Data | The Bengaluru floods are a recent phenomenon

Karnataka’s share of India’s flood-related deaths has jumped 7-8% over the past two decades

Karnataka’s share of India’s flood-related deaths has jumped 7-8% over the past two decades

Heavy rains during the last week of August and the first week of September brought Bengaluru to a standstill. Flooding of offices and homes, traffic jams and power outages have been recorded in India’s Silicon Valley. On August 27, the Bangalore-Mysuru highway was inundated by flood waters after Lake Inorapalya broke through the banks. Three days later, the outer ring road was flooded when water from Lake Savalakere overflowed.

While the Bengaluru floods have been in the headlines for the past few days, the monsoon season has claimed many lives and damaged several public and private properties across the state this year. As many as 96 lives have been lost since June, crops on 5.8 lakh hectares of land have been lost, 1,471 bridges and 2,223 km of roads have been damaged. In total, the estimated losses amounted to ₹7,647 crore.

A recent phenomenon

Over the past two decades, the number of lives lost to flooding has risen sharply in the state. Over the last decade (2011-20) and the previous one (2001-10), Karnataka’s share of flood-related deaths in India ranged between 7-8%. In the 2000s, the state had the fourth highest share of flood-related deaths among major states. Over the past decade, it had the seventh highest share.

In contrast, in the decades before the 2000s, Karnataka’s share was negligible. The state’s share of flood-related deaths in India has varied between 0 and 3% in all previous decades. Table 1lists a state’s share of India’s total flood deaths in each decade. For example, Gujarat formed 10% of the total number of deaths during the period 2001-10 and 8% during the last decade (2011-20).

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Over all the decades, Uttar Pradesh’s share has always been 17% or more. West Bengal, Gujarat and Bihar have also accounted for a high share of India’s flood-related deaths in most decades.

The above trends should be read with caution, given the wide variation in state populations. The figures also included Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

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Single pattern

Table 2 lists the decadal share of a state’s total flood-related deaths over the period 1953-2020. For example, of all flood deaths recorded in Karnataka during the period, 34% occurred in the last decade, while 39% occurred in the previous decade. Similar to the trend seen in Table 1, Karnataka flood-related deaths were significantly lower in the decades leading up to the 2000s.

In fact, in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Karnataka’s share of India’s deaths, as shown in Table 1, and the decadal share in the state’s total number of deaths, as shown in Table 2 , were either barely present or non-existent. This reiterates that Karnataka’s flood-related unrest is a recent phenomenon.


In 1977, 11,316 lives were lost to flooding – the most for any given year – of which 9,974 were lost in Andhra Pradesh. Floods damaged 39.6 lakh homes in India in 2015 – the highest number of homes destroyed due to flooding in a year between 1953 and 2020.

The graphs show the number of lives lost, livestock lost and homes damaged due to floods in India each year. The highest number of flood-related deaths was recorded in 1977 (11,316), of which 9,974 lives were lost in Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu accounted for 30.1 lakh of the 39.1 lakh homes damaged in 2015 – the highest number recorded in a year.

(With contributions from the Bengaluru Office)

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Source: Central Water Commission

Also Read: Data Point | A look back at three devastating floods in India

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