Several states oppose bill aimed at minimising flood losses


New Delhi: Even as floods play havoc in Uttarakhand, several states have opposed the provisions of a 38-year-old Model Flood Bill aimed at minimising losses to life and property in the natural calamity.
The bill, prepared by the Central Water Commission in 1975, will empower authorities to remove dwellings from flood-prone areas. States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have opposed the draft bill, saying rehabilitation of people who will be displaced after the dwellings are removed is a difficult task.
"They also fear that the Centre will not pay monetary compensation to them if they fail to implement the law in letter and spirit," said a senior Water Resources Ministry official. "Today several such low-lying areas have been given for commercial development and the the onus of protecting lives and property in such areas lies with the state governments. They know they cannot seek compensation for damage caused in such areas," the official said.
There are some states which have not responded to the model bill. The bill, if implemented, will seek to replace dwellings in low-lying areas by parks and playgrounds as absence of human settlement in those areas would cut down loss of lives and property.
The CWC had circulated the model bill to all the states to help the state governments enact the legislation. Except for Manipur and Rajasthan, no state legislature has enacted the 'Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning'.
Though Manipur enacted the legislation in 1978, the demarcation of flood zones is yet to be carried out. Rajasthan is yet to enforce the measure, though it has enacted the bill.
"Keeping in mind changing demands of state governments and their opposition to various provisions of the bill, the Centre is likely to revise the draft...The present model draft Bill for flood plain zoning is quite old and Union Government is considering to review the same and re-circulate the Revised Model Flood Plain Zoning Bill for enactment and further action," Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat recently told a meeting of Ganga Flood Control Board here. 
"There has been poor progress in this respect notwithstanding the expressions of support by states for this approach. Worse still, there is the trend towards greater unplanned intrusions into the flood plains in recent years, which seem to be ignored, if not encouraged even by state agencies," a note prepared on the model bill by the CWC some years ago had observed.
As per the model bill, different types of buildings and utility services have been grouped under three priorities from the point of view of damage likely to occur. The bill provides clauses about flood zoning authorities, surveys and delineation of flood plain area, notification of limits of flood plains, prohibition of the use of the flood plains, compensation and most importantly removing obstructions to ensure free flow of water.
'Priority-I' areas including defence installations, industries and public utilities such as hospitals, power houses, airports and railway stations are to be located in such a way that they are above the highest flood level in the last 100 years. 'Priority-II' areas include public institutions, government offices, educational institutions, public libraries and residential areas. The buildings are proposed to be above a level corresponding to a 25—year high flood level or a 10—year rainfall record with a mandatory clause that all buildings in vulnerable zones be constructed on columns or stilts.
'Priority-III' areas would include parks and playgrounds. While these would provide the city with green lungs, it would ensure that the areas most prone to floods are not populated. The CWC had initiated preparation of topographic maps on a 1:15,000 scale to enable state governments identify flood prone areas. But the scheme was abandoned in 1991 due to poor response from the states.

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