Four decades after bill, flood plain zoning still a far cry

Four decades after bill, flood plain zoning still a far cry

Thirty nine years after the Central Water Commission (CWC) prepared a model bill on floodplain zoning for states, only Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Manipur have enacted legislation. 

While Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal merely initiated the process, none of the states started demarcation of flood zones.

Floodplain zoning is a procedure to prevent flood hazard on river banks. As part of the zoning, locations are determined so that flood damages are reduced to minimum. It also envisages laying down limitations on development of both the unprotected and protected areas.

This information was submitted by the CWC, a nodal agency under the Water Resources Ministry, in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court in a case relating to regulation of floodplain areas.

The CWC further said that since, according to the Constitution, water is a state subject, role of the Centre is “advisory, promotional and catalytical in nature.”

Responding to a plea, it claimed that the development and regulation of floodplains of rivers, including Yamuna, fell under the purview of the state governments concerned. However, except limited action on the part of a few states, it was submitted that nothing much has taken place on the ground.

‘Necessary and useful’

“Floodplain zoning is not only necessary in case of floods by rivers but also useful in reducing the damage caused due to drainage congestion, particularly in urban areas,” it said.

The CWC further claimed that the Centre’s role is limited and, as water was a state subject, it was for the states to come up with proper legislation on floodplain zoning. For the purpose, the guidelines issued in 1975 in the model bill could be relied upon, it said.

The 2012 national water policy mandated that the conservation of rivers, river corridors, water bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through participation of the entire community, said the affidavit.

“Encroachment and diversion of water bodies (like rivers, lakes, tanks, ponds, etc) and drainage channels (irrigated area as well as urban area drainage) must not be allowed and wherever it has taken place, it should be restored to the extent feasible and maintained properly,” it said.

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