Bengal flood: Six killed; govt, DVC squabble over release of water from dams
At least six people were killed in West Bengal as incessant rain since Sunday pushed up the water level in more than a dozen rivers inundating large swathes of land across six districts.
During her visit to Delhi on Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee discussed the flood situation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
Though some of the districts witnessed less rain since Tuesday morning, the situation worsened after the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) started releasing water from its reservoirs as water level in the catchment areas had risen dangerously. Since early Wednesday, 1.89 lakh cusecs water was released by the DVC.
The worst affected districts were Birbhum, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Bankura and Howrah. Parts of Burdwan, Purulia and Murshidabad were also affected. State and national highways were inundated at several places in Birbhum, Burdwan, Bankura and East Midnapore. As a result, a number of district towns and villages were cut off from each other forcing the government to sound an alert on Monday.
State government officials said the Subarnarekha river burst its banks after water was released from the Galudi dam in Jharkhand. Water was also released from Tilpara barrage in Birbhum. As a result, the Mayurakshi river inundated hundreds of acres of farmland. Water was reported to be rising fast in Chandrabhaga, Kopai and Bakreswar rivers in Birbhum district. In Hooghly district, embankments along the Darakeswar river were washed away and flood water gushed towards Arambagh town.
In East Midnapore district, people in Panskura were the worst hit while in West Midnapore people in Ghatal, Chandrakona and Keshpur abandoned several villages and moved to safer areas.
The government set up a special control room at Nabanna, the state secretariat. “All employees of the disaster management and irrigation departments and chief medical officers have been asked to report for duty. Leaves have been cancelled,” said irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee.
The flood has now triggered a blame game between the government and the DVC.
Banerjee alleged that DVC officials did not inform the government before water was released from the dams. DVC officials, however, denied the charges and said the government was kept informed. Banerjee alleged that despite having the capacity to hold more water, the DVC ignored requests from the state. “We requested DVC not to release more that 28,000 cusecs. However, they released 84,000 cusecs from their Panchet and Maithan dams. This flooded vast areas,” said Banerjee.
But a senior DVC official contradicted the government’s claim. He said because of heavy rainfall in Jharkhand water was released from Galudi and Tenughat dams. “This prompted us to release water from Panchet and Maithan dams because it is impossible to store so much water flowing down from upper catchment areas,” the DVC official said.
“There is a committee comprising representatives of DVC, Central Water Commission and governments of Bengal and Jharkhand. Updates on release of water from different dams are passed on to the committee every three hours,” he said.
In Murshidabad district, more than 50 villages in Kandi sub-division were completely inundated and thousands of people displaced. “Situation is equally critical in Khargram, Bharatpur and Barwan blocks. In Bharatpur, around 200 families are trapped in their homes. We have started distributing relief material and food,” said the state irrigation minister.
State agriculture minister Purnendu Bose visited some affected areas to have an estimate of the damage done to crops.