India and Bangladesh pre-monsoon flooding

Heavier than usual rain before the monsoon season results in flooding and landslides, May 2022

Over 60 people are known to have lost their lives in flooding across several provinces in eastern India, in May. The weather system also affected much of Bangladesh, causing damage to agricultural land and potentially leading to food shortages which may affect the wider region. This all happened in advance of the monsoon season, which was bringing further flood damage to the region as this report was being compiled.


Even before the latest, devastating floods, unseasonably high rainfall had been recorded, with flooding affecting 33 districts in Assam since early April and a million people forced to move to refugee camps (Al-Jazeera, 2022a). Then, from 9 May 2022, Bangladesh and neighbouring catchment areas in India began to experience another wave of storms (Floodlist, 2022a)

The next band of heavy rain began falling in north-eastern India on 13 May, with the effects felt almost immediately, mostly in the Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya states (ReliefWeb, 2022a).
In Assam, the Barak River overflowed on 15 May, flooding wide areas of Cachar District and damaging hundreds of homes (Floodlist, 2022b).

By 16 May, rivers that had been swollen by several days of rain had reached danger point: in north-eastern Bangladesh, the Kushiyara river at Amalshid reached 17.15 metres on 19 May, well above the danger mark of 15.40 metres. The Surma river at Sylhet reached 11.25 metres on the same day, above the danger mark of 10.80 metres. Consequently, several districts in Sylhet Division were affected by flooding. (Floodlist, 2022b).

The Sylhet floods are thought to have left upwards of two million people marooned, with two border rivers, the Surma and Kushiyara hitting their highest levels since records began in the 1970s. A major embankment was breached, which caused hundreds of villages to be inundated (New Indian Express, 2022).

Meanwhile, in India the Kopili river at Kampur in Nagaon broke previous high-water records, recording a depth of 62.07 metres; the previous high was 61.79m set in 2004 (Floodlist, 2022c).

On 19 May at least 33 people were killed in thunderstorms in Bihar state, west of Assam, which also suffered from the intense heatwave that was affecting India, with temperatures reaching 40°C (Guardian, 2022). Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) stated on 19 May that 1,413 villages were still underwater (Livemint, 2022).

Defences breached

Over 100 villages were flooded when an embankment on the Barak River was breached (Al Jazeera, 2022b). The situation was worsened because flood defences, built to protect certain areas, began to channel rising river waters into previously unaffected areas. Poorly maintained defences collapsed in these extreme conditions, causing landslides and inundating villages with silt (Eco-business, 2022).

Adding to this, some embankments built in the area 30-40 years ago were only meant to be temporary. Without adequate maintenance, such defences will naturally weaken, meaning that when breaches happen, it can result in major flooding (The Weather Company, 2022).

Ongoing impact

Over the course of the event, over 60,000 people in Assam alone were forced to take shelter in refugee camps, 7,000 of them children (Outlook India, 2022). In all, a total of close to 700,000 people in the state have been affected in some way, with 27 of Assam’s 34 administrative districts seeing some impact from the storms (Times of India, 2022).

Hundreds of villages in Bangladesh were cut off from essential services, with many residents facing a lack of clean drinking water after wells were submerged in the flood waters and infrastructure disrupted (Claims Journal, 2022).

The floods and landslides have also proved disastrous for the region’s agricultural community. Across the 24 hours leading to 22 May, areas of crop-producing land totalling 95,473.51 hectares were affected by the floods (Times of India, 2022b), which had a knock-on effect on food production in the region. Agriculture employs 40% of the total population of Bangladesh (Tradegov, 2022), so a loss of cash crops as well as food relied on by subsistence farmers will have lasting consequences for the country (ReliefWeb, 2022b).

Low-lying Bangladesh and neighbouring states of north-east India are well used to floods during the monsoon season, but events such as this May’s are becoming more common, with many experts saying that climate change is increasing the frequency, ferocity and unpredictability of flood events in the region (New India Express, 2022).

Previous large-scale floods in the region

JBA and south asia

Improved take-up of insurance across South Asia to reduce the protection gap could play a key role in reducing the social and economic impacts of flooding. However, having affordable and reliable insurance policies for flooding in Bangladesh and India has historically proven difficult due to how prone these countries are to flooding. Traditionally, those insurance policies which are available are too expensive or inefficient, resulting in low demand for cover (Cole et al., 2013).

Despite this, with events such as this “pre-monsoon shock” (Al-Jazeera, 2022a) becoming more common in a changing climate, it is even more important for insurers across the region to be armed with the most up-to-date data and insights for flood risk now and in the future.

JBA helps re/insurers across the South Asian market manage their risk. We have nationwide return period flood maps at 30m resolution for South Asia and an India Crop Model – which captures multiple extreme weather perils, including flood and tropical cyclone damage – as well as our global flood modelling capability, which enables quantification of risk for every country in the world.

If you are interested in any of our products or services to improve your management of flood risk, please get in touch for more information

This report is covered by JBA’s website terms – please read them here.


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Al Jazeera, 2022b. Millions stranded as flooding causes havoc in Bangladesh, India [online]. Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Claims Journal, 2022. [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies and AXA XL, 2020. Disaster Recovery Case Studies: Bangladesh Floods 2004. Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. [online] Available at:,floods%20had%20severe%20socioeconomic%20impacts. [Accessed 7 June 2022]

Cole, S., Gine, X., Stein, D., Tabacman, J., Topalova, P., Townsend, R. and Vickery, J., 2013. Demand for Rainfall Insurance in India. [online] Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 2022], 2022. Twin crises of heat and floods expose neglect in India and Bangladesh. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, 2010. Annual Flood Report 2010. Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

Floodlist, 2022a. Bangladesh – Millions Hit by Floods in North East [online]. Available at: [Accessed 3 June 2022]

Floodlist, 2022b. India – 5 Fatalities After Heavy Rain, Floods and Landslides in Assam and Meghalaya [online]. Available at: [Accessed 3 June 2022]

Floodlist, 2022c. India – Over 400,000 Affected as Floods Worsen in Assam [online]. Available at: [Accessed 3 June 2022]

Guardian, 2022. Dozens dead, millions stranded as floods ravage Bangladesh and India. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Livemint, 2022. Assam floods: Water levels of Kopili and Borapani rivers continue to rise as 6.62 lakh people affected. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

New Indian Express, 2022. Four million people hit by floods in Bangladesh. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Outlook India, 2022. Assam floods toll reaches 30, over 5.6 lakh affected. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2010. Bangladesh: Floods and Landslides - Jun 2010 [online]. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2015. Assam Floods, August 2015: Joint Needs Assessment Report [online]. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2016. Situation Report III: Floods situation in Assam (July 2016) [online]. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2017. GIEWS Update Bangladesh: Severe floods in 2017 affected large numbers of people and caused damage to the agriculture sector [online]. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2018. India: North-East (Assam and Manipur) Floods DREF Operations Update n° MDRIN018 Final Report [online]. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2022a. India: Floods and Landslides - May 2022 [online]. Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

ReliefWeb, 2022b. Key Immediate Needs and Preliminary Impact Assessment: North Eastern Flash Flood, May 2022, Bangladesh [online]. Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Times of India, 2022a. Assam flood situation worsens as heavy rain wreaks havoc. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

Times of India, 2022b. Death toll in Assam floods climbs to 24. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

TradeGov, 2022. Bangladesh – Country Commercial Guide: Agricultural Sectors. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 June 2022]

The Weather Company, 2022. Sci-Simplified: What’s the Deal With Recurring Assam Floods? Can We Manage Them? [online]. Available at: [Accessed 3 June 2022]