Down To Earth(July16-31 2022)

Note: Please note that some inputs have been given by our team in order to make the topic more relevant to UPSC.


Topics covered from the syllabus:

  • GS-1: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  • GS-3: Disaster and disaster management.


Context: Recently, floods created havoc in Assam. As a result, much of its area has been under water for periods extending to more than 100 days. There is a need for comprehensive efforts, including engineering, administration and policy measures to minimize the impact of floods in the country.

Disaster Profile of India

  • According to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), a large part of India is vulnerable to multiple disasters. For instance, out of 36 States and Union Territories (UTs) in the country, 27 are disaster prone. Such disasters include:
  • Earthquakes: Around 60% of India is prone to earthquakes of moderate to very high intensity.
  • Floods: 10% of India’s land is prone to flood and river erosion.
  • Cyclones and Tsunami: 75% of the country’s coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunami.
  • Drought: 70% of the cultivable land is vulnerable to drought.
  • Landslides: 15% of India suffers from the danger of imminent landslides and avalanches in hilly areas.

Reasons of Flooding

  • Climatic factors: Due to climate change and global warming, global weather patterns are becoming unpredictable. For instance, Indian monsoon is a complex phenomenon that depends upon many global circulation patterns such as El Nino, La Nina. Indian Ocean Dipole etc. However, due to anthropological changes around the world, arrival of Monsoons has been disturbed, causing floods in some areas and drought in other areas.
  • El Niño and La Nina: El Niño and La Nina are global phenomena in which sea surface temperature of eastern and western Pacific Ocean changes. During el Niño, eastern Pacific has higher temperature, whereas during La Nina, temperature decreases as compared to the years in which La Nina is not formed. La Nina results in more than average rainfall in India, whereas El Niño causes drought in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Indian ocean dipole (IOD): It is also known as Indian Niño. It is seen as an irregular oscillation of sea surface temperature in the Indian Ocean. During positive IOD, western Indian ocean warms up. On the other hand, during negative IOD, western Indian Ocean cools down. A Negative IOD results in heavy rainfall in India. 
  • Jet Streams: Jet streams are high velocity winds flowing west to east, in the northern part of India (around 30°N). They play an important role in monsoon rainfall. However, due to global warming, the regular course of these jet streams has shifted. This has led to the Jet Streams pushing Monsoon towards Northeast India, causing floods.
  • Deforestation: Forest cover and grasslands act as a barrier to floods. They reduce the velocity of water and help in absorption of water by Earth. However, the Forest in the north east is continuously being depleted in the name of development. Therefore, due to deforestation, frequency of floods and the amount of slit carried by such floods have been increasing.
  • Encroachment of wetlands and rivers channels: Due to rapid population growth in the plains of Ganga and Brahmaputra, the flood plains and areas earlier consisting of river channels, have been encroached by the people. To reap the benefits of fresh fertile soil brought by floods annually in these areas, people have cleared forests for agriculture. However, this encroachment has resulted in destabilization of river channels, causing rivers to change course every year.
  • Wetlands: Wetlands act as buffer storage for heavy rain water. Wetlands in Assam are known as Beels. They act as a kind of geographical sponge and soak extra water brought by floods. However, the area covered by these wetlands has been decreasing due to fresh settlements and expansion of residential areas. Moreover, these wetlands are being used as garbage pits, leading to a decrease in their ability to store flood water.
  • Poor condition of flood prevention Structures: In the absence of proper maintenance, flood prevention structures, such as reservoirs and check dams, have become structurally weak. Many of these structures may break in the face of extra pressure caused by heavy rainfalls and resulting floods, causing floods in the lower areas.  

Impact of Floods

  • Displacement: As a result of floods, there is large scale destruction of property. The affected people are displaced from their homes, dealing a blow to their financial security and future. These displacements not only led to economic loss, but also cause irreparable psychological damage to people.
  • Loss of agriculture: Heavy flooding in the agricultural fields causes large scale destruction of crops, apart from the loss of livestock due to lack of fodder. This is one of the primary reasons for farmers being unable to return the loans they have taken from banks or moneylenders.
  • Health: Floods cause accumulation of water for long times, which becomes a breeding ground for water-borne diseases such as jaundice, typhoid etc. Also, the lack of access and the large scale epidemics in the area, prevent medical assistance from reaching the needy.
  • Human trafficking:  Due to financial loss emanating from the loss of agriculture and livestock, many members of the family migrate to nearby urban areas, in search of better opportunities. Such people are vulnerable to forced labour. In the absence of subsistence money, women and children may be forced into prostitution. 
  • Loss of human life: Floods cause a large scale loss of human lives.

