Interim flood lines for rivers in Maharashtra
The state’s water resources department has decided to map interim flood lines across all river banks in Maharashtra to demarcate certain areas as no-development zones to avoid ecological disasters in case of floods like in Kerala.
While the government claims the demarcation has been going on since 1989, activists and experts have alleged that much of this remains only on paper.In an order issued on Wednesday, the water resources department admitted that in the absence of final flood plain lines, an interim blue line to indicate flood line would be marked close to the river banks to avoid illegal encroachments and construction in this ecologically sensitive area.
The order says the interim lines will be mapped in consultation with local residents and officials on the basis of an ‘observed flood line’ of that river. And, these lines will be valid for a year until the final flood line gets mapped.
The GR states: “The mapped blue interim flood lines will be finalised by the concerned chief engineer of the water resources department. Following this, 50-meter area from the interim blue line will be considered as no-development zone. The urban development department will independently issue regulatory orders for the same banning construction here.”
The blue lines will be valid for a year until the final flood lines get mapped.
This order comes on the heels of a high court hearing on a public interest litigation filed by NGO Vanshakti against the government. The PIL demanded the state finalise flood lines and make them sacrosanct from rampant construction and encroachments to avoid disasters. In the hearing, the government was asked to decide interim measures and policy to protect the flood plains until the final lines were notified.
“We have demanded that flood plains of all rivers in the state and Mithi (that’s a separate petition) be marked. And, these areas should be completely no go to avoid ecological devastation and disasters. We had suggested that half the width of the river on both sides be considered as the flood line and be considered as no-development zone. This 50-m mark from interim flood line is an arbitrary decision. It has probably been taken only to avoid ire of the judiciary,” said petitioner and environmentalist Stalin D of Vanshakti.
An official from the water resources department said, “We realised that demarcating the final flood lines is going to take time, so we have said wherever it is not done, do a quicker interim exercise to avoid further encroachments as asked by the court.” The water resources department has guidelines to demarcate flood lines since 1989, which were amended in 2018. The guidelines refer to drawing artificial red line and blue line in a river area. The blue line is marked considering maximum flood discharge in 25 years, while the red line is marked considering maximum floods in over 100 years. The area between the blue line and the river bank is ‘prohibitive zone’ where no development is to be allowed and area between the red line and the blue line is considered as ‘restrictive zone’ where development is restricted.
In 2018, these guidelines were amended to allow more development in restricted zone such as building of roads, laying of pipelines, drainage etc.