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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Floods in western Maharashtra: Lack of flood management plan, poor preparedness

The unfortunate incident is symbolic of what happens if the state and local authorities do not respond to a situation anticipating the extent of the problem.

opinion Updated: Aug 09, 2019 23:24 IST
Sangli: An aerial view of flood-affected areas as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (unseen) conducts a survey, in Sangli, Thursday, Aug 8, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI8_8_2019_000120B)
Sangli: An aerial view of flood-affected areas as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (unseen) conducts a survey, in Sangli, Thursday, Aug 8, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI8_8_2019_000120B)(PTI)
         

A haunting image of a woman lying dead holding a baby that she was trying to save from being drowned after a boat capsized in Sangli district has gone viral. The incident happened as desperate villagers tried to reach safe places after their houses went under the water and situation was worsening. Local authorities had not anticipated the problem and as such, were ill-equipped. The villagers somehow arranged a boat and tried to ferry people from the submerged village to a safer place when the incident happened.

The unfortunate incident is symbolic of what happens if the state and local authorities do not respond to a situation anticipating the extent of the problem. It was raining heavily for days, water was being released from dams in western Maharashtra and the rivers in the Kolhapur-Sangli belt were in spate. The state and district authorities should have planned for a massive rescue operation. Going by the reports, it looks like somehow, they did not anticipate that the situation would turn so bad.

State government officials, however, said the delay in releasing water from Almatti dam in neigbouring Karnataka (built on Krishna river that flows through western Maharashtra) led to the flood situation going out of hands.

As cities such as Kolhapur and Sangli and most of the rural areas of these two districts got flooded, people started using whatever means possible to reach safer places. There were far fewer teams of rescuers working on the ground as compared to the number of people stranded, and needed help. Desperately.

Local youths and non-government agencies did a commendable job in rescuing people. The government machinery did well in some parts of Kolhapur where most of the city was submerged. However, the same alacrity was not visible in Sangli. The additional rescue teams that are now being deployed after 3-4 days should have been reached people earlier. Even now, there is no clear idea about what has happened in rural parts of Kolhapur and Sangli districts where situation could be worse than the cities.

It is high time chief minister Devendra Fadnavis takes charge of the situation, ensures that the stranded people are rescued and massive relief operation is launched.

The bigger task would be rehabilitation of the affected people. More than 2 lakh people are displaced. Many of them have probably lost all their belongings in the flood. The government will have to give top priority to their proper rehabilitation.

Experts say the calamities like floods cannot be prevented but the authorities can handle the rescue and relief better to minimise casualties.

“There is no proper flood warning system. Our administration doesn’t have advanced equipment to monitor flood situation and alert the people accordingly. Now everybody is helpless and authorities can’t do much till water levels recede,” said Prof Pradeep Purandare, hydrology expert and former associate professor with Water and Land Management Institute, Aurangabad.

In fact, there is no plan in place to deal with an extreme situation such as this, he noted and added: “What we need is flood management plan for entire river basin and not specifically for each dam. What will you do when the water is released from all dams? That’s what happened here.”

First Published: Aug 09, 2019 23:24 IST

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