Measures against Floods

  • Policy measures: The government has setup various Commissions to tackle the menace of floods in the country.  
  • National Flood Commission (Rashtriya Barh Ayog), 1980: It was setup for data collection and to assess the occurrence of floods. It was also mandated to provide regulatory and administrative suggestions to reduce floods, as well as destruction caused by them.
  • R Rangachari Committee, 2003: It gave 207 recommendations to prevent occurrence of floods in the country, including flood damage assessment, unsustainable development in flood prone areas, lack of representative, scientific and credible infrastructure project etc.
  • National Water Policy (1987/2002/2012): The policies recognized the importance of sustainable development in order to reduce destruction caused by the over-exploitation of natural resources. The policies emphasized on creation of physical structures such as reservoirs, dykes, embankments etc. to prevent floods.
  • Central Water Commission (CWC): The government has established CWC with a mandate to collect flood data, apart from other functions. CWC monitors the level of water in river channels through its monitoring stations. This helps in predictions related to occurrence of floods in vulnerable regions.
  • Technical and Structural Measures:
  • Creation of Reservoirs: Reservoirs store water during periods of high discharge in the river. Moreover, the stored water is released after such conditions are over, in order to prepare for the next wave. At the same time, experts recommend creation of reservoirs behind the dam, to reduce sudden shocks due to flooding and absorption of silt.
  • Channelization of Rivers: Geologists recommend creation of a parallel channel for diverting extra water. This is akin to by-pass roads built to divert traffic from entering into the city. The channels improves the ability of water bodies to carry silt and helps in desilting and dredging, so that the river is able to carry its discharge.
    • Embankments: Similarly, creation of embankments along the river help to reduce spilling of flood water, by artificially raising the effective river banks.
  • Drainage Improvement: It involves constructing drains in flood prone areas, so that the flood water can be absorbed temporarily in these drains. However, storm drains need to be cleaned regularly, else they increase the risk of flooding in the urban areas.
  • Interlinking of rivers: In India, there is variability in the availability of water in different regions. Some regions are water surplus, while some are water scarce. To reduce this anomaly, the government is working on various interlinking projects, such as Ken-Betwa link and Krishna-Godavari link. By capitalizing on such interlinking, the water surplus areas of Assam and West Bengal can be connected to water scarce areas of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
  • Watershed Management: Experts recommend enhancement of vegetative cover, as well as construction of check dams and diversion channels to prevent floods. At the same time, in upper catchment areas, proper vegetation and grassland should be planted to reduce velocity of floods and arrest slit flow. This will protect areas in the later regions from being inundated by floods.
  • Administrative Measures:
  • Evacuation plans: There is a need to imbibe the importance of disaster-preparedness for reduction of damage due to occurrence of natural disasters. For instance, the district administration should be equipped with proper evacuation plans and implement them on a short notice. 
  • Flood Plain Zoning: It is the process of demarcation of high frequency flood areas, so as to impose restrictions on construction of assets and settlements, along the river channels and floodplains, in these areas. The floodplains are crucial and fragile environment ecosystems. Floodplain zoning recognizes the river’s ‘right of way’.
  • Flood Proofing: It consists of raising the ground level of flood prone villages and connecting them with all-weather roads. The houses should be built on raised platforms to save them from flash floods.
  • Adaptation to Floods: Floods have become part of life for many villages in north east, especially in Assam. As a result, people have started to take adaptation measures, on their own, in order to minimize damage caused by floods.
  • Raised houses: Construction of houses is now done on raised platforms in flood prone villages, to insulate them from high water level. Similarly, handpumps are also installed well above the ground, so that they can function during floods.
  • Agriculture: Farmers have started cultivating more crops and vegetables in Rabi season, to account for flooding during monsoons. Reports indicated that Rice, which is a Kharif crop and needs adequate water, is also being grown as Rabi crop. It is sown in November and harvested in March-April, insulating it from occurrence of floods.
  • Temporary shelter: To account for inadequacy of government shelters, which are usually situated far from villages, villages in flood prone areas have started to build temporary flood shelters in nearby villages, on raised lands. In times of need, affected people can quickly shift to these emergency shelters.


  • Due to its unique geography and varied topography, comprising Himalayas in the north, Thar desert in the west, the plains of Ganga and Brahmaputra in the Centre and Ocean in South, India is vulnerable to different types of disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, urban flooding, landslides, avalanches and forest fires, among others. There is a need for enhancing structural adequacy of vulnerable regions in order to save them from the impact of natural disasters like floods.

Practice Question

  • Discuss the recommendations of different Committees created to tackle the menace of floods in the country. Also, highlight the factors which make India vulnerable to natural disasters like floods.


  • Disaster preparedness is the first step in any disaster management process. Explain how hazard zonation mapping will help in disaster mitigation in the case of landslides. (GS3 – 2019)
  • The frequency of urban floods due to high intensity rainfall is increasing over the years. Discussing the reasons for urban floods. highlight the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events. (GS3 - 2016)



Topics covered from the syllabus:

  • GS-3: Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, - different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
  • GS-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

Context: Doubling farmers’ income was a key poll plank for the then NDA coalition, which came to power in 2014 and consolidated it in 2019. In an agricultural dependent economy like India, an increase in farmers’ income has the potential to improve the overall socio-economic situation of the country.

