After the Floods


The rainbow and God’s promise to Noah must be of scant comfort to the thousands in England, hundreds of thousands in North Korea, and millions in India who are living through floods as personally devastating as the one from which Noah was protected. Indeed, here in India, where in some areas floods are now a way of life, the rainbow seems like a particularly cruel joke, coming as it does when the rain has stopped but the water remains.

In Bihar, floods are an annual event. Vast populations are forced to live on the narrow embankments that run parallel to rivers such as the Kosi (called the “River of Sorrow” by the British). At least 100,000 people are marooned as of this writing, many living a nightmare existence perched on rooftops or in trees. Dwell on that for a moment: How to ensure the safety of children who will continue to play regardless of danger? What about the elderly, the sick, the disabled? How to build a fire to cook meals? Where to defecate except in the water?

As Americans came to understand after Katrina, swimming to safety is only the first challenge in such a catastrophe. The next is dealing with the waterborne diseases that are the result of a contaminated supply. In India and other tropical countries, malaria is inevitable because standing water creates perfect breeding conditions for the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

We are in the middle of monsoon season right now-a...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.