What are the negative social impacts of flooding?

Flooding of areas used for socio-economic activities produces a variety of negative impacts. The magnitude of adverse impacts depends on the vulnerability of the activities and population and the frequency, intensity and extent of flooding. Some of these factors are shown below;

Loss of lives and property: Immediate impacts of flooding include loss of human life, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, non-functioning of infrastructure facilities and deterioration of health condition owing to waterborne diseases. Flash floods, with little or no warning time, cause more deaths than slow-rising riverine floods.

Loss of livelihoods: As communication links and infrastructure such as power plants, roads and bridges are damaged and disrupted, economic activities come to a standstill, resulting in dislocation and the dysfunction of normal life for a period much beyond the duration of the flooding. Similarly, the direct effect on production assets, be it in agriculture or industry, can inhibit regularly activity and lead to loss of livelihoods. The spill over effects of the loss of livelihoods can be felt in business and commercial activities even in adjacent non-flooded areas.

Decreased purchasing and production power: Damage to infrastructure also causes long-term impacts, such as disruptions to clean water and electricity, transport, communication, education and health care. Loss of livelihoods, reduction in purchasing power and loss of land value in the flood plains lead to increased vulnerabilities of communities living in the area. The additional cost of rehabilitation, relocation of people and removal of property from flood-affected areas can divert the capital required for maintaining production.

Mass migration: Frequent flooding, resulting in loss of livelihoods, production and other prolonged economic impacts and types of suffering can trigger mass migration or population displacement. Migration to developed urban areas contributes to the overcrowding in the cities. These migrants swell the ranks of the urban poor and end up living in marginal lands in cities that are prone to floods or other risks. Selective out-migration of the workforce sometimes creates complex social problems.

Psychosocial effects: The huge psycho-social effects on flood victims and their families can traumatize them for long periods of time. The loss of loved ones can generate deep impacts, especially on children. Displacement from one’s home, loss of property and livelihoods and disruption to business and social affairs can cause continuing stress. The stress of overcoming these losses can be overwhelming and produce lasting psychological impacts.

Hindering economic growth and development: The high cost of relief and recovery may adversely impact investment in infrastructure and other development activities in the area and in certain cases may cripple the frail economy of the region. Recurrent flooding in a region may discourage long-term investments by the government and private sector alike. Lack of livelihoods, combined with migration of skilled labour and inflation may have a negative impact on a region’s economic growth. Loss of resources can lead to high costs of goods and services, delaying its development programmes.

Political implications: Ineffective response to relief operations during major flood events may lead to public discontent or loss of trust in the authorities or the state and national governments. Lack of development in flood-prone areas may cause social inequity and even social unrest posing threat to peace and stability in the region.

Visit also:

Social Aspects and Stakeholder Involvement in Integrated Flood Management

Environmental Aspects of Integrated Flood Management