Dam floods · Maharashtra

Maharashtra Floods 2019: Don’t waste the crisis

Guest Blog by Pradeep Purandare

Abstract: Flood Study Committee in Maharashtra has set up a record of sorts by not only denying technical information to its member but even excluding his chapter altogether from the final draft report. The humiliated member who opted to quit the committee shares his experience in this article. The article highlights: (1) the report was finalized without detailed discussions on all chapters together, (2)  Maharashtra is well equipped with theory of ROS (Reservoir Operation Schedule) & Flood Zoning but doesn’t implement the same,  (3) Maharashtra wasted full 13 years by not implementing the recommendations of Wadnere Committee-1 regarding revised ROS & integrated reservoir operation,  (4) Total absence of flood management governance & (5) most importantly, the simulation study carried out by the committee indicates that backwater effect of Almatti project is not responsible for Maharashtra floods 2019. Next, the paper explains WRD’s (Water Resources Department) viewpoint regarding Maharashtra Floods 2019 & its emphasis on structural measures.  The paper then points out WRD’s strange policy, raises questions regarding reliability of discharge measurement at observation points & makes following critical comment on Reservoir Operation.

“There is, therefore, room to believe that had there been the implementation of revised ROS as recommended by Wadnere Committee -1, less storage in the dams in the last week of July 2019 & staggered outflow from 9 projects based on  the principle of integrated ROS, the flood situation would have been different & comparatively speaking less severe.”

In the end, the author requests the govt to follow the principle – “Don’t waste the crisis” and

  • Take a critical review of the State’s preparedness regarding Flood Moderation
  • Adopt & Implement the concept of Integrated Reservoir Operation
  • Don’t make compromises in respect of flood zoning
  • Ask Wadnere Committee-2 to make amendments in its report & modus operandi as well.

INTRODUCTION Satara, Sangli & Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra experienced a devastating flood in 2019. There was huge loss of life & property. Govt of Maharashtra, therefore, appointed Flood Study Committee (FSC) on 23 Aug 2019. The composition of the committee & its TOR is given below.

Flood Study Committee

S. N. Name Designation
1 Shri Nandkumar Wadnere, Retired Principal Secretary, Water Resources Department Chairman
2 Shri. Vinay Kulkarni, Technical Member, Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Member
3 Shri. Sanjay Ghanekar, Secretary (Project Coordination) Water Resources Department, Mantralaya,  Mumbai. Member
4 Prof. Ravi Sinha, IIT, Mumbai. Member
5  Shri. Nityanand Roy, Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission, New Delhi Member
6 Director, Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre, Nagpur Member
7  Deputy Director General, Indian Meteorological Department, Mumbai Member
8 Director, IITM Pune Member
9 Shri. Pradeep Purandare, Retired Associate Professor, WALMI, Aurangabad Member
10 Shri.  Rajendra Pawar, Secretary, CAD, Water Resources Department, Mantralay Mumbai Member- Secretary

N.B.  Flood Study Committee constituted in 2019 is termed as Wadnere Committee – 2 in this note to differentiate it from Wadnere Committee-1 which was set up in 2007 to provide guidance regarding reservoir releases.

Terms of References

  1. To carry out in-depth technical analysis of Floods-2019 in Bhima & Krishna River Basins using modern technology,
  2. To clarify, from hydraulics point of view, whether said Floods 2019 were due to Backwater Effect of Almatti Dam or not,
  3. To suggest specific ways & means to avoid such flood situation in future and/ or to reduce its severity,
  4. To give, in addition to policy level recommendations, concrete & quantitative recommendations at micro-level regarding following – Dam-wise revised ROS, Integrated arrangement for measurement & management of river discharges, Control of constructions in flood zones, Disaster Management Plan, Standard Operating Procedure.
2019 HFL in Narsoba wadi, meters higher than the record levels of 2005 (539.76 meters) and also 1914 (539.70 meters) Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

Modus Operandi: Information denied:

In view of TOR, the author formally requested the committee to give him following technical information.

  1. Implementation status of Accepted Recommendations of Wadnere Committee-1
  2. Salient features of dams with gated spillway in the flood affected area
  3. Dam-wise Original & Revised copy of ROS, Gate Operation Schedule (GOS), Capacity Table, Tank Chart
  4. Copy of following records from 1st May 2019 onwards
  • Reservoir water levels,
  • Releases from the dam, Rainfall recorded at Rain Gauge Station (RGS) at dam site,
  • River Discharges recorded at River Gauging Station

However, committee ignored the request & did not give  the information.

