CWC - Central Water Commission · Floods

CWC flood forecasting: Inadequate, non transparent, inconsistent

As over 4 million people in the flood prone areas of North East go through second wave of floods and Ganga basin enters the long flood season, nation’s focus should be on one particular agency, Central Water Commission which is not only the only flood forecasting agency, but is also answerable in multiple other ways for the recurring flood disaster. But the flood forecasting of CWC[i] is grossly inadequate, inconsistent and non transparent.

To illustrate, let us look at the available information about CWC’s flood forecasting and compare it with happened in 2019 flood season. Out of 29 sites[ii] (7 level monitoring sites and 22 Lavel forecasting sites) where rivers crossed the previous Highest Flood Level as per CWC’s own hydrographs of last year, CWC has not updated HFL for at least 8 sites so far this year. In case Salavad in Jhalawar district in Rajasthan, on Kali Sindh river, in stead of updating the new HFL, CWC suddenly discovered this year that that the site had higher HFL achieved 35 years ago in 1985, though till last year, it listed 1996 HFL!

Same situation for T Narasipur site in Mysore state in Karnataka on Kabini river in Cauvery basin, where on Aug 12, 2019, the water level reached 642.8 m, breaching the previous HFL of 642.4 m mentioned on CWC FF site without any date. This year, in stead of updating, CWC suddenly revealed the discovery that at this site, the HFL was 643.25 m, attained 29 years ago on July 29, 1991! Similar situation prevails at T Bekkupe (Arkavathi river in Cauvery basin in Bangalore rural district in Karnataka) and Nellithurai (Bhavani river in Cauvery basin, Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu).

Like every year, in April 2020, CWC published “Standard Operating Procedure for Flood Forecasting”[iii], which had at Annexure 1.1, the details of the 197 Level Forecasting sites and 128 Inflow forecasting sites. The list did not have updated information about the Flood Forecasting sites, though the 2019 monsoon was over at least seven months ago by then and this SOP was for the new flood season of 2020. The callousness can be gauged from the fact that at le ast in case of 5 of the 197 sites, either HFL or HFL crossing date or both were unavailable.

In case of Inflow forecasting sites, in all cases except four, at least three columns were empty! In fact, inflow forecasting of CWC is a bit of a scandal, if one were to watch its actual forecasting and usefulness or effectiveness. Most of the key information for almost all cases is empty. The SOP document does not even mention what are the threshold levels of forecast and how is it useful.

In what follows we have given information below about each of the 29 sites where HFL was touched or crossed in 2019 monsoon and what is the status of its updating on CWC FF site now.

Brahmaputra Basin (Assam)

In Brahmaputra basin 2 sites, 1 Aie NH Xing Level Monitoring site on River Aie in Barpeta district of Assam and Dhubri (Level Forecast) site on River Brahmaputra in Dhubri district of Assam narrowly crossed the HFL in the month of July 2019.

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 AIE NH XING Aie Barpeta 53.26 21-08-2015 53.27 11-07-2019 Not Updated
2 Dhubri Brahmaputra Dhubri 30.36 28-08-1988 30.38* 18-07-2019 Updated

Mahanadi Basin, Odisha

The Ong river in Bargarh district crossed the HFL at Padampur Level Monitoring site on Aug 14, 2019.

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 Padampur Ong Baragarh* 175.53 16-08-2018 176.0 14-08-2019 Not Updated

*Bargarh district is changed as Rayagarh in new hydrograph.

Ganga Basin (Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh)

In Bihar the Jhanjharpur Level Forecast site on Kamalabalan river in Madhubani district crossed the HFL.

In Rajasthan the Kalisind river breached the HFL at Salavad Level Monitoring site on Sept 14, 2019 and River Chambal at Mandawara Level Monitoring site crossed the HFL on Sept 16, 2019 by almost 8 meters.

In Uttar Pradesh Chambal River crossed the UDI Level Monitoring site on Sept 18, 2019.

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 Jhanjharpur Kamalabalan Madhubani 53.01 10-07-2004 53.1 14-07-2019 Updated
2 Salavad* Kalisind Jhalawar 320.72 21-08-1996 321.700 14-09-2019 Not updated
3 Mandawara Chambal Kota 217.685 02-09-2006 225.700 16-09-2019 Updated
Uttar Pradesh  
4 Udi Chambal Etawah 128.4 24-08-1996 128.6 18-09-2019 Not Updated

*Old website showed HFL for Salavad site as 320.72 m dated 21-08-1996. New hydrograph shows HFL as 322.08 m dated 23-09-1985. The site reached 321.700 m on 14-09-2019. so if we see, the HFL reading from CWC old website, the level of 14-09-2019 is higher. But if we see the new HFL now shown on CWC FF site at 322.08 m on 23-09-1985, the level has not been crossed in 2019. The question is how come CWC did not know about the 1985 HFL till last year and suddenly discovered this year?

Godavari Basin (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh)

River Godavari at Nasik Level Forecast site breached the HFL on Aug 4, 2019. Wainganga a tributary of Godavari in Madhya Pradesh crossed the HFL at Kumhari Level Monitoring site on Sept 9, 2019.

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 Nasik Godavari Nasik 563.01 02-08-2016 563.51 04-08-2019 Updated
Madhya Pradesh  
2 Kumhari Wainganga Balaghat 305.5 21-07-1994 306.6 09-09-2019 Updated

Krishna Basin (Maharashtra, Karnataka)

Several Rivers in Krishna basin including Panchganga, Warna in Maharashtra and Tunga, Ghatprabha, Dudhganga in Karnataka states breached the previous HFL in south west monsoon season 2019.

