Children from a village near Lucknow, UP, walk home from school on submerged roads
© V Sunil
Children from a village near Lucknow, UP, walk home from school on submerged roads
Kerala may have hogged the country's attention with close to 400 deaths+ and widespread destruction in one of the worst floods in the state's history but nearly 600 lives were lost in four other states due to overflowing rivers, with the home ministry putting the total figure at 993.

More than 70 lakh people were affected and 17 lakh were living in relief camps, the disaster management division of the home ministry said. Apart from Kerala, the other flood-hit states are UP, West Bengal, Karnataka and Assam.

While Kerala reported the highest loss of lives due to floods, UP saw 204 deaths, West Bengal 195, Karnataka 161 and Assam 46. In Kerala, 54 lakh people were affected and 14.52 lakh people were living in relief camps. In Assam, 11.46 lakh people were affected and 2.45 lakh were in relief camps.

An estimate by the National Disaster Management Authority (till 2005) put the loss of lives at an average 1,600 every year due to floods. The damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities was in excess of Rs 4,745 crore annually with 12% of the country's geographical area being flood-prone.

In 2017, more than 1,200 people died in flood-related incidents, as per the official estimates reported by state governments. Bihar accounted for the highest number at 514, followed by West Bengal with 261, Assam 160, Maharashtra 124 and UP 121. Four of these states had 34 million affected and 22.81 lakh living in relief camps. The situation was no different in 2016. Home ministry data on the flood situation showed 936 deaths — Bihar reporting 254 followed by Madhya Pradesh 184, Maharashtra 145 and Uttarakhand 102, among others.

The Centre is yet to impress upon states to make compulsory provision in their budget for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and building resilience rather than spending scarce state and central resources on relief and rehabilitation after every natural calamity. The home ministry recently carried out risk assessment of 640 districts in the country. It created a national resilience index based on performance of states and Union Territories on DRR measures such as risk assessment, risk prevention and mitigation, disaster relief and rehabilitation and disaster reconstruction. The study showed that the level of resilience to disaster was very low and needed "considerable improvement".

"Most states have not conducted comprehensive state specific assessment of hazards, vulnerabilities and exposures of the changing dynamics and complexities of disasters," the report said. Assessments made by states were based on "very coarse scale" without in-depth study at district or village level, relying merely on the vulnerability atlas of India.

This article was originally published on www.timesofindia.com.

(lakh = 100,000)