Assignment given Committee assigned two responsibilities to the author. First, to prepare a draft chapter on Reservoir Operation Schedule & Flood Zoning. Second, to head a subcommittee & revise the ROS of Koyana Project. Author completed the assignment & presented it before the committee which was appreciated, accepted & duly recorded in minutes of meeting.

Draft report not finalised in the committee The committee could not hold the meetings after imposition of lock-down. The Chairman discussed every chapter with the concerned member (excluding this author) & finalized the same with the help of officers. The final draft of the report was, thus, prepared without formal discussions in the meeting giving due thought to all chapters together & checking their linkages. Such a final report was sent to all members on 12 May 2020 with a message that the report would be finalized on 14 May 2020 in a zoom meeting & immediately submitted to the government. Author formally requested the Chairman to give at least a week to study the report but the request was ignored.

No option but to quit When the author saw the report, he was shocked. His chapter on ROS & Flood Zoning and the revised ROS of Koyana was not included in the report. When he brought it to the notice of the Chairman, he realised that it was not an inadvertent omission but a deliberate decision. The Chairman was candid enough to tell the author that he dropped it because some higherups asked him to do so. It was not only unfortunate but unprecedented that somebody pressurises the Chairman & he meekly succumbs. The author protested & sent an email to the Chairman demanding immediate amendment in the report. Chairman as an afterthought informed that he felt very sorry and would do the needful. But then the author   decided to quit as he did not want to be a party to a hurriedly finalized report without studying it completely.

This unprecedented episode raises a question – What was so disturbing and / or embarrassing in the author’s chapter that the so called higherups went to the extent of pressuring the chairman of the committee to dropping his chapter altogether in such a crude manner?

The inconvenient truth Chapter on ROS & Flood Zoning pointed out following:

Recommendations of Wadnere Committee-1 Wadnere Committee-1, dealt with ROS & Integrated Reservoir Operation quite extensively & even revised the ROS of Koyana Project. The committee submitted its report with 44 recommendations to the govt in May 2007. Govt accepted the report & most of the recommendations in May 2011i.e. after 4 years. However, in absence of detailed directives, most of the recommendations (including Revised ROS of Koyana) have remained on paper. The author suggested that Wadnere Committee-2 should take a review of implementation of recommendations of Wadnere Committee-1 & see that those are implemented in letter & spirit.

Reservoir Operation Schedule

  • The State appears to be well equipped with the technique of Reservoir Operation Schedule & associated Standard Operating Procedure. What is required is implementation.
  • The said ROS & SOP are in respect of individual dams. Though the necessity of switching over to Integrated Reservoir Operation has been acknowledged since long, it’s ‘how to do it part’ is yet to be developed.
  • The discussions about ROS in the report of Wadnere Committee-1 & even in the deliberations of Wadnere Committee -2, so far, have been mostly Koyana – centric. The present state of affairs regarding ROS of other dams in the flood affected area has not been presented, so far, before this committee.
  • The ground truth observed at Irwin Bridge, Sangli & Rajapur K.T.Weir during field visit on 23 & 24 Sept 2019 highlights the necessity of verifying the arrangements  regarding collection, analysis & updating of basic data in a scientific manner.

Flood Zoning 

  • The State also appears to be well equipped with the guidelines & SOP of flood zoning. But implementation appears to be the problem.
  • The maps showing revised / final Blue & Red Lines & actual flood line observed in 2019 are yet under preparation.
  • The quantification of actual encroachment on prohibitive & restrictive zones & working out the actual carrying capacity of rivers in the flood affected area appears to be still under process.

Flood Management Governance

The committee has not yet discussed the governance issues of Flood Management. Flood Management is a part & parcel of Water Management, Governance & Regulation (WMGR) in the State. Maharashtra Irrigation Act 1976 (MIA) provides legal support to WMGR through following provisions in the Act

  • Definition of `Canal’ [Sec2(3)]
  • Notification when water supply to be applied for purposes of canal or for regulation, supply or storage of water. [Sec 11]
  • Power to Canal Officer to operate gates in order to regulate floods [Sec 16]
  • Removal of obstructions to drainage [Sec 19,20,21]
  • Penalties for damaging, endangering stability, etc of canal Cognizance of certain offence [Sec 93, 94, 98].

Since the controversy regarding backwater effect of Almatti has a legal dimension too, possibility of a River Basin Organisation needs to be explored.

