Natural Hazards in India and Their Impact on Environment!
In every part of the world, several natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, cyclones, landslides, floods, droughts and famines, have had their impact on environment.
Sometimes their impact is sudden and normal but often it is adverse not only to man but also to the environment and therefore are termed as natural hazards, environmental hazards, environmental stresses, environmental disasters, extreme events, etc. These natural hazards are common in various parts of India.
Since India is not located in the volcanic zone, volcanic eruption is not common. But, in November-December 1991, at Andaman Island, a dormant volcano became active and caused damage to vegetation, marine life and also polluted the atmosphere. The incidence of landslide is common in hilly areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Similarly, coastal regions are susceptible to cyclonic storms, which cause massive destruction of life and property as well as to vegetation. The coastal regions of Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu often face the problem of cyclones.
In India, earthquake-affected areas include Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and the north-eastern states. These are located in the foothills of Himalayas, while there are other states, such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, which are also affected by earthquakes.
The impact of earthquakes on environment is much more in the form of destruction of flora and fauna, occurrence of rifts and cracks in land, change in course of rivers, cracks in dams and a great loss of man and property, depending upon the intensity of the quake. On 11 October 1937, an earthquake claimed the lives of over 3 lakh people.
Other important earthquakes have occurred on 30 May 1885 in Kashmir, 12 June 1887 at Shillong, 15 June 1870 in Kacch, 4 April 1905 in Kangra Valley, 5 January 1934 in Bihar, 15 August 1995 in Assam, 11 December 1967 at Koyana (Maharashtra), 21 August 1988 at Darbhanga (Bihar), 20 October 1991 in Uttar Kashi, 30 September 1993 and 26 January, 2001 in Maharashtra, etc.
In India, occurrence of floods during the monsoon season is very common. Floods are very common in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. In India, the total area affected by floods is about 1.37 million hectares, while the total affected crop area 157.6 million hectares. Effective flood control measures, such as utilisation of flood water by construction of small dams, afforestation in catchment area and construction of channels, etc., can minimise its hazardous effect.
While a good monsoon becomes a cause of floods in India, the failure of monsoon is responsible for drought resulting in famines. Droughts in turn become cause of environmental degradation. The famine that occurred in year 1899, known as Chappania Akkal, is well known in the history of India, because of its widespread impact and death of several lakhs of people. A similar famine occurred in 1917.
In 1986-87, about two-third of the country was under the grip of famine. The worst hit area is Rajasthan, where famine often occurs due to desertic conditions and failure of monsoon. During the last 20 years, Rajasthan has had famine in 16 years. The development of irrigation facilities and proper water management can help solve this problem.