As Yamuna river level in Delhi continues to rise, water supply hit, schools shut

The Yamuna has been above the danger mark since July 10, and rose till 208.66m on July 13 evening, but is expected to start falling gradually by the early hours of July 14

Updated - July 14, 2023 07:17 pm IST

Published - July 13, 2023 11:00 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Rescue work is in progress in the flooded Civil Lines area near Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in New Delhi on July 13, 2023.

Rescue work is in progress in the flooded Civil Lines area near Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in New Delhi on July 13, 2023. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

A day after hitting a 60-year-high, the water level of the Yamuna continued to rise in the national capital on Thursday. Flood waters submerged areas close to the river’s flood plains, closed arterial roads, and hit the city’s water supply. More than 23,000 people were evacuated, all educational institutions were shut, and the government asked most employees to work from home.

At 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, the water level of the Yamuna in Delhi stood at 208.66 metres. It was expected to gradually go down to 208.45 metres by 3 a.m. on Friday, according to the Central Water Commission. The river breached the ‘danger mark’ of 205.33 metres in the city on Monday evening.

Emergency situation

Roads near important locations — including Red Fort, the Income Tax Office area, and Civil Lines — were flooded; a number of areas further away from the river also faced flooding.  

The city’s drinking water supply has been affected, with three water treatment plants being closed after they were flooded. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that water supply would fall by 25%, resulting in a shortage in many areas for the next day or two.

Terming the situation an “emergency”, Mr. Kejriwal urged citizens to avoid unnecessary travel and stay indoors. He also announced the closure of all schools, colleges and universities in Delhi till Sunday. All government offices, barring those which cater to essential services, will work from home as well, and the government will issue advisories to private offices to work from home as much as possible, he added.

Relief and rescue efforts

These decisions were taken at a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority chaired by the Central government-appointed Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena and attended by Mr. Kejriwal and other senior officials.

A ban has also been imposed on the entry of heavy goods vehicles arriving from the Singhu, Badarpur, Loni, and Chilla border posts, except for trucks carrying essential commodities. 

Apart from the 12 National Disaster Relief Teams teams operational in Delhi, additional teams are already in place to help in the relief and rescue measures at sites prone to flooding.

“According to our estimates, more than 20,000 people have been shifted to the relief camps. There are about 50 boats at present, but if needed, the number may be increased as per requirement,” Mr. Kejriwal said. About 23,600 people were evacuated till Thursday night and 21,092 people were living in tents and shelters set up by the government, according to an official statement.  

Political blame game

The floods also triggered a political dispute, with the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi blaming the BJP government in Haryana for releasing “uncontrolled volumes” of water from the Hathnikund Barrage on the Yamuna in Haryana, upstream of Delhi, causing flooding in the capital. However, the Haryana government termed this as “absolutely false”, saying that there was “no way” to store water at the barrage as it is not a dam.

Hitting out at Mr. Kejriwal, Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva said that the CM was “wrong” to compare these floods with those of 1978, adding that he was “responsible” for Delhi’s plight. “If the government had cleaned the Yamuna, which is filled with silt, the water would have remained at the river’s downstream flow area,” Mr. Sachdeva said.

The Congress also hit out at the AAP government calling the flood a man-made crisis and not a natural disaster.

Modi dials L-G

L-G Saxena said he received a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi from France seeking updates on the flood and waterlogging situation in Delhi, and the efforts being made to deal with it. He directed that appropriate steps be taken in the interest of Delhi “by taking all possible help from the Central government”, Mr. Saxena said in a late night tweet.

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