach.
  • At the same time, it minimises the amount of water that enters the flash flood. Alarm systems can also be installed at lakes to alert the communities downstream if an overflow occurs. Because of technological advancements, meteorology professionals have recently begun predicting monsoon and other meteorological conditions with near-perfect accuracy.
  • It undoubtedly gives the government ample time to plan disaster management.
  • However, no scientific method can be used to plan or regulate rain patterns.
  • To manage floods, a multi-pronged strategy in accordance with shifting rain patterns is required.
  • It will be naïve to consider flood management in isolation. It must be viewed in context of environmental deterioration, global warming, and inadequate governance at all levels.
  • The Centre’s and state governments’ efforts to combat deforestation should be stepped up. The tree plantation drives at all levels are positive developments.
  • Priority should be given to cleaning drains and rivulets near cities.
  • The construction of embankments, flood barriers, ring bunds, and flood control reservoirs should be done scientifically.
  • Improving river channels and surface drainage, as well as preventing erosion of land on river banks, are two more strategies that might assist limit flood spread.
  • To alleviate the consequences of urban development, advance planning and yearly preparations should be made.
  • There is no clear legislative definition of flood control. It is not featured as a subject in any of the country’s legislative lists, such as the Union, State, or Concurrent lists.
  • Issues with drainage and embankments are addressed under Entry 17 of List II of the State List. As a result, preventing and combating floods is essentially the duty of state governments.
  • Water resources agencies, a flood control board, and a state technical advisory council are all part of the state structure. The Central Mechanism has a network of organisations and expert committees that meet on a regular basis to analyse flood control suggestions.
  • The Centre-states system should be developed further, with an emphasis on increased coordination. This must be a constant and continuing system, rather than one that simply activates after a disaster. Various flood-control measures should be implemented by the Centre and the states through a coordinated strategy.


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