Families living on floodplains face damage, despair as Yamuna is in spate
According to officials deployed at the flood control room, the water level at the old Iron Bridge, which is considered the benchmark for assessing the flood situation in the city, was at 205.92 metres at 7pm on Saturday.
With the water level in the Yamuna river breaching the danger mark on Friday, hundreds of families living on the floodplains from Shastri Park to Yamuna Khadar in Mayur Vihar, spent the day on Saturday wading through knee-deep water, evacuating their hutments and moving to higher areas or government shelters, even as many others in areas such as Yamuna Bazar, near old Delhi stayed put.
According to officials deployed at the flood control room, the water level at the old Iron Bridge, which is considered the benchmark for assessing the flood situation in the city, was at 205.92 metres at 7pm on Saturday. From 205.99 metres at 3pm to 205.95 at 6pm, the water level dropped marginally by Saturday evening. The city considers the 204.5-metre water level at the railway bridge as the warning mark, while 205.33metre is considered the danger level.
Induvati, a 30-year-old, who lives on the floodplains near Mayur Vihar, said she and her family started evacuating their hutment early Saturday morning as water started flooding the area. In the absence of any government-managed tents in this part of the city, she and her family members were left with no option but to stay on the service road.
“When the water started entering our farms today morning, we started evacuating. We loaded whatever we could on our hand-held cart and have made countless such trips since early morning. We were caught off guard and didn’t expect the floods. The last time we witnessed a similar situation was way back in 2010,” said Induvati. There are five members in her family along with a goat and her two kids. All of them will be spending the night in the open. She said that, unlike previous times, when residents were alerted about floods at least a few days in advance, they had not received any intimation this time.
Some distance away, Ram Charan, a native of Uttar Pradesh’s Budaun, was ferrying an overloaded motor cart away from his flooded house. His son Shiva sat on top of the mounted luggage. “We are seven members in the family. Till the water recedes, we will have to stay in the open. Water destroyed our hutments too so we will have to make a shelter from scratch once again,” said 34-year-old Ram Charan. His son Shiva, who studies in the neighbourhood government school, added that he and many others had skipped school due to the floods.
Besides Yamuna Khadar, water entered the homes of people living in the Shastri Nagar area as well. People waded through ankle-deep water to evacuate their belongings but many others didn’t leave despite the rising water level. Sher Singh, a 70-year-old, sat on the road along with his wife. He said that, unlike in previous times, no warning had reached him this year. “We don’t want to leave the area since someone else might occupy our hutment. People are asking us to leave but for now, we will stay here,” said Singh.
East Delhi sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Amod Barthwal said around 5,000 of the 13,000 people living in low-lying areas close to the river have been moved to tents erected near Commonwealth Games Village, Hathi Ghat and on Link Road. “The remaining people are safe and there seems to be no need to shift them to other places as the water level is likely to drop,” he said.
Karawal Nagar SDM Sanjay Sondhi said 200 people have been moved to higher ground from low-lying areas in his district and drinking water, food and other essentials have been provided to them with the help of NGOs.
A flood alert is declared in Delhi when the discharge rate from the Hathnikund Barrage in Haryana’s Yamuna Nagar crosses the 1 lakh-cusecs mark. People living near the floodplains and in flood-prone areas are evacuated then, an official said.
“Around 37,000 people who live in Yamuna floodplains and low-lying areas in Delhi are considered vulnerable to flooding.People evacuated from low-lying areas in the floodplains are being shifted to temporary structures like tents and permanent buildings like schools in safer areas,” Sondhi said.
In the Yamuna Bazaar area near the Old Iron Bridge, civil defence volunteers stood on guard. While the option of relocating to a community centre was offered to the residents, most of them declined the offer. “Since last night, a bus was stationed here. We have been asking people to move out but they don’t want to leave because they fear that their belongings will get stolen. We have assured them that security will be taken care of, but they are not ready to go to the community centre. From food to water, all facilities are being provided at the centre but we cannot force people to evacuate,” said a civil defence volunteer, who asked not to be named.
Residents here said that they had been asked to evacuate their belongings on Friday morning itself. “Policemen said that we should move our important belongings since the water level was rising. We moved our important belongings to a higher shelf inside the hut,” said Priyam Modi. A native of Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad, she said that the flooding was an annual ritual and she wasn’t inconvenienced. “This happens every year. We get a warning from the police. There is nothing to worry about,” said Modi, who has been living in the neighbourhood for the past 35 years.
Another resident said there was no reason to worry since the water had not entered the houses in the area. Papiya, a West Bengal native, said that there were hundreds living in the neighbourhood but there were no pressing concerns. “There is no problem here. But in some other areas, tents have been placed where farmers are living,” said Papiya, who has been living in the area for the past 16 years.