Vijayawada

Andhra Pradesh floods: Lessons not learnt

Heavy floods after a prolonged drought caught the State Government unawares, even as administrators scrambled to evacuate people with four major rivers Godavari, Krishna, Indravati and Vamsadhara going into spate almost simultaneously.

A cofferdam constructed across the Godavari by the previous government in a bid to push water by gravity into the canals caused a storm in a teacup with the ruling YSR Congress Party and the opposition Telugu Desam Party trading allegations.

The YSRCP leaders claim that the cofferdam was the main reason for the floodwaters entering several villages, which should have been vacated using the Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) packages. The TDP leaders meanwhile state that it was the YSRCP that has continuously caused obstructions to the Polavaram project, resulting in construction not proceeding quickly enough.

The floods in the Godavari hit a peak of 14.5 lakh cusecs on August 9 and then gradually subsided. Even as the Godavari was in spate, Indravati and Vamsadhara too swelled for a couple of days inundating low-lying areas.

Less than a week after the Godavari went into spate, the Krishna, which has remained dry for an extended period of time, went into spate with Prakasam Barrage receiving inflows of more than 4 lakh cusecs.

Trading charges

The inflows went up to 8.21 lakh cusecs, going way past the second flood warning of 5.66 lakh cusecs on August 17. The heavy inflows into the reservoir upstream the Prakasam Barrage gave rise to a controversy with the TDP accusing the YSRCP of ‘engineering’ a flood to deliberately inundate the controversial real estate company guesthouse that was converted into a residence for former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

The TDP leaders did not waste time in charging that the floods in the Krishna were "man-made". They alleged that water was released in greater quantities to deliberately flood Mr. Naidu’s residence, in a bid to prove that the house was built too close to the riverbed in violation of environmental norms. Mr. Naidu too went on record to say that the floods were ‘created’ to ensure that water entered his camp office, which was on the wrong side of the flood bank.

The YSRCP has been taking aim at Mr. Naidu for taking up residence in a building that is said to be unauthorised, according to the norms of the River Conservancy Act, 1884.

Plans are being made to link major rivers across South India to tide over drought as well as to prevent floods, the frequency of which is increasing because of climate change. Droughts are becoming more severe and floods more devastating. Irrigation experts say that the governments should come together to think beyond linking of rivers to address these problems.

Former Superintending Engineer of Polavaram Project K. Haranath has been stressing the need for a string of reservoirs to impound floodwater.

Polavaram not enough

"Polavaram project is merely a diversion scheme with a small live storage capacity of only 75 tmcft. A.P. on the other hand requires 910 tmcft of Godavari water. The availability of water in Sabari is only 5% of the total water available in the Godavari," Mr. Haranath said.

A reservoir that is 13 times bigger than what is being built at Polavaram is required to hold 900 tmcft. This is not possible because several projects are being planned upstream Polavaram.

"A.P. has to construct a number of reservoirs with huge capacity in the small hills that exist upstream the project site. Water could be lifted into these additional reservoirs during floods and then recovered by gravity during the dry season," Mr Haranath suggested.

"The capacity of the Polavaram canals should be increased tremendously so that they could be used for filling of reservoirs during flood," Mr. Haranath said. The power generated by Polavaram project could be used to lift the water.

The Godavari has already discharged 757.218 tmcft this season (from June 1) and it discharges on an average 3,000 tmcft into the Bay

of Bengal. The amount of water discharged by Krishna is relatively less. Less than 50 tmcft must have been discharged from the barrage this season.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 10:00:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/lessons-not-learnt/article29246833.ece

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