August 2019 Floods in Sangli and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra have been historic. River levels washed away all past records many times over. New High Flood Levels (HFL) were reached multiple times at multiple places both in Sangli and Kolhapur. These districts, which form the fertile Black Cotton Soil belt of Maharashtra, are the floodplains of mighty rivers of the Krishna Basin: Krishna, Koyna, Warna, Panchaganga, Tarli, Urmodi, Dudhganga, Hiranyakeshi etc.
On the 8th August, Krishna breached its HFL: Highest Flood Level at two places in Maharashtra (Kurundwad and Arjunwad). On the same day, Warna and Panchaganga too crossed their HFLs at two places: Samdoli and Terwad (Kolhapur).
While part of the reason of the deluge was incessant rainfall, flood impacts multiplied and were made stark by simultaneous release from massive reservoirs like Koyna, Warna and Radhanagari in the upstream and filling up Upper Krishna (Almatti) Dam in the downstream Karnataka. (Read SANDRP’s blog here: https://sandrp.in/2019/08/08/aug-2019-krishna-basin-floods-in-maharashtra-karnataka-how-dams-harming-rather-than-helping/)
Slowly, villages and towns have been limping back to normalcy. The destruction wrought the floods has been momentous. Just in the two districts of Sangli and Kolhapur, more than 6.45 Lakh people were evacuated and shifted to safer places. More than 30 people died in flood related incidents in just that week in five districts of Western Maharashtra. In Sangli, more than 3,450 homes were destroyed by the flood waters.
Abhay Kanvinde toured Western Maharashtra and parts of Northern Karnataka in the first week of September 2019, talked with the residents and captured images of communities trying to regain their homes and lives.
This series of Photoblogs takes you through Sangli, Kolhapur and Belgaum to look at what rivers left in their wake and how resilient communities are rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.
Such photo documentation is crucial, lest we forget the human side of the natural disaster and the toll it took on rural communities.
Homes at Khidrapur Village, Kolhapur after Krishna Floods swept through Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Shashank Chothe from Akivat Village in Shirol Taluka of Sangli shows water levels marks on his house. “Blue line shows level 537 meters in 2006, In 2005, Red line shows the highest level reached till now about 538.5 mts. People thought this level will not be breached ever. Village elders do not remember a flood worst than 2005. But in 2019, water reached the terrace of the house and we had to mark a new Flood Level about 6 feet higher than 2005. 95% village was under water. All of the sugarcane was submerged. In 2005, water rose gradually, giving us time to plan and shift out. But in 2019, water was at one step on the night before and on the next day, it rose by 1.5- 2 feet in one night. Next day, it rose by 2.5 feet. We got no time to shift or even think.
Everything in the house is wet even today. Wall, books, camera, cupboards, clothes. We kept valuables on the loft thinking water will not reach the loft. It never has reached there before. Not even in 2005. But everything got washed away.”
Homes near the Khidrapur Temple at Kolhapur and the temple itself. Video: Abhay Kanvinde
Ladies from Shirol tell Abhay about water level during the Epic 2005 flood and then the substantially higher water levels and markings of the 2019 Flood
Kulkarni’s home in Khidrapur collapsed. A room shows the would-be residents. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Rebuilding from the remains in Akivat. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
As the government appoints one more Vadnere Committee to look into the reasons and remedies for floods in Western Maharashtra, let us not forget the human side of the tragedy.
NOTE: For the other three photo blogs in this series, see: