(Feature Image: RMC plants located in active floodplain of Yamuna at Noida More submerged in flood water on Aug. 13, 2022. Image Credit:- Vikrant Tongad, SAFE)
A much awaited flood spell has flowed through Delhi during August 13-14, 2022. It came after more than two months of south west monsoon. Usually by this time, Yamuna river would have witnessed two or three flood spells in national capital lending a fresh lease of life to one of the most polluted rivers of India.
The small scale flood spell in the river has invaded parts of floodplains under abuse and encroachment by government agencies in open defiance of National Green Tribunal (NGT) January 13, 2015 judgement[i]. Apart from this flood, Delhi stretch of the river has witnessed few more abnormal events in this monsoon season so far.
Foaming at ITO Barrage July 2022
The river witnessed a foaming episode[ii] on July 2, 2022 at ITO Barrage. Such incidents are generally not seen in monsoon months especially at ITO barrage. While the river pollution has been worsening over the years, the encroachment of floodplains is also unabated by government agencies particularly Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Abuse of floodplain near CWG Village
Though the NGT has prohibited dumping of malbas and permanent construction in the Yamuna floodplain in January 2015, in the name of restoration and rejuvenation of Yamuna floodplains DDA has been blatantly violating the judicial order particularly near Common Wealth Games (CWG) Village which has been repeatedly flagged by SANDRP in 2021[iii].
In 2022 too, DDA has been found allowing dumping of construction waste[iv] in Yamuna floodplain at the site on June 14, 2022. Again on July 17, 2022, a video showed dumping of rock boulders[v] there.
As per floodplain farmers, for past many months DDA has dumped more than 60 trucks of construction debris in Yamuna floodplain near CWG Village. As per them, DDA has also dumped several heaps of sand at the site apart from digging up of the floodplain to create artificial water bodies there.
DDA is reportedly creating[vi] ‘Amrut Biodiversity Park’ on 90 hectares of floodplain land near CWG Village under its River Front Development project. The project would cost about Rs. 15 crore and is to be completed by 2024.
Moreover, DDA has allowed compensatory plantation on large part of floodplain along National Highway (NH) 24 opposite CWG Village in the last couple of years.
RMC Plants Encroaching Yamuna Floodplain at Noida More
The ongoing abuse and encroachment of Yamuna floodplain by official agencies have wiped out couple of natural water bodies opposite CWG Village along NH 24 in the recent past. One of the water bodies was buried during widening of NH 24 while another one has been occupied by a RMC plant right at Noida More opposite Akshar Dham Temple.
The issue was raised with Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) and DDA by SANDRP in August 2020 but instead of taking any action, we have learnt that two more RMC plants have come up at the site grabbing about 1.90 hectare of the floodplain land.
Yamuna Flood Spell in August 2022
For most part of July 2022, Yamuna remained heavily polluted in Delhi in absence of sufficient river water flows. Following rainfall in Himalayan catchment, the discharges from Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB), Haryana gradually increased in the last week of the month with peak discharge being about 40,000 cusec at 12:00 hours on July 31, 2022.
With beginning of August month, the rain water flow increased in the river. Surprisingly, such a small discharge from HKB caused Yamuna river breach the bank and flood floodplain downstream Yamuna Bank Metro Depot and subsequently next to CWG Village. As water level kept rising, hundreds of nursery workers had to shift on the guide bund of NH 24 bridge on Aug 2, 2022.
The nursery people attributed the man-made flooding to obstruction of flood flows by cross sectional bund of an under construction bridge. The bridge is being constructed by National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) under Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) project just upstream Delhi Noida Delhi (DND) bridge. They also shared that DDA had channelized flood water to fill the water bodies near CWG Village.
In addition to this, the recently built 2 double lane bridges on NH 24 have created bottleneck situation restricting smooth passage of flood water. In fact about 3.7 km long stretch of Yamuna river lying between Kale Khan and DND has 5 double lane bridges and one Metro Bridge including two double lane bridges of Barapulla and RRTS which are under construction.
Overall there are 22 existing bridges on 22km stretch of Yamuna in Delhi including 3 barrage-cum-bridges, 6 double lane and 1 single lane road bridge, 4 Metro and 2 Railway bridges. Moreover 2 double lane, 1 Metro and 1 Railway bridges are currently under construction which means in coming years there would be 28 bridges on limited stretch of the river. While these structure have been facilitating vehicular mobility, at the same time they have been narrowing down the width of Yamuna and altering flooding pattern of the river in Delhi.
First Spell of Low Scale Flood in August 2022
The first flood spell of 2022 SW Monsoon, a relatively low scale flood, passed through Delhi on August 13-14, 2022 after release of over 1 lakh cusec (cubic feet per second) water from HKB for 22 hours on August 11-12 2022 with peak discharge being 2,21,785 cusec for two hours. The table below has the details of 1 lakh cusec plus discharges from HKB, Haryana on these two days.
|11 August 2022|
|Time||Discharge in cusec|
|12 August 2022|
Unusually, the low scale flood spell breached the Danger Level (DL) 205.53 metre at Old Railway Bridge and the flood level stayed at 205.99 metre for several hours on Aug 13, 2022.
This flood spell also submerged large part of floodplains near CWG Village and Noida More. The videos and pictures shared by local people show entire part of ‘Amrut Biodiversity Park’ near CWG Village engulfed and the RMC plants at Noida More encircled by flood waters. Normally, this used to happened during medium or high level flood events in past.
Factors behind submerging of Amrut Biodiversity Park and RMC Plants?
This episode of a low scale flood spell invading unexpected parts of floodplain should be a matter of concern for city disaster managers, planners and concerned agencies. It could be combination of factors including gradual rise of riverbed in Delhi stretch due to accumulation of sediments and construction debris in riverbed; straight-jacketing of floodplains and obstruction of flood waters by recently built and under-construction road and bridge projects along river on either side; unabated abuse and encroachment of Yamuna floodplains by government agencies including by DDA in the name of existing and ongoing riverfront beautification and development projects.
It could also be a result of deliberate manipulation of Okhla barrage to create backflows for filling up the artificial water bodies dug up in floodplain to portray it as successful project. Understanding and addressing the causes behind the issue, requires detailed surveys and assessment of impacts of all these factors.
At the same time, this event has once again aptly exposed the abuse and encroachment of Yamuna floodplains near CWG Village and Noida More by the government agencies including DDA. On the one hand the government projects have been destroying the naturally existing water bodies and on the other creating artificial water bodies while the entire floodplain can function as spongy wetland and does not necessarily need creation of ornamental water bodies and destructive riverfront development projects.
The short duration flood spell has not only revived the river but also reclaimed parts of abused and encroached floodplains in Delhi. It now depends on the government agencies whether they seek a course correction or continue to degrade the river and its floodplains.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)