The famous temple town of Bhadrachalam and its adjoining areas in the tribal majority Bhadradri Kothagudem district are reeling under the impact of the worst floods in the Godavari in more than three decades.
Villagers are living in the fear of recurrence of deluge and a disease outbreak is haunting thousands of flood-affected people sheltered in government-run relief camps and other safer places on the higher ground.
After witnessing the second highest flood level in the Godavari of 71.30 feet, at a record flow rate of 24.43 lakh cusecs, at 2 a.m. on July 16, Bhadrachalam, the abode of Lord Sitaramachandra Swamy temple of 17th century, is staring at a potential risk of outbreak of epidemics.
On July 16, the Godavari breached the previous highest water level of 70.8 ft, recorded in 1990, flooding the low-lying areas, including places surrounding the temple.
In 1986, the water level in the river peaked to its highest ever of 75.6 feet, as per the records of year-wise maximum gauge readings at the Central Water Commission (CWC) site in Bhadrachalam since 1976.
Trail of destruction
The deluge left a trail of destruction of severe magnitude in and around the town, prompting successive governments to construct a ‘karakatta’ (flood bank) along the Godavari as a flood protection mechanism in the 1990s.
According to official sources, no loss of life has been reported from the flood-hit areas in the district so far, in the current spell of deluge. Last week’s massive floods, triggered by unprecedented incessant rainfall in the upper reaches of the river and copious inflows from the projects in the upstream, wreaked havoc in eight mandals with several dozens of villages, mainly the riverside habitations in as many as 45 gram panchayats bearing the brunt of the deluge.
The flood fury necessitated the deployment of the NDRF and Army personnel as well as a chopper to aid the civil administration in relief and rescue operations.
The enormity of the flood was so intense that the 57-year-old bridge across the Godavari on NH 30 was closed for traffic for three days and Section 144 of the Cr. PC was imposed in Bhadrachalam and Burgampahad mandals.
Almost the entire Bhadrachalam Agency was cut off from the rest of the world last week due to snapping of road links by the swirling flood waters.
Hundreds of houses were inundated in various parts of the Agency and Bhadrachalam and its neighbouring Burgampahad, Aswapuram and Manuguru mandals, causing extensive loss of property worth crores.
Roads, electricity poles and transmission lines, intake wells of various projects and other public infrastructure, suffered extensive damage due to the flood. Officials are yet to enumerate the exact extent of damages.
As many as 79 relief camps are still operational, sheltering more than 27,778 people in Bhadrachalam and other mandals as the flood threat persisted with the swollen Godavari continuing to hover around the second flood warning level of 48 ft. on Thursday.
People in low-lying areas are staring at an uncertain future with their houses damaged and household items as well as electric appliances soaked in waters.
“The Godavari turned perilous on Friday night, forcing us to move to the relief camp,” said Rambabu, a senior citizen of the flood-hit Subash Nagar Colony. “The floodwaters surged with a rapid speed compelling us to leave behind all our belongings in our house,” he said, reliving the bitter memories of 1986 floods.
“The flood ravaged our house leaving all items, including certificates, soaked, and huge mounds of mud and garbage piled up with unbearable stench emanating from the colony,” rued Srinivas, a carpenter of Ayyappa colony.
Kusuma, a visibly-aggrieved resident of Subash Nagar, blamed the recurrent flooding of the colony to leakages from sluice gates and ‘failure’ of those at the helm to extend the existing karakatta. “The height of the Polavaram project under construction in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh should be decreased to avert an imminent serious flood threat to Bhadrachalam from the backwaters of the project,” says M. Venkateshwarlu, district secretary of Vyavasaya Karmika Sangam.
“Instead of resorting to the blame game, people at the helm should focus on implementing concrete measures such as extending the karakatta towards Dummugudem and Nellipaka and re-merging five villages from AP with Bhadrachalam to find a lasting solution to the regular occurrence of inundation in the low-lying areas of Bhadrachalam,” he added.
A massive sanitation drive is underway in Bhadrachalam and elsewhere in the flood-hit areas involving around 219 teams comprising 4,100 sanitation workers and officials from various districts, said Collector D. Anudeep.
Adequate machinery, including 390 tractors, five fire tenders, nine tippers, 17 JCB machines, 31 dozers and 197 fogging machines are deployed. Efforts are on in a mission mode to complete the survey of the flood-affected families to disburse ₹10,000 aid each and also provide healthcare services.