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'No real threat of floods'

The Yamuna has crossed the danger mark many times over the years. Officials say it's nothing to worry about. Avishek G Dastidar reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 13, 2010 00:02 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

Residents of settlements on the banks of the Yamuna heaved a sigh of relief on Sunday, as the overflowing river ebbed, after giving them several anxiety-ridden days. As a result, traffic resumed on the Old Yamuna Bridge, giving a much-needed break to the worst floods Delhi has seen in three decades.

At 205.83 meters, the Yamuna's water level was 90 cm less than on Saturday. Officials said that by late Monday, the level could fall below the danger mark of 204.83 metres.

However, before receding, flood waters left low-lying areas of Usmanpur and other residential pockets on the eastern banks of the Yamuna submerged, in a repeat of an annual scenario.

According to officials of the Department of Irrigation and Flood Control, many anxious residents from East Delhi's Mayur Vihar and Patparganj had been calling the Control Centre in the past few days, to find out if their houses faced the threat of flooding.

However, grim as the flood scenario this year appeared, for Delhi, floods are neither new, nor rare. "The Yamuna has been crossing the danger mark almost every year," said Ish Kumar, chief engineer of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department.

During six out of the last 10 years, the river has breached the danger mark of 204.83 metres. In August 2009, the Yamuna swelled to 205.28 metres. Even in the years when it did not breach the danger mark, its water level hovered around the danger mark.

The Yamuna's normal water level stands at 202 metres in the dry season. So, in a good monsoon year, its volume invariably swells to reach the danger mark (204.83 metres). During the years '95, '98 and '88, Delhi witnessed what is termed "high-floods", when the water at the old Yamuna Bridge either touched or went past the 206-metre mark.

However, the city witnessed its worst floods in recent memory in 1978. On the intervening night of September 5 and 6, 1978, Yamuna's level rose to a historic 207.49.

The turbulent river flooded north Delhi's low-lying residential areas like Adarsh Nagar, Model Town and Mukherjee Nagar. Property worth Rs 10 crore was damaged and 18 people were killed in the ensuing inundation.

"Delhi has implemented a lot of anti-flood measures since the floods of 1978," said Kumar. "The entire Ring Road now acts a high bund along the river. The eastern bank has the Bund Road, which was built after the '78 floods. Now, water has to be atleast two meters above the bund for residential areas to flood," said Ramesh Negi, CEO of Delhi Jal Board, also a member of the Emergency Flood Control Committee.

"The danger mark is not indicative of any danger to the city because it was demarcated at a time when there were no bunds and other interventional mechanisms to check floods," Negi added.