I. ENVIRONMENT AND ASSESSMENT OF FLOOD IMPACTS
E. Effects of floods on social and economic conditions
4. Impact of river floods on social conditions
There are numerous damages which are not usually calculated in estimates of flood damages, but which have serious implications (multiplier effect) on social life. Such losses due to flood damages may have both direct and indirect effects on socio-economic patterns of living, particularly in rural areas.
In flood-affected areas, employment opportunities are below-average as compared to non-affected areas. Although the unemployment which inevitably arises during the flooding period is partly offset by replanting, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities as well as other forms of employment in the aftermath of the floods, this is generally not sufficient to recoup the employment deficits created during the flood. Agricultural employment in terms of working hours reduces in flood affected areas and the average loss of working hours per week is 5.8 in flood-affected villages compared to non-affected villages (Hossain, 1991). Rural household incomes are 17 per cent below the average incomes in non-flooded areas. This varies from 15 per cent for the landless and 21 per cent for larger-scale landowners. Farmers, especially, tend to become conservative in view of the uncertainties about output levels. They prefer traditional crop varieties as against those with higher yields that are more vulnerable to floods. Moreover, loss of home-grown vegetable gardens and saplings also adds to the total income loss.
Damage to stocks of daily necessities and costs incurred for medical treatment greatly affect the quality of life. Scarcity of fuel for cooking in flood-prone rural areas is an added social insecurity dimension. Hossain reports that nearly a quarter of the people in flood-affected villages during 1988 had sold their land. Due to distress sales, the households who are the poorest are deprived of the prices that they would expect in normal times. Hence, the poorer section of the rural society suffers the worst from flood damages.
Lower incomes result in reduced consumption levels. In fact, consumption was reported to be 15 per cent below average in non-affected villages. This depressed demand causes negative multiplying effects in other sectors of the economy.