Measures and Schemes by Government

  • Ashok Dalwai Committee: In 2016, PM announced the government’s intention of doubling farmers’ income, before the country completes 75 years of independence, i.e. by 2022, compared to the income levels of 2015-16. To achieve this, an Inter-Ministerial Committee under Ashok Dalwai was created. It was mandated to examine issues relating to “Doubling Farmers’ Income”.
  • Recommendations: The Committee submitted its recommendations on doubling farmers’ income by the year 2022. The Committee recognized agriculture as a value-led enterprise and has identified seven major factors of growth:

o        Increase in crop productivity;

o        Increase in livestock productivity;

o        Resource use efficiency or savings in the cost of production;

o        Increase in the cropping intensity;

o        Diversification towards high value crops;

o        Improvement in real prices received by farmers; and

o        Shift from farm to non-farm occupations.

  • PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY): PMKSY was launched during the year 2015-16, with an aim to enhance access to on-farm water and to increase agricultural area under irrigation. It also seeks to improve on-farm water use efficiency and introduce sustainable water conservation practices in agriculture.
  • Soil Health Card: Soil health cards provide periodic recommendations on fertilizer use to the farmers, based on soil tests obtained from farmers’ land in the country. Is ensures that farmers know beforehand about the requirement of fertilizers as per the health of soil. It also gives an idea to the government about the required quantity of fertilizers, so that they are available in adequate quantity. In fact, to prevent misuse, diversion and overuse of urea, the government made neem-coating of urea mandatory.
  • PM Fasal Bima Yojana: The scheme provides insurance cover to the farmers. It provides cover for all stages of the crop cycle including post-harvest risks. A major share of premium is contributed by the Central and state government, so that the scheme does not prove burdensome for the farmers.
  • electronic National Agricultural Market (e-NAM): eNAM was introduced to allow the farmers to be benefitted from the advent of e-commerce markets in the digital world. It connects the mandis in India, allowing farmers to sell their produce across the country, thereby improving price discovery.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN): PM Kisan is a central sector scheme, launched in 2019, to supplement the financial needs of land-holding farmers. The scheme provides annual transfers of Rs. 6,000 to each farmer household, divided in three equal installments. The money is transferred into the bank accounts of farmers through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY): The scheme has been launched by the government for providing old age pension to farmers. Under this Scheme, a minimum fixed pension of Rs. 3,000 per month will be provided to the eligible small and marginal farmers, subject to certain conditions, on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • Corpus Funds: The government has created corpus funds for rapid infrastructure growth in agriculture. These funds include Micro Irrigation Fund worth Rs. 5,000 crores, Agri-marketing Fund worth Rs. 2,000 crores to strengthen eNAM and GrAMs, and Agricultural Infrastructure Fund (AIF), worth Rs. 1 lakh crore, to build agri-logistics (backward & forward linkages).

Challenges in Doubling Farmers’ Income

  • Estimation of Income: In the absence of data regarding farmers’ income, it is difficult to estimate the current level and its rise as compared to a reference period. However, it is not an easy task considering agricultural income is a sensitive political issue in the country. For instance, agricultural reform laws had to be repealed due to farmers’ protests.
  • Increase in Costs: Farmers have suffered from dual issue of stagnation in prices of crops as well as an increase in the cost of farming due to global rise in fuel prices. At the same time, the government has limited capacity to purchase grains from farmers. In fact, despite the presence of Minimum Support Price (MSP) being announced by the government, farmers are selling their produce much below the announced MSP.
  • Decrease in Investment: Farm sector has turned unattractive for the youth due to its low remuneration. As a result, the number of people employed in the farm sector is continuously decreasing. At the same time, private investment in the agri-sector remains low as compared to other sectors.
  • Infrastructural inadequacy: Farmers suffer from wastage of crops due to improper supply chains and inadequate storage. Similarly, in the absence of land leasing act, subletting of farmlands is not legal and prevents further investment in productivity. This is compounded by the low level of food processing in the country, leading to low agricultural incomes.
  • Climate Change: Climate change and the resulting natural disasters directly impact the agriculture sector, by destroying the crops and leading to losses for the farmers. There is a need to tackle the issue at the global level to maintain global food security.


  • Low level of farmers’ income is major source of agricultural distress and farmers’ suicide in India. It impacts almost half of India’s total households and endangers the overall food security of the country. There is a need to redouble the efforts in the direction of improving agricultural productivity and the remuneration of farmers.

Practice Question

  • Discuss the recommendations of the Ashok Dalwai Committee, amid the challenges of doubling farmers’ income in India.


  • How can the ‘Digital India’ programme help farmers to improve farm productivity and income? What steps has the Government taken in this regards? (GS3 - 2015)
  • ‘Despite implementation of various programmes for eradication of poverty by the government in India, poverty is still existing.’ Explain by giving reasons. (GS1 - 2018)