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31st October – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Science of monsoons
  2. Time for a ‘sponge cities’ mission in India
  3. In defence of liberty

Science of monsoons

Context: The southwest monsoon 2020 has officially drawn to an end with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) declaring a withdrawal of the associated winds and rainfall pattern from India on Wednesday.


GS Paper 1: Salient Features of World Physical Geography; Important Geophysical phenomena (earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, cyclones);

Mains questions:

  1. What characteristics can be assigned to monsoon climate that succeeds in feeding more than 50 percent of the won population residing in Monsoon Asia? 15 marks
  2. India needs better science to prepare more effective disaster management plans and improve resilience in a warming world. Discuss in the context of uncertainty in Monsoon rainfall in India. 15 marks

Dimensions of the topic:

  • What is Monsoon?
  • What is long period average (LPA)?
  • Why is LPA important?
  • Climate change and Monsoon.
  • way forward

What is Monsoon?

Monsoon connotes the climate associated with seasonal reversal in the direction of winds. India has hot monsoonal climate which is the prevalent climate in south and southeast Asia.

See the source image

What is long period average (LPA)?

LPA is the average rainfall received by the country as a whole during the south-west monsoon, for a 50-year period. The current LPA is 89 cm, based on the average rainfall over years 1951 and 2000. This acts as a benchmark against which the rainfall in any monsoon season is measured.

Similarly, the country is said to have received excess rainfall if the rainfall is greater than 110 per cent of LPA. It is deemed ‘normal’ when the actual rainfall received falls between 96 and 104 per cent of LPA.

Why is LPA important?

The LPA uses a 50-year average because annual rainfall can be highly variable. The Indian Meteorological Department gives information related to day to day and month to month variations in rainfall. The farmers can take pre decision while showing the crops. It also helps in better urban planning to address the issues related to urban flood. Moreover,  A forecast from the IMD, therefore, is important for governments, businesses and the general public due to its importance for the Indian economy.

It is IMD’s forecast that prompts the Central and State governments to make their pre-monsoon preparation to deal with flooded drains, pot-holed roads or drought-afflicted farms.

Similarly, the Centre’s flood alerts and storm warnings are based on expected rainfall in relation to the LPA. Understanding the annual deviations from LPA helps shed light on the extent to which climate change and seasonal aberrations such as El Nino are impacting India’s rainfall patterns.

Climate change and Monsoon:

Indian monsoon depends multiple factors like El Nino, Jet stream, Tibetan Plateau, Inter tropical convergence zone, temperature of ocean etc. All these factors are directly related to climate change therefore climate change has negative impact on monsoon i.e.  For the first time since 2010, India got more than 100% of its long period average (LPA) of 88 cm in consecutive years. Last year the country saw record rainfall of 110% of the LPA, the highest in a quarter century. India has never got over 105% of the LPA in consecutive years in at least 30 years, according to records available since 1988 on the IMD website.

From last two years, India received more rain, it also implies floods, overflowing dams, landslides and loss of lives. Moreover, surplus rains are not evenly distributed in time and space. Therefore, much like there are attempts to improve flood forecast warnings — especially the short-term ones — there ought to be commensurate efforts by authorities and infrastructure agencies to prepare for the environmental and ecological impact of excess rain.

Way forward:

There have been significant investments in super computing infrastructure to simulate weather as well as to tune forecasts to go beyond just giving rainfall estimates and factor in the potential damage of floods and cyclones. Building on these, scientists must also put in more effort and design research programmes that better analyse the vagaries of the northeast monsoon. Along with more understanding of how climate is changing locally, India needs better science to prepare more effective disaster management plans and improve resilience in a warming world.


1: El Nino and Indian Monsoon:

EI-Nino is a complex weather system that appears once every three to seven years, bringing drought, floods and other weather extremes to different parts of the world.

