The magnitude of a possible disaster as indicated by the periodic flood situation every monsoon can only be described as terrifying. Tuesday night’s unusually heavy torrents literally flooded half of Imphal, though thankfully the cloudburst did not last too long and the logged water had time to flow away considerably by morning, although not completely.
This is yet another caution as to how vulnerable the Imphal valley is. Just imagine what would have happened if the rains did not stop for another one week, a scenario not altogether impossible, in fact one which should be expected in the near future if the prediction of global warming and climate change by scientists is anything to go by. The floods caused would then be much more extensive. But more than this, in the event of a much larger volume of flood water inundating the valley, the second scenario is even more alarming.
Up to a certain level, the Loktak lake and other still existing natural wetlands can act as the reservoir and absorb flood waters. That is to say, only so long as the flood water volume is within this limit, flood waters would recede soon as the rains stop, and inundated farmlands and residences would be spared total destruction. But just suppose the flood water volume exceeds this limit in any given years. Since there is very little outflow of water away from the valley, the excess waters would have little or no place to drain away into, and farmlands and homesteads would remain inundated until the water evaporates. A glimpse of such a scenario is already available in the current floods. Long after the rains have ceased, many low lying areas as still flooded as the rivers that brought the waters are unable to reabsorb them. If the freak rains persist every year, then even before the previous years flood waters have receded, more would be incrementally added, ultimately water would reclaim much of the low lying areas, in much the same way it probably was in prehistoric and proto-historic times, memories of which are preserved in some of the folklores and legends of the place.
Even as much of the low lying coastal regions of the world, including Bangladesh, Netherlands, Florida etc, are swallowed up by the sea in the event of global warming leading to the melting of the polar ice caps, much of the Imphal valley too then would be an extended lake from permanent flood waters.
The moot point is, what possible remedies can there be? The first thing that most believers in a supernatural order would do is to pray that the unprecedented downpour this year was a freak occurrence and not a portent of things to come. But still, it would be prudent to prepare for the worst, even if one were to continue hoping for the best. The second, but a rather long term strategy would be to join the global effort to arrest climate change. This would entail first and foremost, trying to understand what this is all about. The last proposition that we would like to suggest has to do with the question of preparing for the worst case scenario.
The Imphal valley is at an altitude of over 2000 feet above mean sea level, which means that given the outlet, gravity would ensure that water drains out of the place. This fact itself should be capitalised into devising a way to ensure security of the valley from a future water disaster in the event of climate change. Apart from the river that flow out of the Loktak lake to ultimately join the river system in Myanmar and ultimately the sea, artificial tunnels of the Loktak Hydro Electric Plant use the same principle of gravity to divert water away from the lake to turn generation turbines and ultimately join the Barak River and the sea. Such artificial outlets could be made to have a double purpose – hydro electric generation as well as emergency water drainage. Just as for instance, the elaborate labyrinths of subway train tunnels deep down into the earth in many American and European cities, were also designed during the Cold War to couple up nuclear shelters in the eventuality of a nuclear holocaust which had become a real threat then. The nuclear holocaust did not happen, but the subway systems are not a waste because they are also fundamentally an important city transport infrastructure. Likewise, climate change and a subsequent water disaster may or may not be Imphal valley’s future, but the hydroelectric tunnels would still be performing their fundamental purpose of producing electricity.