Disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and it causes loss of life or property or both and has impact on environment. Disaster can be Natural or Man-made. Natural disasters are result of any natural hazards such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, volcano eruptions, etc. Man-made disasters are caused by humans and occur in or close to human settlements. This can include environmental degradation, pollution and accidents.

A disaster occurs when a hazard impacts on vulnerable people. The combination of hazards, vulnerability and inability to reduce the potential negative consequences of risk results in disaster. 

(Vulnerability  Hazard)/Capacity = Disaster     

Punjab is vulnerable to various types of hazards. The following are the major disasters faced in the state:

  • Atmospheric & Geological Events: A major part of geographical area of the state is prone to floods although substantial part has been protected through flood control measures. Other occasional events like hailstorms, lightening, squall, thunderstorm, heat Wave, cold Wave, dustorm etc. cause huge damages to the standing crops.

In Punjab, damages due to floods are caused mainly by the river Ravi, Sutlej and Ghaggar, which a common delta where floodwaters blend and cause damage. The problem is further accentuated when flood synchronises with high tide. The site deposited constantly by these rivers in the delta area raises the bed levels and the rivers often overflow their banks or break through new channels causing heavy damages.

Punjab state lies in zone III and IV which are broadly associated with seismic intensity on VII and VIII on MMI scale respectively. As per earthquake hazard zoning map, about 50 per cent area in north Punjab, comprising Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Patiala and Rupnagar districts is zone IV liable to MSK intensity 8 and about 45 per cent in zone III could have intensity 7 on the Richter scale.

  • Water Logging: The water table is rising in south-western districts of the state due to limited or non-extraction of groundwater because of blackish/saline quality, which makes it unfit for domestic, irrigation and other purposes which causes water logging.

The topography of the entire area of Muktsar and Malout, which is saucer shape and impedes surface drainage system both natural and artificial, the constant seepage from the twin canals and return flow from canal irrigation, are some of other contributory factors towards creating water logging problem.

  • Drought: The primary causes of drought include low rainfall or inadequate snow pack the preceding winter. However, other factors may also contribute to drought conditions including land degradation and an increase in water demand. An increase in water demand may be a result of increased population or industry, but can also result from water used for fire fighting. Technological failure of human-built water supply system can also lead to drought like conditions, through this is often of a localized nature.

  • Desertification & Soil Erosion: The desertification in Punjab is due to faulty agriculture practices such as excessive use of fertilizers and improper irrigation techniques and without proper long-term soil conservation strategy.

Further, the state also has problem of soil erosion due to intensive cultivation, deforestation and destruction of the natural vegetation by grazing or other means. The Kandi tract in Rupnagar district of Punjab state has undulating topography, inadequate ground water, steep slopes, bare land surface and, thus, severe problems of soil erosion. 

Mitigation and Preparedness Plan

The State Plan for preparedness and mitigation attempts to protect the lives and properties of the people of Punjab from potentially devastating hazards. Structural Mitigation and Non-Structural Mitigation measures are suggested in the preparedness and mitigation plan. Structural mitigation includes retrofitting, afforestation, multi-purpose dams, watershed management, and improvement in drainage efficiency, desiltation of stream beds, check on encroachment, and check on disposal, improving the Capacities of Bridges/Aqueducts, intra and inter-State Coordination, water harvesting measures, etc. Non-Structural Mitigation includes Sensitization/Awareness Campaigns, Training and Capacity Building, Flood Plain zoning, Flood Proofing, Flood Fighting, Early Warning and Dissemination System, etc.