"People have deep ties to where they live; you cannot move everyone affected by floods to higher ground"
By Rina Chandran
MUMBAI, India, Sept 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The western Indian state of Gujarat will move 15 villages that were affected by floods this year to higher ground, officials said, as they look for new ways to tackle the increasing frequency and intensity of flooding.
Villages in northern Banaskantha and Patan districts will be moved within a 10 km (6 miles) radius of their existing locations after consultation with residents, state Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told reporters.
"These villages are in low-lying areas and were affected by similar floods in 2015. They will now be moved to higher ground in a nearby location," he said.
The state will offer financial support to rebuild homes and also build schools and other facilities, he added.
The relocation will be modelled after a similar move following a massive earthquake in 2001 that levelled several villages in the state and killed thousands, Patel said.
Heavy monsoon rains in South Asia this year triggered the worst floods in a decade in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, killing hundreds of people and affecting tens of millions.
India has the most exposure to damage from river flooding, according to research organisation World Resources Institute.
While monsoon rains trigger floods in northern and eastern India every year, Gujarat state, which is in a semi-arid region, has also experienced floods more frequently in recent years as warming temperatures bring heavier rains.
Analysts have criticised the government's flood mitigation measures, including massive embankments and river linking schemes they say will only exacerbate the damage.
An official audit of India's flood management schemes over the last decade found they lacked forecasting mechanisms, preemptive safety measures and effective post-flood management.
Dinesh Mishra from the non-government organisation Barh Mukti Abhiyan, which works with communities in flood-prone areas, said officials in Gujarat must not coerce people into moving, and need to ensure residents are given adequate compensation for any losses suffered due to the move.
"Relocation may be a solution in Gujarat, where there is land, but what about other states where there is nowhere to go?," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"People have deep ties to where they live; you cannot move everyone affected by floods to higher ground."
(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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