It is also imperative to approach The Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal afresh to conclusively negate Shukla Report in the light of new & promising studies being carried out by the committee.  It needs to be done urgently before Almatti starts impounding water up to new FRL (524.256 m).

Floods 2019: WRD’s view point:

The reasons behind the flood event & remedial measures from WRD’s point of view are given in Table-1. The sequence matters because the reasons are arranged in descending order as per their weightage.

Table-1   Floods 2019: WRD’s view point

SN Reasons Remedial Measures
1 Satara, Sangli &Kolhapur received large excess rainfall with a departure of +431%, +406% & +344% respectively of their long period average. Flood dams

Flood tunnels to divert floods

2 Dams not designed for flood control. No separate flood absorption space provided.

Only flood moderation is possible, that too, in case of dams with gated spillway.

No river sluices. Releases through power house & canals are too less as compared to flood inflows.

Releases need to be less than actual carrying capacity of river downstream which is ever reducing due to encroachments.

Provide flood absorption space:

Increase the height of dams, provide gates on ungated spillways, in case of gated spillways attach flaps to the gates to increase their height,

Replace automatic gates of the Radhanagari project by non-automatic gates


3 No area specific actionable rainfall- alerts in time. IMD to do needful
4 Outflow from dam catchment less than that of free catchment. WRD is not responsible for free catchment
5 Back water effect of Almatti project. Further study required
6 Krishna river flow gets retarded at 4 river confluences in a reach of about 50 km.  
7 River carrying capacities reduced drastically. Desilting, construct embankments on both banks of rivers.
8 Number of Bridges & K T weirs which obstruct river flow & create afflux. Rectify the structures
9 Too many curves & meanders in Krishna river. Remove some of the meanders & straighten Krishna river.
10 No scope for Reservoir Operation. It’s not an issue. Adopt integrated ROS.


  1. Strange policy

The draft report has adopted a strange policy. Though it has recommended structural measures as given in Table-1, it also has discussed climate change & even included a chapter written by Jeeveet Nadi a NGO working for the cause of environment.

  1. Reliability of discharge measurement at observation points:

It is argued in the draft report that contribution of dam catchment in the outflow was far less than that of free catchment. WRD can control outflow from dam catchment only. It has no control over free catchment. Flood Study Committee visited flood affected area on 23 & 24 Sept 2019. In this visit, the committee found that the arrangements for discharge measurement at Irwin Bridge, Sangli; Rajaram Weir, Kolhapur & Rajapur Weir are not satisfactory & hence, the accuracy & reliability of discharge measurement at these observation points is doubtful to say the least.

  1. Review of Reservoir Operation:

Out of total 9 projects, the actual storage in 4 projects, namely, Warana, Tulshi, Kasari & Kumbhi was in the range of 72 to 80% when heavy rainfall started in the last week of July 2019. More over barring the exception of Tarali project, the inflow was greater than outflow in most of the projects from 25th July to 5th Aug 2019. As only to be expected, water had to be released from all 9 projects almost simultaneously from 5th to 7th Aug 2019. In above mentioned projects, revised ROS as recommended by Wadnere Committee -1 was not implemented. The old method which recommends the guide curves too close to FRL since the beginning of the monsoon, was only adopted leaving hardly any space for the absorption of flood. There is, therefore, room to believe that had there been the implementation of revised ROS as recommended by Wadnere Committee -1, less storage in the dams in the last week of July 2019 & staggered outflow from 9 projects based on  the principle of integrated ROS, the flood situation would have been different & comparatively speaking less severe.

  1. Backwater effect of Almatti project:

The simulation study carried out by the committee indicates that backwater effect of Almatti project is not responsible for Maharashtra floods 2019.

“Don’t waste the crisis”: In the end, it is suggested that the govt may follow the principle – “Don’t waste the crisis” & (1) take a critical review of the State’s preparedness regarding Flood Moderation, (2) Adopt & Implement the concept of Integrated Reservoir Operation, (3) Don’t make compromises in respect of flood zoning & (4) ask Wadnere Committee-2 to make amendments in its report & modus operandi as well.

Pradeep Purandare is retired Asso Prof, WALMI, Aurangabad, Former Member  of Committees for (1) MMISF Act & Rules, (2) Marathwada Development Board, (3) Integratted State Water Plan & (4) Flood Study Committee. M 9822565232, pradeeppurandare@gmail.com

Note: The Feature photo of blog: Historic Irwin Bridge in Sangli, built in 1929 faced its highest floods in Aug 2019 when water reached its arches Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

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