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Last Updated: Friday, 3 August 2007, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
South Asia considers flood lessons
By Jill McGivering
BBC News

The areas worst affected by the severe monsoon flooding in South Asia are some of the poorest and the least able to cope.

Bangladeshis carry relief supplies as they wade through floodwaters in Sirajgonj (3 August 2007)
Nearly 20 million people have been displaced by the severe flooding

Their generally bad infrastructure has suffered a major blow.

Aid workers have said it will take as long as a year for these communities to recover.

Crops have been destroyed - already about five million hectares of farmland, mostly rice paddy, is under water. Some has been contaminated, for example by sand.

The flood water has also inflicted long-term damage on water sources.

Flood management debate

The flooding is an annual event in the region, although it has been more severe this year.

map of India, Nepal and Bangladesh
India: 125 people killed and 12 million stranded, mostly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam
Bangladesh: 64 people killed and seven million marooned
Nepal: Thousands of people displaced in the south

But the massive impact has also raised questions about whether the region's flood management is adequate, and whether development money thrown at the problem has been well-spent.

A lot has been invested in embankments and dykes, but there is a wider debate about how effective they prove.

Some say they form a useful barrier at times of average rainfall, but that they can be counter-productive when the rain is exceptional.

Once the flood water penetrates the barrier, they say, it cannot recede again easily.

Residual stagnant water does more damage to crops and can lead to health problems.

There are also questions about how well the embankments have been maintained.

Population density

Some argue that local people have not been given enough say in the placing of flood defences.

Mules carry construction materials across the Tawi River in India (23 July 2007)
Roads have been washed away by swollen rivers

Communities that have lived on the flood plains for generations may have evolved their own strategies that are not always taken into account, or may have been disrupted by land reclamation schemes and new building.

Population density adds to the problem.

Because of the competition for land, more people now live in areas prone to flooding.

New building projects often do not include the extra investment needed to make sure they are properly flood-friendly.

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30 Jul 07 |  South Asia
Gujarat placed on flood red alert
10 Jul 07 |  South Asia
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13 Jul 07 |  South Asia
Pakistan flood toll rises to 240
03 Jul 07 |  South Asia


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