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Urban Floods


  • Urban flooding is significantly different from rural flooding as urbanization leads to developed catchments, which increases the flood peaks from 1.8 to 8 times and flood volumes by up to 6 times. Consequently, flooding occurs very quickly due to faster flow times (in a matter of minutes). Urban areas are densely populated and people living in vulnerable areas suffer due to flooding, sometimes resulting in loss of life. It is not only the event of flooding but the secondary effect of exposure to infection also has its toll in terms of human suffering, loss of livelihood and, in extreme cases, loss of life.
  • Urban areas are also centres of economic activities with vital infrastructure which needs to be protected 24x7. In most of the cities, damage to vital infrastructure has a bearing not only for the state and the country but it could even have global implications. Major cities in India have witnessed loss of life and property, disruption in transport and power and incidence of epidemics. Therefore, management of urban flooding has to be accorded top priority.
  • Increasing trend of urban flooding is a universal phenomenon and poses a great challenge to urban planners the world over. Problems associated with urban floods range from relatively localized incidents to major incidents, resulting in cities being inundated from hours to several days. Therefore, the impact can also be widespread, including temporary relocation of people, damage to civic amenities, deterioration of water quality and risk of epidemics.

Do's and Dont's

Before floods

  • Do not litter waste, plastic bags, plastic bottles in drains
  • Try to be at home if high tide and heavy rains occur simultaneously
  • Listen to weather forecast at All India Radio, Doordarshan. Also, messages by Municipal bodies from time to time and act accordingly.
  • Evacuate low line areas and shift to safer places.
  • Make sure that each person has lantern, torch, some edibles, drinking water, dry clothes and necessary documents while evacuating or shifting.
  • Make sure that each family member has identity card.
  • Put all valuables at a higher place in the house.

In the Flood Situation

  • Obey orders by government and shift to a safer place.
  • Be at safe place and they try to collect correct information.
  • Switch of electrical supply and don’t touch open wires.
  • Don’t get carried away by rumors and don not spread rumors.


  • Switch off electrical and gas appliances, and turn off services off at the mains.
  • Carry your emergency kit and let your friends and family know where you are going.
  • Avoid contact with flood water it may be contaminated with sewage, oil, chemicals or other substances.
  • If you have to walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure that you do not step into deep water, open manholes or ditches.
  • Stay away from power lines electrical current can travel through water, Report power lines that are down to the power company.
  • Look before you step-after a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris, which may include broken bottles, sharp objects, nails etc. Floors and stairs covered with mud and debris can be slippery.
  • Listen to the radio or television for updates and information.
  • If the ceiling is wet shut off electricity. Place a bucket underneath the spot and poke a small hole into the ceiling to relieve the pressure.
  • Use buckets, clean towels and mops to remove as much of the water from the afflicted rooms as possible.
  • Place sheets of aluminium foil between furniture wet carpet.


  • Don't walk through flowing water - currents can be deceptive, and shallow, fast moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Don't swim through fast flowing water - you may get swept away or stuck by an object in the water.
  • Don't drive through a flooded area - You may not be able to see abrupt drop - offs and only half a meter of flood water can carry a car away. Driving through flood water can also cause additional damage to nearby property.
  • Don't eat any food that has come into contact with flood water.
  • Don't reconnect your power supply until a qualified engineer has checked it. Be alert for gas leaks - do not smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames.
  • Don't scrub or brush mud and other deposits from materials, This may cause further damage.
  • Never turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet. Stay away from ceilings those are sagging.
  • Never use TVs, VCRS, CRT terminals or other electrical equipment while standing on wet floors, especially concrete.
  • Don't attempt to remove standing water using your vacuum cleaner.
  • Don't remove standing water in a basement too fast. If the pressure is relieved too quickly it may put undue stress on the walls.

Recover and Build

After Floods

  • Drink chlorinated or boiled water.
  • Take clean and safe food
  • Sprinkle insecticides in the water ponds/ stagnant water.
  • Please cooperate with disaster survey team by giving correct information.

Emergency Kit

Prepare a safety kit which should include a torch, sheets/ blankets, waterproof clothing, battery-operated radio, bottled water, first-aid kit, medication, personal valuables and personal documentation.


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.

Urban Flood Risk in India

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.

Issues in Urban Flooding

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.

Storm water 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 storm water. 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.

Source: National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of India

Last Modified : 11/16/2023

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