The system involves oceanic and atmospheric phenomena with the appearance of warm currents off the coast of Peru in the Eastern Pacific and affects weather in many places including India. EI-Nino is merely an extension of the warm equatorial current which gets replaced temporarily by cold Peruvian current or Humbolt current (locate these currents in your atlas). This current increases the temperature of water on the Peruvian coast by 10°C. This results in:

  • The distortion of equatorial atmospheric circulation;
  • Irregularities in the evaporation of sea water;
  • Reduction in the amount of planktons which further reduces the number of fish in the sea.

The word EI-Nino means ‘Child Christ’ because this current appears around Christmas in December. December is a summer month in Peru (Southern Hemisphere). EI-Nino is used in India for forecasting long range monsoon rainfall. In 1990-91, there was a wild EI-Nino event and the onset of southwest monsoon was delayed over most parts of the country ranging from five to twelve days.

See the source image

2: Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is a low pressure zone located at the equator where trade winds converge, and so, it is a zone where air tends to ascend. In July, the ITCZ is located around 20°N-25°N latitudes (over the Gangetic plain), sometimes called the monsoon trough. This monsoon trough encourages the development of thermal low over north and northwest India. Due to the shift of ITCZ, the trade winds of the southern hemisphere cross the equator between 40° and 60°E longitudes and start blowing from southwest to northeast due to the Coriolis force. It becomes southwest monsoon. In winter, the ITCZ moves southward, and so the reversal of winds from northeast to south and southwest, takes place. They are called northeast monsoons.

Time for a ‘sponge cities’ mission in India

Context: Untimely, excessive rainfall, as in Hyderabad and Pune, is here to stay. It’s time to plan for vagaries of weather, build resilience.


GS Paper 1: Urbanization: problems and remedies

GS Paper 3: Disasters & Disaster Management (Urban Flood)

Mains questions

1: Major cities of India are becoming more vulnerable to flood conditions. Discuss. 15 marks

2: The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it. Discuss the statement in context of Urban Flood in India. 15 marks

3: The frequency of urban floods due to high intensity rainfall is increasing over the years. Discussing the reasons for urban floods, highlight the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events. 15 marks

Dimensions of the article:

  • What is urban flood?
  • What are the causes of urban flood in India?
  • Consequences of Urban Flooding.
  • Measures to address the Urban Flood.
  • Way forward

What is urban flood?

Urban flooding is not just “flooding that happens in an urban area.” This isn’t what happens when a river overflows its banks or when a cyclones drives a storm surge across a coastal neighbourhood. Instead, it’s caused by excessive runoff in developed areas where the water doesn’t have anywhere to go e.g. Floods of Chennai (December 2015), the Kashmir Floods (2014), the Surat Floods (2006) and the Mumbai Floods (2005 & 2017), Hyderabad flood reflect the vulnerability of our Cities.

What are the causes of Urban flood in India?

Flooding in the cities and the towns is a recent phenomenon caused by

  • Increasing incidence of heavy rainfall in a short period of time,
  • Indiscriminate encroachment of waterways,
  • Inadequate capacity of drains and lack of maintenance of the drainage infrastructure.
  • Disappearing of lakes, pond and other water bodies from the cities.
  • Deforestation, which causes loss of absorption of water during the rainfall.
  • Poor management in drainage system in urban cities.
See the source image

Consequences of Urban Flood:

Urban Flooding has localized impacts on commercial, industrial, business, residential and institutional locations. Disruption of water supply, sewerage, power supply and communications is common. Shutdown of commercial, industrial and business activity and loss to property and assets is often observed. Disruption of traffic – road, rail and air is frequent. New slums come up in areas which are not approved.

See the source image

Measures to address Urban flood: In order to check the threat of urban flooding, each city should have their Flood mitigation plans (floodplain, river basin, surface water, etc.) strongly integrated with the overall land use policy and master plan of a city. The following three phases of disaster management for effective and efficient response to urban flooding include:

