National Disaster Management Authority Government of India


As a part of its mandate, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has made efforts to prepare the National Guidelines on Management of Urban Flooding. Even though urban flooding has been experienced over decades in India but sufficient attention was not given to plan specific efforts to deal with it. In the past, any strategy on flood disaster management largely focused on riverine floods affecting large extents of rural areas. Mumbai floods of July 2005 turned out to be an eye-opener. Realizing that the causes of urban flooding are different and so also are the strategies to deal with them, NDMA has for the first time decided to address urban flooding as a separate disaster, delinking it from floods.


There has been an increasing trend of urban flood disasters in India over the past several years whereby major cities in India have been severely affected. The most notable amongst them are Hyderabad in 2000, Ahmedabad in 2001, Delhi in 2002 and 2003, Chennai in 2004, Mumbai in 2005, Surat in 2006, Kolkata in 2007, Jamshedpur in 2008, Delhi in 2009 and Guwahati and Delhi in 2010.

A special feature in India is that we have heavy rainfall during monsoons. There are other weather systems also that bring in a lot of rain. Storm surges can also affect coastal cities/ towns. Sudden release or failure to release water from dams can also have severe impact. In addition, the urban heat island effect has resulted in an increase in rainfall over urban areas. Global climate change is resulting in changed weather patterns and increased episodes of high intensity rainfall events occurring in shorter periods of time. Then the threat of sea-level rise is also looming large, threatening all the coastal cities. Cities/towns located on the coast, on river banks, upstream/ downstream of dams, inland cities and in hilly areas can all be affected.


Among the important cities of India, the average annual rainfall varies from 2932 mm in Goa and 2401 mm in Mumbai on the higher side, to 669 mm in Jaipur on the lower side. The rainfall pattern and temporal duration is almost similar in all these cities, which receive the maximum rainfall from the south-west monsoons. The average rainfall for the month of July in Mumbai is 868 mm and this far exceeds the annual average rainfall of 611 mm in London.

Stormwater drainage systems in the past were designed for rainfall intensity of 12 – 20 mm. These capacities have been getting very easily overwhelmed whenever rainfall of higher intensity has been experienced. Further, the systems very often do not work to the designed capacities because of very poor maintenance. Encroachments are also a major problem in many cities and towns. Natural streams and watercourses have formed over thousands of years due to the forces of flowing water in the respective watersheds. Habitations started growing into towns and cities alongside rivers and watercourses. As a result of this, the flow of water has increased in proportion to the urbanization of the watersheds. Ideally, the natural drains should have been widened (similar to road widening for increased traffic) to accommodate the higher flows of stormwater. But on the contrary, there have been large scale encroachments on the natural drains and the river flood plains. Consequently the capacity of the natural drains has decreased, resulting in flooding. Improper disposal of solid waste, including domestic, commercial and industrial waste and dumping of construction debris into the drains also contributes significantly to reducing their capacities. It is imperative to take better operations and maintenance actions.