Need to better forecast systems, PM Modi after reviewing flood situation in Kerala, other states

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday underlined the need for a better coordination between all the central and state agencies to have a permanent system for forecasting of floods.

He also stressed on extensive use of innovative technologies for improving the forecast-and-warning system.

The prime minister made these remarks at a virtual meeting with the chief ministers and representatives of six states to review the flood situation in various parts of the country.

The states that attended the meeting, which was convened to review their preparedness to deal with the southwest monsoon and the current flood situation in the country, were Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said at the meeting, Modi highlighted that the investments in localised early warning systems should be increased so that the people of an area can be cautioned on time in case of a threatening situation such as breached river embankments, inundation or lightning.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar drew the prime minister's attention to the alleged non-cooperation of Nepal in managing floods that have ravaged the state's northern districts.

Rivers originating in the neighbouring country have inundated several districts in Bihar.

Kumar said the state authorities are "not receiving full cooperation from Nepal for the past few years" and sought the Centre's intervention in the matter.

According to a statement issued by the Maharashtra government, it demanded setting up of a committee under the prime minister for tackling crisis situations in states and ensuring a better coordination.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also sought an immediate central assistance for Maharashtra in view of the June 3 Cyclone Nisarga that caused widespread damage in the state's coastal districts and the August 5 downpour and heavy winds that battered Mumbai.

The Karnataka government said it requested the prime minister to provide an additional special assistance of Rs 4,000 crore to handle the flood situation in the southern state.

Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said according to an initial assessment, the state had suffered a loss of Rs 4,000 crore due to the floods. "It is a preliminary estimate because the rains are continuing. A proper survey has to be done," he said.

The home minister represented Karnataka at the virtual meet as Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is suffering from COVID-19. He was discharged from the hospital on Monday.

The meet, which lasted for nearly an hour and a half, was also attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Ministers of State for Home Nityanand Rai and G Kishan Reddy, and senior officers of the central ministries and organisations concerned.

The prime minister asserted that in view of the COVID-19 situation, the states must ensure that people follow all health precautions such as wearing of face masks, hand sanitisation and maintaining an adequate physical distance with each other while undertaking rescue efforts.

He said the relief material must include provisions for hand washing and sanitising and face masks for the affected people.

Special provisions should be made for elderly people, pregnant women and people with co-morbidities, he observed.

Modi said the states should ensure that all development and infrastructure projects are built with resilience to withstand local disasters and help reduce the consequential losses.

The prime minister pointed out that over the last few years, forecasting agencies such as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the Central Water Commission (CWC) are making concerted efforts to make better and more usable flood forecasts.

They are trying to provide not only rainfall and river-level forecasts, but also location-specific forecasts of inundation, he added.

Pilot projects are underway to use innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence to improve the location-specific forecasts, for which the states should provide the necessary information to these agencies and timely disseminate the warnings to the local communities, Modi said.

"The prime minister emphasised on better coordination between all central and state agencies to have a permanent system for forecasting of floods and extensive use of innovative technologies for improving forecast and warning system," the PMO statement said.

The chief ministers of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala and the home minister of Karnataka gave updates on the flood situation and rescue efforts in their respective states, according to the statement.

They lauded the efforts of central agencies, including the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), for a timely deployment of teams and rescuing people.

The states also put forward some suggestions for short-term and long-term measures to mitigate the effects of floods.

The prime minister directed officials to take action on the suggestions.

He said the Centre will continue to provide support to the states and Union territories to strengthen their capabilities in dealing with various disasters.

According to those present at the meet, Modi said he would have visited all the states but could not due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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