  • Pre-Monsoon Phase (Preparedness): It involves an estimation of emergency needs, familiarization of the stakeholders, particularly the communities through training and simulation exercises, identification of Teams for maintaining the drains and roads and conducting exercises for prevention of water logging/ inundation.
  • During Monsoon Phase (Early Warning & Effective Response): It includes timely, qualitative and quantitative warnings based on the intensity of rainfall to various agencies to take preventive measures. The Response phase focuses primarily on emergency relief: saving lives, providing first aid, minimizing and restoring damaged systems (communications and transportation), meeting the basic life requirements of those impacted by disaster (food, water, and shelter), and providing mental health and spiritual support and comfort care.
  • Post Monsoon Phase: Restoration and Re-habilitation phase includes establishment of a programme to restore both the disaster site and the damaged materials to a stable and usable condition.
  • Idea of sponge city: The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it. Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers. This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells. This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
  • Watershed management and emergency drainage plan: This should be clearly enunciated in policy and law. Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.
  • Ban against terrain alteration:  Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering drainage routes therefore terrain alteration needs to be strictly regulated and a ban on any further alteration of terrain needs to be introduced.

Way forward:

We must not allow nature, human conduct, and urbanisation to be mystified and rendered as trans-historic villains. We can learn to live with nature, we can regulate human conduct through the state and we can strategically design where we build. We need to urgently rebuild our cities such that they have the sponginess to absorb and release water without causing so much misery and so much damage to the most vulnerable of our citizens, as we have seen.


1: NDMA Guidelines on Urban Flood:

  • Early Warning System and Communication: National Hydro-meteorological Network and Doppler Weather Radars can provide and a lead time of 3 to 6 hours. Once flood warning is generated, it must be communicated to public in an effective manner.
  • Design and Management of Urban Drainage: Rapid urbanisation has resulted in increased impermeable surfaces in the form of pavements, roads and built-up areas, thereby reducing the infiltration and natural storage.
    • Drainage System: A proper inventory of water supply system with details of all pumping, storage etc. must be maintained, particularly of the minor drainage systems.
    • Catchment as a basis of design: As run off processes are independent of states and city administrative boundaries outlines of drainage divides must be depend on watershed delineation.
    • Contour Data: Accurate contours are necessary for determining the boundaries of a watershed/ catchment and for computing directions of flow.
    • Design Flow: Estimation of peak flow rates for adequate sizing and quantity control facilities.
    • Removal of Solid Waste: Most towns and cities have open surface drains besides the road, into which there is unauthorized public disposal of waste. Solid waste increases hydraulic roughness, causes blockage and generally reduces flow capacity.
    • Drain Inlet Connectivity: It is seen that the inlets to drain the water from the roads into the roadside drains are either not properly aligned or non-existent leading to severe waterlogging on the roads.
    • Rain Gardens: Rain gardens consist of a porous soil covered with a thin layer of mulch. Stormwater runoff is directed into the facility, allowed to pond and infiltrates through the plant/mulch/soil environment.
  • Vulnerability Analysis and Risk Assessment: Identification of areas at risk, classification of structures according to function and estimation of risk for each structure and function using Hazard Risk Zoning.
  • Urban Flooding Cells: A separate Urban Flooding Cell (UFC) will be constituted within MoUD which will coordinate all UFDM activities at the national level. ULBs will be responsible for the management of urban flooding at the local level.
  • Response: Emergency Operation Centres, Incident Response System, flood shelters, search and rescue operations, emergency logistics are some key action areas of flood response mechanism.
  • Sanitation: Diseases like malaria, dengue and cholera can spread if adequate sanitation and disinfection are not carried out.
  • Capacity Development, Awareness Generation and Documentation: Participatory urban flood planning and management involving both local government and the community

In Defence of Liberty

Context: A middle-school teacher in France, Samuel Paty, is beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet as part of a class on free expression. Subsequently, three more people are killed.


GS Paper 2: Historical underpinnings & evolution; Features, amendments, significant provisions, basic structure; Comparison of Indian constitutional scheme with other countries’

Mains questions:

1: Politically mobilised, fanatical religion has often not been safe for individual freedom, whether it is a form of Islam, Christian or Buddhist fundamentalism or Hindu nationalism. Discuss the statement in context of recent terrorist attack in France. 15 marks.

