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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Yamuna crosses danger level in Delhi, CM Kejriwal preps govt to evacuate 24,000 people

Hours after the CM Kejriwal’s statement, the Yamuna crossed the danger-mark of 205.33 metre in Delhi and officials said they expected it to reach 207m – a level last seen in 2013 when the Yamuna’s flooding swept away hundreds of homes and farmlands on the banks.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2019 08:43 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The water level meter showing the level of flow in the Yamuna River at Geeta Colony, New Delhi, on Monday, August 19, 2019.
The water level meter showing the level of flow in the Yamuna River at Geeta Colony, New Delhi, on Monday, August 19, 2019. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
         

Delhi government officials began preparations on Monday to move nearly 24,000 people from places close to the Yamuna as the river flowed above the danger mark and was expected to reach levels close to its all-time record – putting homes, farms and bridges at risk.

The crisis staring at the Capital began up north over the weekend when heavy monsoon rains hit the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand on Sunday, swelling rivers, causing buildings to collapse, and triggering landslides that claimed at least 38 lives.

With waters cascading downstream, dams such as the Hathni Kund in Haryana were opened to release water at the rate of 828,000 cusecs on Sunday evening. One cusec is equivalent to 28.317 litre per second. It was not immediately clear how long the water was released at the peak rate of over 800,000 cusecs.

“This water is likely to reach Delhi with full force by Monday evening,” said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference on Monday, urging people in close to floodplains to evacuate.

“Over 2,100 tents have been set up for those being evacuated. I urge that those living on the floodplains and its adjoining areas shift to these temporary shelters by 7pm tonight. Food, water, electricity and toilet facilities are being provided to everyone in these camps. Delhiites should know that the situation shall remain critical for the next two days as the water from Haryana takes 36-72 hours to reach Delhi,” said Kejriwal, who chaired an emergency meeting earlier.

Traffic movement on the Old Yamuna Bridge, popularly known as Loha Pul, was closed as a precaution.

Hours after the CM’s statement, the Yamuna crossed the danger-mark of 205.33 metre and officials said they expected it to reach 207m – a level last seen in 2013 when the Yamuna’s flooding swept away hundreds of homes and farmlands on the banks.

Living in Yamuna floodplains is illegal but encroachments have steadily risen over years. Kejriwal on Monday said at least 23,800 people have to be evacuated.

“The water level of the Yamuna will cross the 207m mark between 4am and 5am on Tuesday. Apart from teams of various departments, locals of the low-lying areas too have organised night vigil to warn people if the water level rises,” said an official of the flood and irrigation control department, asking not to be named.

On July 31 last year, the Yamuna had touched 206.5 metres. In 2013, it had risen to 207.32 metres.

The record for the river’s level, seen in 1978 when Delhi suffered its most serious flooding, is at 207.49 metres.

Kejriwal on Monday hit out at the Haryana administration for not coordinating on the water release. “In 2013, Haryana had released 8.06 lakh cusecs of water. This time the water they released is even more… They [Haryana administration] had not spoken to us [Delhi government] before releasing the water on Sunday,” the chief minister said.

The government also opened a helpline number 011-22421656 for people to register their concerns and complaints.

Experts saw an ecological upside to the flooding of the Yamuna. “Flooding is a natural cleansing process for a river. Delhi could face a problem only if the flood is prolonged and there are incessant rains. In such situations, stormwater drains would get flooded and it would be difficult to drain out the water,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, natural heritage division, INTACH, an NGO.

“In Delhi, the river does not have a flow all through the year except for these periodic floods during the monsoon. This is the only time when the river comes alive. In the process of flowing, it recharges groundwater, which is the most important function of a river,” said Manoj Misra, environmental activist and convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan (YJA).

First Published: Aug 20, 2019 00:09 IST