Dam floods · Dams

Dam Floods 2018: Assam, Himachal; Making Dam Operators Accountable

ASSAM: NEEPCO a repeat offender? On July 27, 2018 sudden release of water from NEEPCO’s Doyang Hydropower Electric Project (HEP), located in Wokha district, Nagaland led to flood disaster[1], submerging[2] about 36 villages in Golaghat a district in Upper Assam. According to Rony Rajkumar, project officer of the Golaghat district disaster management authority, around 5,575 people were affected by the deluge which damaged 887.9 ha of crop.

Earlier, on July 11, 2018, reviewing the severe flood situation Lakhimpur Assam, the Chief Minister (CM) Sarbananda Sonowal strongly warned[3] the state-owned power utility NEEPCO not to release water from its Ranganadi dam without warning like previous years.

Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal (right) at the review meeting in Lakhimpur. (UB Photos)

The CM also said that lack of planning on the NEEPCO’s part in making the dam incapable of holding much water, resulting in inundation of Lakhimpur till Oct-Nov every year. He said the NEEPCO authorities should be “prepared for paying for the losses of the people affected by the flood caused by Ranganadi dam’s water in the coming days”.

Notably, an embankment breach caused by sudden water release from Ranganadi in July 2017 had killed 11 people and wreaked havoc in Lakhimpur district. A study conducted by a professor of IIT Guwahati had warned the embankment may not be able to withstand the water pressure this year during floods.

Following the Doyang dam induced flood incident, the All Assam Students’ Union on July 31, 2018 threatened to launch a mass agitation against NEEPCO if it did not provide compensation to the flood-affected people of Golaghat. The union members also demanded NEEPCO to arrange medical treatment, food items and animal feed for the affected areas at the earliest.

People wade through a flooded road in Assam’s Dibrugarh July 2018.  UB Photos/ Telegraph

In an unprecedented development, the Golaghat police on August 4, 2018 detained[4] P Das, General Manager (GM) of Doyang HEP following a complaint that blamed NEEPCO for the current flood devastation in Golaghat district. He was granted an interim bail by the Guwahati High Court and was asked to appear before the investigating officer. The GM was on August 16, 2018 questioned[5] by the Golaghat police for nearly ten hours.

Around same time, NEEPCO again released[6] water from Ranganadi HEP and level of Doyang dam was again reportedly rising creating alarm in downstream area. The dam was full again[7] around August 17, while the previous flooding had not yet subsided.

Here is a video report[8] on how wrong operation of Doyang HEP flooded villages downstream in Assam. 

Again on Sept 14, 2018, the release[9] of waters from the Ranganadi HEP flooded a number of villages in Lakhimpur.  As per dam official, the gates were opened and water was released several times.

In a separate but related development, the 17 Land Affected Villages under the aegis of Land Owners’ Union, made a series of demands[10] ranging from employment, education, roads, buildings, healthcare, and playground at the Doyang HEP area citing various grievances. The union warned that failure to comply with its set of demands would compel the landowners to take its own course of action for which the consequences would rest with the NEEPCO.

As per latest information, two sets of PILs have been filed in the Guwahati High Court against NEEPCO blaming it for the flash floods that occurred in Golaghat district in the month of July and August 2018. 

Also see, SANDRP report revealing the role of Doyang HEP[11] in bringing unprecedented floods in Golaghat, this report, in fact provided technical basis for showing how Doyang dam was responsible for the Golaghat floods.

HIMACHAL PRADESH: Hydro Projects Causing Damage

On July 1-2, 2018, Larji dam (Kullu) and Pandoh dam (Mandi) authorities released water[12] in already flooded Beas River. Before this, there was severe flood[13] in Ravi river on June 28, 2018 which was reportedly aggravated by water release from Chamera dam.

Then on July 18, 2018, the Parbati power project authorities release water from the Parbati-III power project without informing[14] the Kullu administration and people in advance. Following this the Mandi Divisional Commission summoned the project officials. As per the district administration, it was a serious matter and the negligence could have proved disastrous.

Himachal Pradesh,Dams,Dams in Himachal
The Kashang hydro power plant officials released water without warning causing immense damage to apple orchards.(HT File)

Hardly 10 days later, on July 28, 2018, sudden release of water from the 243 MW Kashang hydel power project in Kinnuar caused immense damage[15] to apple orchards and pine forests in the tribal district. It was alleged that the water was released without warning from the reservoir of the hydel project.

As per report, water was first released by the Karcham Wangtoo hydro plant in Kinnaur later the Nathpa Jhakri hydroelectric station also released water from its dam in Nathpa.

Residents of the affected Pangi village in Kinnaur submitted a memorandum to the district authorities demanding immediate action against the erring officials. Following the public protest, the state disaster management authority issued a notice to the management of Kashang hydel project seeking clarification over the release of water without warning.

 रावी नदी का भयंकर यह काला पानी कुछ तो बारिश के कारण बढ़ा था तो कुछ पानी चमेरा बांध से छोड़े जाने पर ऐसे हालात बने हैं.
रावी नदी का भयंकर यह काला पानी कुछ तो बारिश के कारण बढ़ा था तो कुछ पानी चमेरा बांध से छोड़े जाने पर ऐसे हालात बने हैं. June 2018 News 18

It may be recalled that four years back, Himachal state government had issued guidelines to all the power projects directing them to install alarm and warning system for safety of people during the sudden release of water. The directions were issued after 24 students were washed away in Beas river, after water was released without warning from the Larji dam in Kullu.

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (bhim.sandrp@gmai.com)

Also see, Himachal Pradesh Monsoon 2018 Overview

Kerala: Dams Floods 2018: Follow Rule Curves to Avoid Flood Disasters

End Notes:-

[1] https://northeastlivetv.com/2018/07/28/excess-water-released-from-doyang-dam-causes-flood-in-assams-golaghat-district/

[2] https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/north-east/doyang-water-floods-assam/cid/1456689

[3] http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/jul/13/assam-flood-situation-grim-cm-asks-neepco-not-to-release-water-from-ranganadi-dam-1842636.html

[4] https://www.apnnews.com/assam-police-detains-neepco-general-manager-of-doyang-hydropower-for-golaghat-flood/  

[5] https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam-police-quiz-neepco-dgm-flood-golaghat.html

[6] https://www.sentinelassam.com/news/water-released-from-electric-project-inundated-26-villages-in-lakhimpur-assam/  

[7] https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/north-east/doyang-reservoirs-brimming-252815

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6N27EfSHdU 

[9] https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/flash-floods-in-assam-arunachal-pradesh-two-dead-thousands-affected-5356314/

[10] http://www.easternmirrornagaland.com/doyang-hydro-electric-project-landowners-place-set-of-demands/ 

[11] https://sandrp.in/2018/08/07/role-of-doyang-dam-in-bringing-unprecedented-floods-in-golaghat/

[12] https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/beas-in-spate-water-from-larji-pandoh-dams-released/613617.html

[13] https://hindi.news18.com/photogallery/himachal-pradesh/chambas-ravi-flood-recall-of-old-memories-in-area-1431927.html

[14] https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/dam-water-release-parbati-project-officials-summoned/623837.html  

[15] https://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/dams-brimming-in-himachal-pradesh-water-being-released-without-warning/story-Rz0XzopYoBapjrYlhm2A6N.html  

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