By Dr. Gyan Pathak
All indications suggest that climate change is going to further worsen the rain and flood related human and livestock fatalities in India, apart from drowning of Indians that is the third largest cause of all accidental deaths in the country. Many states in the country from Arunachal Pradesh in the East to Gujarat in the West and from Himachal Pradesh in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South are presently suffering during this monsoon, and the National Disaster Management have become too tough a task not only in controlling the damage and providing relief.
Over one million people are affected by floods in Gujarat and five million in Assam until mid-July in 2022. Hundreds of people have already died across the country not only due to floods but also cause relating to rains, such as lightning, landslides, cloudburst or other destructions of human structures or nature. Exact details of the casualties to livestock are not known yet, but according to rough estimated these may also be in millions.
Such things are happening in India year after year. We have been destroying our climate, and the climate change has been exacerbating the erratic rains causing disasters with passage of time. In the root of the cause is destruction to the climate that not only have been carried out by individuals, business and industries, but also supported by wrong policies of the government, and therefore they have to share the blame. The government is more responsible than anyone else not only for this destruction, but also its failure in successfully saving the people and their livestock from destruction and in providing appropriate relief.
The scale of devastation that has lately been accelerated is very high. A data given by Central Water Commission in the Parliament of India has estimated the damage for the years between 1953 and 2017 to be worth about 3782.5 billion rupees due to floods and heavy rains. Besides this 107,535 people were killed, over 80 million houses destroyed and about 466.4 million hectare affected. Nearly, 30 per cent of the total damage was suffered by the farmers, and more than their 6 million cattle died.
Though heavy rain and flood are natural causes, the Union and State Governments cannot shed their responsibilities for saving lives and livestock, especially after passage of National Disaster Management Act of 2005. Many works can be done to prevent the scale of devastation to life and property in the first place, and then in providing relief to the affected. India, in fact, needs a comprehensive plan beyond the present adhoc approach to deal with the issues related to flooding and water logging.
The National Crime Records Bureau report titled “Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India 2020” is the latest available data that gives another alarming picture regarding deaths and destruction due to forces of nature. It has mentioned 7,405 deaths in the country due to causes attributable to forces of nature. Out of these deaths 38.6 per cent caused by lightning and 13 per cent due to flood. Largest number of people struck dead by lightning was from Bihar that witnessed 436 deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh (429), Jharkhand (336) and Uttar Pradesh (304). The problem of lightning is specifically suffered by rural areas because the government is yet to provide for lightning conductors which can be done easily in and around human habitations.
It should also not be out of place to mention here, especially in reference to climate change, that 10.5 per cent of accidental deaths are happening due to exposure to sever cold in the country, and the victims are invariably poor and destitute persons. It should be shame for the government that it cannot prevent such deaths which can easily be done by providing proper shelter and warm clothes or blankets. Rains and snow during the winter increases its severity that brings deaths to the destitute and poor.
NCRB record for 2020 says that majority 46.1 per cent of victims who died due to accidents caused by forces of nature were reported to be belonging to the age-group of 30-45 years (24.5 per cent) and above 60 years (21.6 per cent). Moreover, these problems are not limited to rural area, since a total of 311 (4.2 per cent) of total deaths due to cause attributable to forces of nature were reported from 53 mega cities of the country.
Deliberate and negligent conduct of people and the lack of skill for saving oneself from drowning is also a major cause of death in India. In all accidental cases (5,88,738), about 3,66,992 people died and 3,38,903 injured in 2020 as per the NCRB report. It mentions drowning as the third major cause of accidental death accounting for about 10.1 per cent (37,238 in absolute terms), after traffic accidents and sudden deaths. People also died by suicides by drowning themselves, but the percentage is meagre 5.2 per cent of all suicides (1,53,052) in 2020, a sharp increase from 1,39,123 in 2019. This aspect also calls for attention.
Where are the risks of drowning? A recent WHO report says that where there is water, there is the threat of drowning. Flood certainly increases the threat, and the number of people exposed to this hazard in rising with the increased frequency and severity of flood disasters and unplanned urbanization and other faulty developmental works carried out in rural India. The WHO report has found that drowning risks increase with floods, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where people live in flood-prone areas and the ability to warn, evacuate, or protect communities from floods is weak or only just developing.
Of course, India is among the vulnerable countries with very large population living or working around the areas prone to flooding. Is it not possible for India to launch special programmes to enable the people to save themselves by swimming and other skills, providing them with equipments, enforce safety standards, and more perfect warning services, alerts and evacuation, and required reliefs? (IPA Service)