Out of 9 HFL crossing events, 8 took place between 7 and 11 August 2019. Out of these 9 sites only 2 Terwad on Panchganga and Huvinhedigi on Krishna are Level Monitoring sites and the rest are Level Forecast sites.

 SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 Ajunwad* Krishna Sangli 543.69 05-08-2005 544.275 NA* Date Not updated
2 Terwad  Panchganga Kolhapur 540.39 05-08-2005 542.11 05-08-2019 Updated
3 KURUNDWAD Krishna Kolhapur 539.76 05-08-2005 541.205 10-08-2019 Updated
4 Samdoli Warna Sangli 546.324 05-08-2005 546.994 09-08-2019 Updated
5 Huvinhedigi Krishna Raichur 358.22 02-10-2009 358.55 11-08-2019 Updated
6 Shimoga Tunga Shimoga 568.28 15-07-1994 570.18 10-08-2019 Updated
7 Gokak Falls* Ghatprabha Belgaum 546.88 23-08-2005 550.324 11-08-2019 Updated
8 Mudhol Ghatprabha Bagalkot 538.25 20-08-2019 544.73 09-08-2019 Updated
9 Sadalga Dudhganga Belgaum 538.9 06-08-2005 540.58 10-08-2019 Updated

*For Ajunwad site HFL 544.275 m is mentioned in CWC new website but date for attaining it is not mentioned. CWC 2019 hydrograph shows the level was attained on 09-08-2019.

*Hydrograph from CWC FF website last year showed HFL at Gokak Falls reaching upto 552.0 metre on 08-08-2019, however CWC website now in 2020 mentions HFL as 550.324 m attained on 11-08-2019.

Cauvery Basin (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu)

In Cauvery basin, previous HFLs are breached or touched at 9 locations across Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL, M Date Status on 170720
1 KOLLEGAL Cauvery Chamaraja nagara 630.25 NA 630.25 12-08-2019 Updated
2 THIMMANAHALLI Yagachi Hassan 909.665 16-07-2009 912.725 10-08-2019 Updated
3 SAKLESHPUR Hemavathi Hassan 893.4 17-07-2000 895.05 10-08-2019 Updated
4 T. NARASIPUR* Kabini Mysore 642.4 NA 642.8 12-08-2019 Not updated
5 THORESHETTAHALLI Shimsha Mandya 622.86 25-11-2018 623.90


07-10-2019 Updated
6 T. BEKKUPE* Arkavathi Bangalore Rural 606.95 NA 606.95 03-10-2019 Not updated
7 MUTHANKERA Kabini Wyand 713.26 17-08-2018 713.89 10-08-2019 Updated
Tamil Nadu  
8 NELLITHURAI* Bhavani Coimbatore 309.45 15-11-1992 309.45 09-08-2019 Not updated
9 BILIGUNDULU Cauvery Dharmapuri 265.84 NA 266.42 12-08-2019 Updated

*The CWC FF now in 2020 mentions HFL for T Narasipur site as 643.25 m attained on 29-07-1991, while information on CWC FF site last year showed the old HFL to be 642.4 with no mentioning of date. The water level at the site reached 642.8 m on 12-08-2019. However if HFL data from new website is considered, it was higher than 2019 HFL.

*The HFL for T. BEKKUPE site was mentioned as 606.95 m without attaining date. The site reached upto that level on 09-08-2019. However now CWC new website shows the HFL level for T. BEKKUPE site as 608.1 m attained on 10-09-2017. Considering this information, it seems HFL at the site has not been crossed in 2019.

*The old CWC website mentioned HFL for NELLITHURAI site as 309.45 m attained on 15-11-1992. The level was touched on 12-08-2019. However, CWC new website now mentions the HFL for the site as 309.47 attained on 16-08-2018. It shows that upto 2019, the CWC has not updated the HFL for the site.

WFR south of Tapi Basin, Kerala

SN Site River District Old HFL, M Date New HFL,


Date Status on 170720
1 PERUMANNU Valapatnam Kannur 15.55 08-08-2018 18.28 09-08-2019 Updated
2 KUTTYADI Kuttyadi Kozhikode 8.36 16-08-2018 8.7 08-08-2019 Updated

Media needs to sharper focus in flood reporting It was great to see editorial in a national newspaper on July 17, 2020[iv] as we write this, on the issue of ongoing floods particularly in North East India. It asks some right, tough questions: “Assam needs to jettison outmoded flood control measures… the unplanned expansion of the city… has led to severe encroachments in the wetlands, low lying areas, hills and shrinkage of forest cover. The denuded hills and loss of wetlands lead to artificial floods”. But the name Central Water Commission and its sister organisation in North East, the Brahmaputra Board (BB) was completely missing in the Editorial. This is very serious omission.

The media reports in general too leave a lot to be desirable. A number of disastrous floods happen when embankment breach. But how many reports mention as to where all did the embankment breached, at what flow rate, who was responsible for that embankment, what did they do to ensure that the embankment does not beach. What did the official agencies do before and during monsoon in that respect. What did agencies like CWC & BB do before and during monsoon? What did the disaster management agencies do before the monsoon and immediately before the breaches?  If the flood reporting in media does not have that kind of sharp focus on agencies and responsible persons, do we have any hope of improvement?




[ii] For details, see:



4 thoughts on “CWC flood forecasting: Inadequate, non transparent, inconsistent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.