Does forest cover help prevent flood damage? Empirical evidence from India

Bhattacharjee, K. and Behera, B. | Global Environmental Change | 2018 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


Floods in India are regular phenomenon that occurs in almost all parts of the country, causing significant damage to human lives, assets and ecosystem. Rapid change in weather patterns and decline in forest cover are considered to be the main reasons for frequent floods and associated damage to both human and natural system. Does forest cover help prevent frequent occurrences of flood and reduce flood related damages? Empirical evidences on the flood protective role of forest cover do not give a clear picture. While few studies find a strong link between forest cover and reduced flood incidence, several other studies from across the globe have challenged this traditional notion of the protective role of forest cover. The present study makes an attempt to examine the association between forest cover and flood damage using data from Indian states and the flood affected districts of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, taking into account the social, economic, climatic and infrastructural parameters. The findings suggest that forest cover tends to reduce the extent of flood damage and hence has the ability to protect human lives and properties during flood events. It is essential that mitigation and adaptation strategies are shaped in a way that promotes preservation and regeneration of forest resources. Hence, the present study suggests adoption of ecosystem-based adaptation measures along with traditional hard structure flood prevention measures in order to prevent flood related damages effectively.