General Studies IIIDisaster Management

Flood Plain Zoning


Recently, the Ministry of Jal Shakti has informed the Rajya Sabha that the states of Manipur, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir had enacted the National Floodplains Zoning Policy.

About Flood Plain Zoning:

  • Flood plain zoning is a system for setting the level of flooding risk for different areas of a country.
  • Flood plain zoning means dividing the entire flood area into different zones and to restrict the occupancy of the different zones of the flood plain o uses which will suffer little or no damage during floods
  • It is non structural flood mitigation measures.
  • Governments can then make laws regarding development work in the different zones.

Objectives of flood plain zoning

  • To restrict the encroachment of the zone which frequently comes under the influence of flood
  • To direct selected activities in the zone which come under the influence of the flood less frequently in such manner that they are susceptible to flood damage
  • To demarcate the zones which are subjected to flood only on rare occasions.


  • Determining Developmental Activities: It aims at determining the locations and the extent of areas for developmental activities in such a fashion that the damage is reduced to a minimum.
    • Adds Limitations: It envisages laying down limitations on development of both the unprotected as well as protected areas.
      • In the unprotected areas, boundaries of areas in which developmental activities will be banned, are to be established to prevent indiscriminate growth.
      • In the protected areas, only such developmental activities can be allowed, which will not involve heavy damage in case the protective measures fail.
    • Utility: Zoning cannot remedy existing situations, although, it will definitely help in minimising flood damage in new developments.
      • Flood plain zoning is not only necessary in the case of floods by rivers but it is also useful in reducing the damage caused by drainage congestion particularly in urban areas.

What is India’s Status of Vulnerability to Floods:

  • India’s high risk and vulnerability is highlighted by the fact that 40 million hectares out of a geographical area of 3290 lakh hectares is prone to floods.
  • On an average every year, 75 lakh hectares of land is affected, 1600 lives are lost and the damage caused to crops, houses and public utilities is Rs. 1805 crores due to floods.

What is a Model Bill for Flood Plain Zoning?

  • About: 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.
    • It seeks 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.
  • Challenges in Implementation:
    • There has been resistance on the part of the states to follow-up the various aspects of floodplain management including possible legislation.
      • The reluctance of the states is mainly due to population pressure and want of alternative livelihood systems.
    • The lukewarm response of the states towards the enactment and enforcement of the floodplain regulations has fuelled a significant increase in the encroachments into the flood plains, sometimes authorised and duly approved by the town planning authorities.

Constitutional Provisions and Other Measures

  • Based on the inclusion of drainage and embankments as entry 17 of List II (State List), flood control has been seen to fall under the purview of the state government, except in the case of “regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys,” which is mentioned in entry 56 of List I (Union List).
    • Floodplain zoning is firmly within the state government’s ambit as it deals with the land along the riverbanks and land is a state subject under entry 18 of List II.
    • The central government’s role can only be to issue advisories and prescribe guidelines.
  • Flood control and mitigation are not directly mentioned in any of the three legislative lists included in the seventh schedule Constitution.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in 2008 has issued guidelines for states for floodplain zoning as an important “non-structural measure” to mitigate floods.
    • It suggested that areas likely to be affected by floods in a frequency of 10 years should be reserved for green areas like parks, gardens and others while concrete structures should not be allowed there.
    • It also talked about other zones in the floodplain like in areas of flooding in a 25-year frequency and asked states to make plans accordingly in those areas.

Source: PIB

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