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`Mismanagement of dams led to floods'

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AWESOME SIGHT: People stand on a bridge to see the overflowing Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Photo: AP
AWESOME SIGHT: People stand on a bridge to see the overflowing Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Photo: AP

Gargi Parsai

Expert says the authorities waited for the dams to fill up before releasing the water

  • The dams had 47 per cent water before the monsoon
  • Seeks probe into "negligence" of operations

    NEW DELHI: Did mismanagement and negligent operations of the large reservoirs on the Tapi, the Narmada, the Krishna, the Godavari, the Mahi and the Sabarmati cause the floods in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh?

    Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, claims that the big dams that were expected to regulate water flows were actually responsible for the floods in these States that also happen to have the largest number of big reservoirs. Dams in these States had an average of 47 per cent storage before the monsoon set it, which in itself was a potential for causing floods.

    Demanding a probe into what caused floods in these States and whether they were avoidable, Mr. Thakkar said action should be taken against those responsible for "mismanagement."

    "The nation has paid huge costs in creating these reservoir capacities, and negligence in the dam operations is leading to disastrous consequences which are entirely avoidable," he said.

    Storage

    As per the Central Water Commission statistics, in the Tapi basin, the Ukai dam had 21.56 per cent and the Girna had 10 per cent storage before the monsoon. In the Mahi basin, the Kadana reservoir was filled up to 40.69 per cent, the Panam up to 19.37 per cent and the Mahi Bajaj had 28.17 per cent storage.

    In the Narmada basin, the Tawa dam was already filled up to 22.58 per cent before the monsoon.

    Likewise, in the Krishna basin, the Koyna dam was filled up to 25.19 per cent, the Khadakvasla up to 12.5 per cent, the Narayanpur up to 44.1 per cent, the Srisailam up to 17 per cent and the Nagarjunsagar was filled up to 47.08 per cent.

    In the Godavari basin, the Jayakwasi had a storage of 28.33 per cent and in the Sabarmati basin, the Dharoi dam was filled up to 42.59 per cent.

    Officials from the Central Water Commission told The Hindu that normally dams were supposed to be emptied out before monsoon by releasing water for irrigation and other purposes. "Reservoir storages are built up at the end of the monsoon, to prevent floods downstream."

    Mr. Thakkar said releases from the dams under instruction from the State Irrigation departments after the onset of the monsoon were normally kept under wraps. More often than not, the secrecy hid gross neglect and mismanagement, as had happened this year.

    He alleged that the large-scale loss of lives and businesses in Surat could have been avoided by early, regulated releases when it was known that the Ukai dam across the Tapi was filling up fast. The dam was 51 per cent full on July 20, 77.54 per cent full on August 3 and 100 per cent on August 7. Even when it was getting high inflows of up to nine to ten lakh cusecs, the authorities waited for the dam to fill up before releasing water. This meant the sudden release of up to 10 lakh cusecs for several days, leading to unprecedented flooding. This, when the Tapi downstream from dam had a drainage capacity of only about 3.5 lakh cusecs. The releases also coincided with high tide, leading to prolonged flooding.

    Mr. Thakkar claimed that in the Sardar Sarovar Project also, the main canal was opened by just 0.5 metres on August 2, releasing just about 580 cusecs,when inflows were over 98,000 cusecs. Downstream releases were just around 21,000 cusecs. This led to a build-up of water, of up to 128 metres, leading to "illegal and avoidable" submergence of land, houses and habitats of thousands of rural and tribal families. The situation was similar in the Krishna, Godavari and Sabarmati basins.


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