(Feature Image: Breach in GGSSTP micro hydel canal on April 26, 2023. Image by The Tribune)
A sudden breach in a micro hydel canal of Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP) has damaged standing wheat crops on hundreds of acres of land in Ranjitpura village of Ropar district, Punjab. The breached occurred near Batarla around 08:00 am on April 24, 2023.
Improper operations of dams, disasters related to dams and hydro projects and breaching of embankments have been aggravating flood disasters during every monsoon. There have been several such incidents during South West Monsoon 2020, taking heavy toll on people and property which could have been avoided or impacts reduced in many cases with proper dam operations and proper maintenance of the embankments. This compilation attempts to put together all such instances when avoidable flood disasters were created by improper operation of dams and breaching of embankments in the south west monsoon 2020.
The earthen Khanda dam in Korea district[i] in Chhattisgarh’s Mahanadi basin breached around 6.30 hrs on Wednesday, Sept 23, 2020. Local farmers alleged negligence by the Water Resources Department officials, who were informed about the dilapidated condition of the dam. The engineers even came and inspected, they said, and went away. They alleged that if they had reduced water storage and in stead opened the two canal gates, this situation may not have come.
On the intervening night of July 18 and 19, Delhi received heavy rainfall spell leaving several areas water logged. In the afternoon of July 19, a video went viral on social media showing collapse of houses along Sen Nursing Nala at ITO, Delhi.
The incident happened due to a breach in right bank of storm water drain at the back of WHO building reportedly damaging about 12 houses of Anna Nagar, a fifty years old slum area located along the left bank of the drain.
Feature image: Officials of the irrigation department visited the breached Tiware dam near Chiplun in Ratnagiri, in July 2019. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
The report of the 10 member committee headed by Shri Nandkumar Vadnere, appointed by the Govt of Maharashtra in Aug 2019 was submitted on May 28, 2020. The report titled “A report on Floods 2019 (Krishna Sub-Basin): Experts Study Committee: Analysis, Causes, Remedies” from all accounts is a major let down as is apparent from the way one of the members felt so humiliated that he had to resign: he was not provided basic information to do justice to the Terms of Reference, his chapters were unilaterally removed from the draft report by the chairman, under pressure from higher ups. The report is actually an attempt to show, by hook or by crook that dams were not responsible for the Krishna basin floods of Aug 2019. Almost exactly the same way CWC came out with a shockingly unscientific, contradictory report about Aug 2018 Kerala floods to prove that dams had no role. The report did not even ask if the any of the dams followed the rule curve, though it made recommendation that rule curves should be followed! The story keeps repeating for each of the dozens of instances in recent years. The report of the Tiware dam disaster in Maharashtra in July 2019 has been submitted in Feb 2020, but is not yet in public domain. These few recent instances show how strong a strangle hold the dam lobby has over the official water institutions and governance in India. The Dam Safety bill now before the Parliament will not help as it has no provision to remove or even loosen this stranglehold, there is no place for independent oversight in the bill. Without an accountable reservoir operation policy, legal and institutional paradigm there is no possibility of freedom from dam induced floods.
On May 17, 2020 the residents of Ranwar village in Karnal woke up to find their village surrounded by gushing water current which was fast entering their homes. The cause of the flooding was a breach[i] in augmentation canal running close to the village.
The incident was allegedly caused by a small hole at 60.200 point on left bank of the canal around 03.00 am gradually turning into a 40 to 50 feet wide breach by the noon same day. Before the local administration could get into action, around 250 acres of farm lands around the village was flooded.
On March 14, 2019 the Spencer dam on Niobrara river, located south of Spencer in Nebraska state in USA breached, killing four people in the downstream. The Investigation Report about the disaster has been made public now on April 24, 2020. The remains of Spencer Dam — a skeleton of concrete and steel amid a sea of sand — became one of the iconic images of the March 2019 “bomb cyclone” flood that caused billions of dollars in damage across Nebraska.
Less than four months later, on July 2, 2019, Tiware dam breached[i] in Chiplun taluka of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, killing 23 people. The then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on July 6, 2019 announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the disaster, the SIT was to submit a report in two months, but the report was submitted in January 2020, but the report is not in public domain. When SANDRP talked with the chairman of the committee, he disclosed that the report has been submitted to the department in early Feb 2020 and it can only be made public by the department once they accept the report. He revealed that the SIT had found that there were issues with material of construction (masonry in place of Concrete) and design of the conduit of the dam. He agreed that the report should be made public promptly, but expressed his helplessness in face of the norms in India. SANDRP also called Secretary, Department of Water Conservation, Govt of Maharashtra, but got no response.
There is a lot to learn for us in India in comparing the two dam breach incidents and how both are treated.
A fly ash Dam of Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project of Reliance Company has breached[i] in the evening of April 10, 2020, near village Harrahva in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh, killing six people and destroying downstream river and fields. Following the breach there was massive flash flood of coal ash mixed sludge reportedly affecting hundreds of villages and destroying crops on thousands of acres.
Of the six people feared to have been killed in the flash floods, dead bodies of two have been found in faraway areas, while four are still missing. Two women injured in the aftermath are reported to be in stable condition in local hospital. Reports also suggest that many people could be trapped in their homes because of the poisonous sludge.