2: Better laws and a change in judicial approach are necessary for liberty to not remain merely a lofty, theoretical ideal. Elaborate. 15 marks

3: What is meant by freedom of expression? What in your view would be a reasonable restriction on this freedom? Give examples. 15 marks

Dimensions of the article:

  • What is liberty?
  • Historical importance of liberty in Indian context.
  • What are the ideals of Liberty?
  • Negative and positive liberty.
  • What are the challenges related to Liberty?
  • Way forward

What is liberty?

freedom is the absence of constraint and it allows the full development of the individual’s creativity, sensibilities and capabilities: be it in sports, science, art, music or exploration. Moreover, a free society is one that enables one to pursue one’s interests with a minimum of constraints.

Historical importance of liberty in Indian context:

A concept analogous to Freedom in Indian political thought is ‘Swaraj’. The term Swaraj incorporates within it two words — Swa (Self) and Raj (Rule). It can be understood to mean both the rule of the self and rule over self. Swaraj, in the context of the freedom struggle in India referred to freedom as a constitutional and political demand, and as a value at the social-collective level.

Mahatma Gandhi in his work Hind Swaraj where he states, “It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves”. Swaraj is not just freedom but liberation in redeeming one’s self-respect, self-responsibility, and capacities for self-realisation from institutions of dehumanisation.

Ideals of liberty:

The Preamble of Indian constitution well defined the ideals of liberty that are liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.

  • Liberty of thoughts: It is fundamental to human being, so that they can develop free ideas and imagination about their life moreover they are free to take decisions as per their will without harming to others. Moreover it helps to develop new ideas and becomes the basis of scientific and cultural evolution.
  • Liberty of expression: John Stuart Mill gave four reasons to uphold liberty of expression:
    • No idea is completely false. What appears to us as false has an element of truth. If we ban ‘false’ ideas, we would lose that element of truth that they contain.
    • Truth does not emerge by itself. It is only through a conflict of opposing views that truth emerges. Ideas that seem wrong today may have been very valuable in the emergence of what we consider right kind of ideas.
    • Truth always runs the risk of being reduced to an unthinking cliché. It is only when we expose it to opposing views that we can be sure that this idea is trustworthy.
    • A society that completely suppresses all ideas that are not acceptable today, runs the danger of losing the benefits of what might turn out to be very valuable knowledge.
  • Liberty of belief, faith and worship: These fundamental values give sense of security to humans so that they can do religious practices as per their will.

Negative and positive liberty:

Negative liberty: it  seeks to define and defend an area in which the individual would be inviolable, in which he or she could ‘do, be or become’ whatever he or she wished to ‘do, be or become’. This is an area in which no external authority can interfere. It is a minimum area that is sacred and in which whatever the individual does, is not to be interfered with. It is an inviolable area of non-interference in which the individual can express himself or herself.

Positive liberty: Positive liberty recognises that one can be free only in society (not outside it) and hence tries to make that society such that it enables the development of the individual whereas negative liberty is only concerned with the inviolable area of non-interference and not with the conditions in society, outside this area, as such.

Challenges related to liberty: Liberty has two dimensions positive and negative liberty. Negative liberty defines the area which is inviolable and individual can enjoy absolute freedom and positive liberty defines the area of society in which individual should respects the rights of others.

  • State vs individual: Sometime in the name of national security, the state tries to curtail the individual liberty e.g. sometime the authority misuse the section 124A of IPC, which is related to sedition charges.
  • Aadhar Act:  The people share their personal information to authority. This information is directly related to individual dignity. Moreover authority can be misuse this information which is against the liberty.
  • State vs religion: Sometime, In the name of secularism, the state curtail the individual freedom e.g. the France govt banned the burkha. Which goes the rights of minority community.

Way forward

Liberty embodies our capacity to make the right choices, to assess in a reasoned manner available options, and shoulder the responsibility of our actions, have to be built through education and cultivation of judgement just as much as it needs to be nurtured by limiting the authority of the state and the society.


1: RIGHT TO FREEDOM (Indian constitution)

Art. 19 – Freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, movement, residence, and profession.

Art. 20 – Protection in respect of conviction for offenses.

Art. 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty. Art. 21A – Right to elementary education.

Art. 22 – Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.

June 2024