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Floods reveal a failure of flood management

Lack of dredging and rampant constructions along river banks are mainly responsible for inundation

editorials Updated: Aug 25, 2016 14:42 IST
Uddalok Bhattacharya
Floods

Allahabad: Huts of sadhus submerged in waters of rivers Ganga and Yamuna(PTI)

It is surprising that in a rainfall-deficient year (when the monsoon precipitation has been 2% less than what it should have been), floods are causing havoc in states such as Assam, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Weather department officials have said the main reason for this is the discharge of water from dams after heavy bouts of rain. Another problem is the feeble embankments, which are basically instruments of flood control but are in danger of becoming worn-out. In UP more than 50 villages in Gonda district faced flooding when the Ghaghra river eroded a large portion of the Elgin-Charsadi embankment. The UP government had spent Rs 22 crore on building the 52-km in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the irrigation department spent Rs 80 crore on repair and again in 2008-09 Rs 60 crore was released for strengthening the embankments. The state government needs to explain why the floods are taking place despite having spent so much.

Read: A season of flooding, but monsoon below normal

There are several reasons for floods taking place year after year. One reason is the inability of the Central government to do desilting in time. As a result, the Ganga at one stage was flowing at 72.33 metres in Varanasi, according to the Central Water Commission data, while the danger mark is 71.262 metres. Not just the Ganga, the Varuna, the Ganga’s tributary, too flowed above the danger mark and entered some areas of the city. This has been the worst floods in the city since 2013. Secondly, according to the findings of the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC), more than 30 apartments had been built beyond the flood protection wall. The Bihar government has ordered an inquiry into this. However, the situation was so bad that despite the lifting of more than 100 gates of the Farakka barrage to allow the discharge of the river, the level of the Ganga was brought down by just one metre.

Read: 127 killed, lakhs homeless as flood situation turns grim in UP, Bihar

After Patna faced its worst floods in 1975, a 24-km embankment was constructed along the banks of the Ganga. The river’s bed from Buxar to Bhagalpur has become narrow because there has been no sustained dredging, and construction along the river’s banks have continued unabated. On top of this comes the international problem of the Farakka treaty between India and Bangladesh on sharing the Ganga waters, which does not allow heavy water flow downstream to Bangladesh even in monsoon, leading to water levels rising in the Ganga. Also because of this, the waters of the tributaries are not allowed to enter the Ganga’s mainstream and this leads to a submergence of the areas drained by them.

Read: Fortunate that Ganga has reached your homes: Lalu tells Bihar flood victims

So the upshot is that floods are a problem not just of precipitation. A lot of human and technological factors too are at work.