What are the effects of floods on different people?  

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Floods have a great impact on their surrounding ecosystem, including the plants, animals, and people who live there. Some people reap a benefit from flooding, while for others it can be catastrophic. For example, Ancient Egyptian peoples relied on flooding of the Nile river to grow their crops. In contrast, the flooding that resulting from an earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2011 destroyed miles of homes, schools, and public buildings.

In places where the only major source of natural water is rivers, annual river flooding was often celebrated. The Nile river floods yearly and deposits lots of nutrient-rich, damp soil as the water retreats. These flooded areas were cultivated for growing crops like sugarcane, millet, and barley. Mud from flooded areas could also be carried and deposited in areas where crops were beginning to dry out. Animals, too, would flock to the riverbed for water and to graze on small vegetation or prey on smaller creatures! Because of this, the river doubles as a source for both plant and animal foods. Because the Nile runs through a desert, it really served as a vital lifeline for Ancient Egyptian peoples. Today flooding still occurs, but Egyptian people no longer rely on it as the only source of hydration for crops.

In other parts of the world and throughout time, floods have a much worse reputation. Flooding occurs both as a regular, predictable circumstance (as with the Nile) and as a sudden, natural event. These sudden cases of flooding are usually more catastrophic as people are less likely to be prepared for possible damage. When people live near lakes, rivers, or oceans where flooding occurs, a lot of damage can be done. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the South coast of the United States, primarily affecting people living in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Many homes and public buildings were destroyed, some even with people trapped inside. Many people who were not able to flee before the damage began lost their lives. Parts of these states still suffer from the damage of this storm.

Humans adapt to living in flood prone areas in different ways. Some people build their homes on stilts to stay above flood level, while others avoid living within a flood zone entirely. Adaptation isn't just about avoiding negative consequences, but making the best of what nature throws at you. I think the Ancient Egyptian flood-agriculture really shows this to be true!







Robert J. Wenke, The Ancient Egyptian State (2009)  ISBN: 0521574870

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