Flood and Role of People

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  • Topic: Flood control, Hydrology, Damodar River
  • Pages : 8 (2798 words )
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  • Published : April 13, 2011
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Chandan Ray(


West Bengal, a part of Bengal Delta, has a long recorded history of flood. It is because the landmass of the State was formed by the Ganga-Padma system of rivers through the delta building process of which flood is an adjunct being the main carrier of sediments, the bulk of fluvial deposit, in huge volumes. At present 42.3% of total area of the State is susceptible to flood spread over 110 blocks in 18 districts. The highest affected area of flood as recorded in 1978 is about 30,607sq.km. About 23,970 sq.kms of area were devastated by flood in 2000.


In the State only five years could be identified as flood free years between 1960 to 2000, when only less than 500 sq.kms of area were inundated. After last 1978 major flood, the State suffered consecutively in 1998, 1999 and 2000. In terms of loss of life and property the 2000 flood was almost comparable to 1978 flood. It had another grim feature not recorded in our living memory. Seventy two hours of continuous and concentrated rainfall over the western river basin areas of the Bhagirathi viz. from the Pagla-Bansloi to the Ajoy, generated so huge flood volume that all embankments on the eastern side of the Bhagirathi were almost washed away and the whole of Nadia and larger partofMurshidabad~ndnorthern~areas~:{)f-North 24-Pargailas were -"- flooded and remained underwater for a long period. In this transbasin transfer of flood people were caught unaware and all sorts of speculative ideas were propagated. We delved into past records to know whether any such incidents in the past occurred. Some of the historically important events of flood were recorded by L.S.S. O'Malley in the Bengal District Gazetteers for the districts of Murshidabad and Birbhum. For the district of Birbhum, O'Malley has noted "in 1787 there was a high flood which it is said, in some places swept off villages, inhabitants and cattle, the crops on the ground, with everything that was moveable." O'Malley also recorded that "in 1806 the Mor (Mayurakshi) and Ajai had a sudden extraordinary rise and floods washed away whole villages." This flood occurred between 28th to 30thof September. In September 1902, because of heavy rains in the preceding 24hrs the Bramhani and the Mor rose rapidly overflowing their banks and inundated the surrounding country in some places to the depth of 12 to 20 ft. That flood breached the railway lines, as it could not pass through the narrow opening between Nalhati and Muraroi. All these incidents were recorded by O'Malley in the District Gazetteer ofBirbhum. On Murshidabad flood situation, O'Malley states that the earliest recorded flood in Calcutta Gazette was on 29th September 1785. Serious floods have occurred in the years of 1823 18341838 1848 1856 and 1866. There were heavy floods in 1885 and 1890. According to him in 1885, the embankment breached (Bhagirathi Embankment at Lalitakuri) on 23m August and water passed through it until end of September. On 11th September, 1885 the Jalangi rose nearly 29ft above the lowest hot water level. The above history recorded here is comparable to flood 2000 of this region and dispels doubts raised by recent propaganda about causes of flood 2000 particularly in the districts of Murshidabd, Birbhum and Nadia.


Before independence, embankment construction was only available structural measure of flood control. O’Malley, in his Gazetteer has recorded that there was 57 km of flood embankment Murshidabad district on the left bank of the Bhagirathi starting from Bhagabangola to Palassey. But during early British Raj days it was not a liability of the State to protect all of the flood prone areas. The zamindars mainly to protect their crops used to construct earthen bundhs based on local knowledge and requirement and many of them very often...
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