IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


29th August, 2023 Geography

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The issue of floods in the Punjab region of India and the importance of flood plain zoning as a strategy to manage and mitigate flood impacts.


  • The Punjab region has been grappling with prolonged floods, disproportionately affecting villages along rivers Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, and Ghaggar.
  • Villages located in these sensitive flood plains experience severe damage during flood events.

Importance of FloodPlains

  • Flood plains naturally expand and contract with river flow variations.
  • A flood plain is an area adjacent to a river that gets flooded during river swells.
  • Well-maintained flood plains act as natural defenses against inland flooding.
  • They also play a role in groundwater recharge and maintaining the water table.

Need for Identification and Zoning

  • Identifying flood plains is vital for effective flood management.
  • Topographical features, including oxbow lakes, help experts identify flood plains.
  • Flood plain zoning regulates land use to minimize flood damage during actual flood events.

Zoning Guidelines and Regulations

  • National Disaster Management Authority guidelines prescribe zoning rules.
  • Critical installations like defense installations, industries, hospitals, etc., should be situated above flood levels corresponding to a 100-year frequency.
  • The National Green Tribunal mandates a no-construction zone of 500 m from a river's central lining.

Punjab's Situation

  • Punjab lacks effective flood plain zoning despite NGT's directives.
  • Flood plain encroachments continue due to lack of proper regulations.
  • Villages along Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, and Ghaggar rivers remain at perennial risk due to encroachments.

Challenges and Risks

  • Encroachments and mismanagement lead to non-suitable construction and concretization.
  • Non-suitable constructions exacerbate flood impacts, pushing floods further inland.
  • Concretization prolongs the subsiding of floodwaters and affects flood plains' health.

Impact on People and Environment

  • The absence of zoning poses risks to people, property, and floodplains.
  • Floods damage soil fertility and quality, affecting the overall health of flood plains.
  • Multiple districts along the rivers in Punjab are at risk due to the absence of zoning.

Nationwide Issue

  • Flood plain zoning is a challenge across the country.
  • Only four states, including Manipur, erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand, have adopted zoning in principle.
  • Implementation of zoning regulations has been inadequate even in these states.

Advocacy and Activism

  • Environmental activists and NGOs in Punjab demand flood plain zoning.
  • However, their efforts have not yielded significant results so far.

About Zoning of Flood Plains

  • Zoning of flood plains involves designating areas along rivers and water bodies based on flood susceptibility.
  • These designated zones come with regulations to guide land use and development activities for flood risk mitigation.
  • The primary aim is to minimize flood-induced damage and ensure safety for people and property in flood-prone regions.

Zoning Process

  • Flood plain area is divided into distinct zones, each with specific restrictions and permissible uses.
  • Zone demarcation is based on flood likelihood and severity assessments.
  • Regulations within zones determine allowable construction types, land uses, and elevation requirements.

Hierarchical Zoning Categories

  • High Hazard Zone:
    • Located closest to water bodies.
    • Prone to frequent and severe flooding.
    • Often restricts or prohibits construction to safeguard lives and property.
  • Moderate Hazard Zone:
    • Experiences less frequent and severe flooding.
    • Limited construction might be allowed with elevation and design stipulations.
  • Low Hazard Zone:
    • Lower risk of flooding.
    • Development activities permitted under specific safety-focused guidelines.

Addressing Setbacks

  • Regulations may define setback distances from water bodies.
  • Setbacks determine how far structures should be from water's edge to reduce flood impact.
  • These guidelines consider flood frequencies, historical records, and community vulnerabilities.

Objective of Flood Plain Zoning

  • Striking a balance between human development and environmental protection.
  • Ensures construction and land use align with flood risk considerations.
  • Aims to minimize property damage, loss of life, and economic consequences of floods.

Benefits and Implications

  • Mitigates flood-induced damage in flood-prone regions.
  • Enhances safety for inhabitants and property.
  • Supports economic resilience by reducing flood-related losses.

Guided by Scientific Insights

  • Zoning regulations based on scientific assessments.
  • Utilizes flood frequency data, historical records, and community vulnerabilities.
  • Ensures informed decisions to manage flood risks effectively.

Safeguarding Natural Functions

  • Flood plain zoning preserves natural floodplain functions.
  • Balances development goals with the maintenance of ecological systems.


Q) Discuss the concept and significance of flood plain zoning in the context of flood risk management and sustainable development. (150 words)