M GEETHA, who has been removed as Datia Collector in the wake of the Sindh River tragedy, says neither she nor her Shivpuri counterpart was intimated in advance about the sudden release of water from Manikheda dam that claimed more than 50 lives last week.
When contacted, Shivpuri Collector Manohar Agnani admitted that he came to know about the rising level of water from Geetha only.
“Thereafter I immediately asked Water Resources Department chief engineer to stop releasing water”, he told Hindustan Times.
There is a clear instruction that people in the downstream areas must be intimated 24 hours in advance when water is released from any big dam. The WRD officials apparently ignored this important instruction that led to the massive tragedy.
Geetha said sudden rise in water level in Sindh river alarmed her and she immediately rang up Shivpuri Collector.
“He said he would get back to me after checking with WRD engineers. As I was going to Bhander to participate in Jan Kalyan Shivir, I could not contact him further,” the removed Datia Collector told Hindustan Times.
Sources said WRD Superintendent Engineer, Gwalior, P C Sharma, was supposed to intimate both the Collectors about release of water as per the ‘operating manual’ of big dams. He didn’t do that.
As a result, over 50 devotees were washed away while crossing the Sindh River on Durga Navmi at Ratangarh Mata Mandir due to release of water from Manikheda dam.
In April 2005, more than 70 people were swept away in Narmada River at Dharaji in Dewas district under similar circumstances on the occasion of Bhutadi Amawasya.
PS shoots letter on guidelines
Two days after the Sindh river tragedy, Principal Secretary WRD, Arvind Joshi wrote letters to all the departmental Chief Engineers directing them to ensure that people of downstream are intimated about release of water well in advance .
In the letter, Joshi also referred to the instructions issued in June 2005 after the Dharaji incident and asked the officials to follow them.
The Principal Secretary also directed Chief Engineers to hold regular review meetings to make delivery and warning system more effective.
When contacted, Joshi refused to comment on the incident, citing the judicial inquiry. He also parried the question whether detailed guidelines about precautionary measures had been issued to the district collectors as per the wishes of the State Government in the wake of the Dharaji tragedy.