It could be a double whammy for millions of people living in eastern India.
First they braced the sweeping cyclone — Phailin — and then they would have to deal with flooding resulting from release of additional water from dams and anticipated heavy rainfall.
The extended monsoon in the Indian sub-continent this year has filled all the reservoirs in the cyclone zone of the eastern part of the country. As the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted heavy rainfall within 48 hours of the cyclone hitting the eastern coast, the Central Water Commission has ordered release of additional water to ease pressure on dams in the region.
“Additional water is being released from Hirakund Dam in Odisa and Damodar Valley Corporation dams to prevent any breach,” said KM Singh, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
The Hirakud dam on Mahanadi river in Odisa has a 55 kilometer long reservoir covering total area of 743 square kilometers, considered one of the biggest artificial lakes in India. The dam was constructed in 1953 with a purpose to controlling flooding in Mahanadi river basin.
There are four dams in the Damodar valley in Jharkhand and West Bengal. The reservoirs of the dams having huge capacity were constructed to tame the ferocious Damodar river. As per the Central Water Commission’s latest bulletin, the reservoirs are full with water higher than the average of the last 10 years. The bulletin also says that level of water in six other reservoirs in Odisha is also very high.
A NDMA official said the local administration have no option but to release the water to prevent a watery grave in lower regions of Odisa and southern Jharkhand. “All relief teams have been briefed about the possible flooding after the cyclone,” the official added.
The health ministry has also dispatched teams with medicines to prevent a repeat of the 1999 outbreak of water-borne epidemic.