Maharashtra didn’t release water from dams in time, says report

Army personnel rescuing people stranded in floodwaters on the outskirts of Sangli.  

Despite indications of the Koyna, Warna and Radhanagri dams getting full in the last week of July, the administration did not release water, according to a report published by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) on the floods in Kolhapur and Sangli districts in western Maharashtra.

An analysis based on the dam storage graphs from the Central Water Commission (CWC) shows that the three dams were almost 100% full by August 5. “But why were the dams full by August 5, 2019? Why did the dams not start releasing water from say July 25, 2019, when Koyna and Warna dams were only around 50% full? The Radhanagri dam should have started releasing water even earlier as that dam was already close to 80% full by July 25. If these dams had started releasing water from July 25, 2019, they would have had sufficient space during the first week of August 2019, when the districts received heavy rainfall and that would have helped reduce the floods rather than increase it, as the dams ended up doing,” said the report, authored by Himanshu Thakkar and Parineeta Dandekar.

Human error is one of the reasons for the lapse, said Ms. Dandekar. “After the floods in 2005, a coordination committee was set up between Maharashtra and Karnataka. What is the status of the committee’s report?” she said.

There has been above-normal rainfall in the Upper Krishna Basin in Maharashtra, which mainly includes the districts of Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara. In these three districts, the rainfall, as per the India Meteorological Department’s figures, has been 2068.5 mm (70% above normal), 480.7 mm (60% above normal) and 1028.1 mm (78% above normal) till 8:30 a.m. on August 8, 2019. These districts have received rainfall much above average during August 1-8, with rainfall of 716.6 mm, 177.6 mm and 363.6 mm respectively — about 400% above normal.

“But this is not such an unprecedented amount of rainfall that cannot be managed without allowing it to create a disaster that these districts are now facing. Moreover, the high rainfall was distributed over eight days and was preceded by warning of high rainfall,” said the report.

The report pointed out the need to ensure that the water stored in the dams is judiciously released to make way for possibly high rainfall incidents in the coming weeks. It said the capacity of our catchment areas to hold, absorb and store rainwater and recharge groundwater in a decentralised manner is reducing, due to the indiscriminate and mindless pursuit of development.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 5:49:48 AM |

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