Floods in India have displaced more people in the world than any other disaster in 2018

Image: Reuters/Sivaram V
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The once-in-a-century floods that hit the southern Indian state of Kerala beginning July this year left nearly 500 dead and around 1.5 million displaced.

Yet, even before this inundation occurred, India’s monsoon floods had caused more internal displacement than any other disaster around the world in 2018, according to Geneva-based non-profit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) half-yearly report, released on Sept. 12.

In 2017, India had recorded the seventh-highest levels of internal displacement associated with both conflict and disasters. By June this year, the country was already at the sixth spot, with 539,000 displacements—a number that has more than doubled since then.

Since the report covers only the first six months of 2018, it does not account for the major flood damage in Kerala, Karnataka, and Nagaland since July.

“It’s clear that the figures for India’s monsoon season as a whole will be significantly higher than what IDMC has reported so far from January to June 2018,” Alexandra Bilak, director of IDMC, told Quartz. “India is highly exposed to a range of natural hazards…These physical factors, combined with the country’s high population density, poverty, rapid urbanisation, and environmental degradation, make India most at risk of disaster-related displacement in all of south Asia.” 

Bilak called for housing reconstruction to rehabilitate the displaced persons, and an investment in reducing disaster risks “to prevent people having to flee their homes in the first place.”

Displacement from violence

In the first half of this year, India also ranked among the top 10 countries for internal displacement due to conflict and violence, alongside insurgency-prone, low-income African nations and war-ravaged Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

“The vast majority of new displacements (in India) were linked to a series of incidents of cross-border shelling across the line of control in Jammu & Kashmir state, which forced as many as 159,000 people to leave their homes,” said the report.

Displacements also occurred due to political, communal, and caste-based tensions, it said.

“More than 7,000 people were displaced by political violence associated with local elections in Tripura state, where repeated clashes between supporters of the two main opposing parties also led to homes being destroyed,” the report said. “There were also more than 740 new displacements associated with localised conflicts and inter-communal conflicts linked to caste and religion in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Meghalaya states.”