Yamuna waters rise to 5-year high, 3000 people evacuated from low-lying areas in Delhi
About 3,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas of Delhi to makeshift camps and traffic was suspended on the Old Yamuna Bridge as the water level in the river continued to rise on Sunday, reaching its highest level in the last five years a day after breaching the danger mark, government officials said.
The Delhi government has declared an emergency in the low-lying areas of the Yamuna floodplains.
“The water level touched 205.5 metres around 5pm on Sunday. The last time it breached the 205 metres was in 2013 when the water level touched 207.3 metres. In 2013 Haryana, had released around 8 lakh cusecs of water on a single day. This time the maximum water Haryana has released so far is around 6 lakh cusecs. It was released on Saturday evening,” said an official of the irrigation and flood control department (I&FC), requesting not to be named.
An order banning movement of traffic on the bridge was issued after the flow in the Yamuna showed a rising trend, another official said.
The water level is likely to rise to 206.6 metres in the next 48 hours, as it takes at least two days for the water to reach Delhi after being released from Haryana’s Hathnikund Barrage, around 200km north of Delhi.
In 1978, when Delhi suffered its most severe floods, the water level had touched a record 207.49 metres.
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar held an emergency meeting on Sunday to review the situation in Yamunanagar district, where an alert was declared after water flow crossed 5 lakh cusecs. The Yamuna passes through Yamunanagar, Karnal and Panipat districts in Haryana before entering Delhi.
Haryana officials have cautioned Delhi about the rise in water level, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
Khattar also took an aerial survey of the affected regions, which included 65 villages. He announced a compensation for farmers and said affected areas would be assessed to study the damage caused to crops.
Though monsoon rain has abated in the national capital, heavy spells in the upper catchment areas of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have led to a sharp rise in level of the Yamuna in Delhi. Evacuation of people, mostly farmers and cattle grazers in the low-lying areas of the floodplain, began on Saturday after the Delhi government issued a flood alert.
The India Metrological Department (IMD), however, said on Sunday the intensity of rainfall in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is likely to decrease in the next three-four days, which could improve the situation in Delhi. An I&FC official said the river water is unlikely to enter the main city.
According to I&FC department officials, around 15,000-20,000 families living on the river floodplains are affected by the rising water. A flood alert was sounded in the villages and slum clusters along the river on Friday. The affected areas include Old Railway Bridge, Akshardham, Geeta Colony, Okhla, Garhi Mandu, Madanpur Khadar, and Usmanpur, among others.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday took stock of the ongoing evacuation work. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal held an emergency meeting with top officials of his government a day earlier, saying putting all concerned departments on high alert.
Sisodia met the people living in the vicinity of the river and urged them to move to safer places. People in affected areas can dial 1077 for any flood-related emergencies.
“All executive engineers/sector officers are directed to keep in close contact with the control room in relation to the discharge, water level at the Old Railway Bridge and the advisory or forecast from the Central Water Commission/MeT, and requested to take appropriate measures/steps accordingly to avoid flood-like situation,” a government advisory said.
A Delhi government official said: “We have set up around 550 tents and evacuated around 3,000 people. Food, water and other amenities such as electricity and toilets are being provided. Some people are unwilling to shift.” Such camps were being set up after a gap of two years as the level of water in the river had not swollen to this extent since 2013, he said.
The Delhi government has pressed about 350 officials from the revenue department, flood and irrigation department, Public Works Department, and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority into evacuation work. Around 250 officials from the Delhi Police have also conducting checks in affected areas, making announcement to warn residents.
An expert said the rising water would do more good than harm to the area. “While on one hand it would help to make the river clean flushing out pollutants, it would also help to recharge ground water and enrich the floodplain soil with fresh silt,” said CR Babu, an ecologist.
(With inputs from agencies)