As the monsoon prepares to recede, India faces a mammoth recovery task from the worst floods in a decade. Over 3.4 crore people across 280 districts have been affected by floods that left more than 1,000 dead.
Very preliminary estimates indicate that over 3 lakh hectares of crops, mainly paddy, have been destroyed. Over 8 lakh homes, mostly kachcha units have been damaged or destroyed. An estimated 16,000 schools too have suffered damage. The vast network of state-run health centres in far-flung rural areas has also suffered extensive damage although concrete numbers are not available.
Records show this year's monsoon floods were the worst since 2007, when 4.1 crore people were affected.
The past few days have brought some respite as most rivers in UP, Bihar and West Bengal are now flowing at normal levels and rainfall too has been scattered or isolated, although it continues in Assam and adjoining states. Flood waters are reportedly receding across the affected swathe but lakhs of people continue to receive food and other essentials from relief camps and community kitchens set up by state governments.
The immediate issue will be preventing the spread of diseases, especially waterborne ones such as diarrhoea, and mosquito-borne ones like dengue, malaria and encephalitis, warn experts. Subsequently, the onerous task of recovery faces the affected people who are mostly dependent on agriculture.
The flooding was mainly in UP, Bihar, north Bengal, Odisha and Assam. Although most of these states received normal or even slightly below par rainfall this monsoon season, rivers flowing down from the Himalayas were in spate because of heavy rains in the mountains and upper catchment areas.
Excess rains caused unprecedented flooding in Gujarat, Rajasthan and parts of western Maharashtra, including Mumbai. IMD officials say that nearly all flood prone areas in the country have experienced flooding at some point this season.
The same rivers -Brahmaputra and Ganga with their numerous tributaries -which inundated the northern and eastern plains caused flooding in downstream Bangladesh, affecting 80 lakh people in 32 districts.
Meanwhile, upstream catchment areas falling in Nepal experienced some of the worst floods with 17 lakh people impacted in 35 districts of the country. Over 140 people have perished in the floods and an estimated $8.8 billion worth of crops destroyed, mainly in the terai districts of Nepal. While Pakistan has not been as extensively affected, 136 persons have lost their lives in heavy rains and floods in Sindh and Balochistan.
The death toll in these devastating floods across the subcontinent has crossed 1,200 and the population affected is 4.5 crore, according to UN agencies, making 2017 monsoon floods one of the most destructive in recent years.