April 18, 2024

General Studies Paper 1

Context:

  • Massive erosion along the banks of the Ganga river has left hundreds of people homeless in West Bengal.

Major Reasons

  • Flood is the most crucial reason for river bank erosion.
  • Deforestation also causes River Bank Erosion.
  • Humans extract excessive amounts of soil from the bank for their uses or they extract huge amounts of sand and gravel which help to hold back the soil. By doing this they accelerate river bank erosion.
  • Key factors causing the river to be extremely unstable at many reaches are ’aggradation’(raising of the river bed due to sediment deposition), intense ‘braiding’ and large water discharge.
  • Other than the natural process, like storms and sea level rise, anthropogenic issues like aquaculture, port construction and other developmental activities also lead to erosion.

Implications and Concerns 

  • The recurring incidents of river bank erosion have doubled the safety concerns of people.
  • Apart from the loss of cropped areas, they fear that their residential areas might cave in.
  • People have begun to move out of villages as erosion of the river has affected agricultural lands.
    • All these reasons are a major cause of migration
  • The erosion of river banks is also having an impact on education and employment in the area.
    • Since locals have to keep shifting their homes, it has become difficult for them to continue their children’s education
  • The locals are mostly farmers and agricultural labourers, and it has become difficult for them to sustain their livelihood as large stretches of farmland have been swallowed up by the river.
  • Protection of river banks from erosion is a problem in flood-prone areas and involves a huge expenditure.
  • Many local bodies are also reluctant to use their own funds, expecting contributions from other government sources.

Initiatives 

  • The grass vetiver, whose scientific name is Chrysopogon Zizanioides, has been planted on the embankment of the Mundeswari River in the Hooghly district experimentally under the MGNREGA programme.
  • The XVth Finance Commission had recommended the creation of a National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) and State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF) comprising a Mitigation Fund at the National and State-levels (NDMF/SDMF), and a Response Fund at the National and State level (NDRF/SDRF) for the award period from 2021-22 to 2022-26.
    • The Commission has also made specific recommendations for ‘Mitigation Measures to Prevent Erosion’ under NDMF and ‘Resettlement of Displaced People Affected by Erosion’under NDRF.
  • The projects for flood management and control are formulated and implemented by respective state governments/Union Territories from their own resources and as per their priority.
  • The Central Government provides financial assistance to states/UTs for implementing some projects in critical areas. Central Govt. has been providing financial assistance through a scheme called Flood Management Programme (FMP) since XI Plan. 
    • The scheme since its inception has undergone several changes as per demands of states/UTs and also on account of various directions and policies of Govt. of India.

Suggestions and Way Forward 

  • There is a need to develop suitable norms for mitigation measures to prevent erosion and for both the Union and the State Governments to develop a policy to deal with the extensive displacement of people caused by coastal and river erosion.
  • The phase-wise solution is required for the mitigation of erosion by including a combination of measures including strategic dredging, and protection of erodible bank materials with anchored bulkhead or tie-back sheet piles, spurs, toe and bank revetments.
  • Improvement of data quality and quantity by extending rain, flow and sediment monitoring networks using state-of-the-art equipment and considering physical modelling to study severe and potential scour sites and their control have also been suggested by the experts.
  • There is a need for adopting the holistic science of river management as well as comprehensive land use plans for vulnerable areas.
  • There is a need to generate awareness among the people:
    • People should understand that this is the land of the river and the river needs space to play.
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