central water commission · CWC - Central Water Commission · Floods

Reply to CWC response on SANDRP’s article on CWC’s flood forecasting in NE India

On Aug 5, 2018, SANDRP had uploaded blog[i] titled: “Overview of CWC’s Flood Monitoring & Forecasting in North East India”. CWC posted its 3-page reply to it around 7 pm on Aug 7, 2018.

Firstly, we welcome CWC’s reply to SANDRP blog. Here some responses to the content of what CWC has replied. Continue reading “Reply to CWC response on SANDRP’s article on CWC’s flood forecasting in NE India”

Dams · Floods

Overview of CWC Flood Forecasting Sites: North India

Flood forecasting is an important activity during monsoon, considering the huge and increasing flood prone area, flood frequency, extent and flood damages. Accurate and timely flood forecasting can hugely help reduce the damages due to floods. Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency responsible for flood forecasting in India. To understand the CWC’s flood forecasting better, we have compiled the list of the various flood, inflow forecasting sites and flood monitoring sites in India.

In this compilation, we have given state wise list of CWC’s flood forecasting, flood monitoring and inflow forecasting sites, along with available details like rivers, sub basin, river basin, Warning level, Danger Level, High Flood Level, Full Reservoir Level, Maximum Water Level. As we see below, there are many gaps in this basic information for the sites that are part of CWC’s list.

Continue reading “Overview of CWC Flood Forecasting Sites: North India”

Dams · Yamuna River

Floods & Flood Monitoring in Yamuna: July 2018

The release of around 1.31 lakh cusecs of water in Yamuna from Hathnikund barrage at 09:00 hours on July 26, 2018, was certainly first surge of flood this monsoon in the river. But no one expected, most are still in the dark that the release would multiply by over five times in just two days! It is almost a month after the Southwest monsoon arrived. By this time the river usually floods couples of times.

Looking at the lack of significant rainfall in the catchment area over past weeks, the flood is unexpected and has taken many by surprise. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi Government has issued warning for flood plain farmers and human settlements close to river banks, but the warning does not seem to commensurate with the flood peak that is likely to hit the capital in next day or two.

23 Yamuna Flood Chart 1963-2016
Bar chart by Irrigation & Flood Control Dept, Delhi showing history of floods in Yamuna river since 1963.

Yamuna has already crossed warning (204 m) and danger level (204.83) at Old Delhi Railway Bridge (ORB), Delhi. The High Flood Level is 207.49 meters, reached on Sept 6,1978 after around 7 lakh cusecs (cubic feet per second) water was released in Yamuna on 3rd Sept 1978 at 04:00 hrs from Tajewala barrage, that was decommissioned and replaced by Hathnikund barrage in early 1990s. The flood monitoring of River Yamuna began in 1963.

Since then, the river has seen high floods in 1988, 1995, 2010 and 2013. The 2010 and 2013 floods also crossed 207 metres mark but fell short of 1978 level.

Continue reading “Floods & Flood Monitoring in Yamuna: July 2018”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 23 July 2018: Landmark CAG Reports on DAM FLOODS & Ineffective; Costly Mega Irrigation Projects

In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has questioned implementation of sixteen National Irrigation Projects. Before this, the CAG has held mismanagement in dams’ operation responsible for Chennai floods in 2015. Both these reports are available on its website now.

The CAG report on National Irrigation Projects, tabled in Parliament on July 20, has revealed that sixteen major multi-purpose water projects, taken up on an expeditious basis about a decade ago, are nowhere near completion, with no work being undertaken in as many as 11 projects despite the incumbent govt’s much-wanted focus on improving irrigation facilities in the country.

The report also mentioned that out of the 16 projects, undertaken under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in Feb 2008, only five projects with estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares were under implementation and even these projects suffer from 8 to 99 per cent shortfall in physical progress, the CAG said. The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 23 July 2018: Landmark CAG Reports on DAM FLOODS & Ineffective; Costly Mega Irrigation Projects”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 18 June 2018 (Why this Onslaught of Big Dam Advocacy by CWC Ideologues?)

In a recent article Ashwin B Pandya, Former, Chairman Central Water Commission (CWC) refuses to acknowledge either the adverse impacts of dams or the better option of using groundwater aquifer for storing water. And thus making unscientific arguments against dam decommissioning and for dams. No one is talking of removal ALL dams as the author seems to postulate and then dismiss it as impossible and irresponsible.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 18 June 2018 (Why this Onslaught of Big Dam Advocacy by CWC Ideologues?)”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 11 June 2018 (Groundwater Pollution: The Hidden Killer Menace Lurking All Over)

Aquifers in 16 States in the country are contaminated by uranium, whose presence in drinking water has been linked to chronic kidney disease by several studies, a recent study has shown. More importantly, uranium doesn’t figure on the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ drinking water specifications. The main source of this contamination is natural, but groundwater depletion by extensive withdrawal of water for irrigation and nitrite pollution due to the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers may be exacerbating the problem, said the study.

– The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in the US. The team, which also included experts from the Central Ground Water Board, the Rajasthan government’s Ground Water Department and Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation, analysed groundwater samples from 226 locations in Rajasthan and 98 in Gujarat.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 11 June 2018 (Groundwater Pollution: The Hidden Killer Menace Lurking All Over)”


India’s National Register of Large Dams: Shows how little we know about our dams

The Central Water Commission (CWC) of India’s Union Ministry of Water Resources periodically updates India’s National Register of Large Dams (NRLD), the latest edition seems to have been put up recently[i]. Significantly, this latest edition reports huge jump in number of large dams in India, compared to the previous editions from 2009 that SANDRP has been monitoring. The 2009 edition of NRLD had 5100 large dams and the editions from 2012 to 2016 had listed 5190 to 5170 large dams, but the 2017 edition suddenly reports that now India has 5701 large dams, a jump of over 510 from the editions in last five years. This shows that neither states had been reporting correct figures of number of large dams in India, nor was CWC bothered to collect correct basic information about large dams. Continue reading “India’s National Register of Large Dams: Shows how little we know about our dams”

Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 31 July 2017 (Dams Turning Floods into Disasters, Yet We Continue to Push More & Bigger Dams)  

All through the month, several states in the country have been battling severe flood situation. The Northeastern (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam), Western (Rajasthan Gujurat), Central (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh) and Eastern (Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal) regions have been particularly affected by floods following incessant rain.

Till July 28, 2017, 293 people have succumbed to flood related accidents. As per govt sources, the economic cost of flood damages has reached 53894.634 lakh.  http://www.ndmindia.nic.in/flood-2017/floodsJuly-2017.htm

Superficially water deluge seems a natural disaster occurring on annual basis. But a closer observation of flood monitoring mechanisms and scores of media reports reveal that most of the flood crisis is man-made and dams have been playing a bigger role in creating a disaster out of a natural phenomenon.

So far there have been more than a dozen reported incidents across country where breaching of aged or unmaintained dams have led to inundation of human habitation. On July 06, 2017 breaching of Shiv Sagar dam was such an incident causing severe floods in several villages in Mirzapur district, Uttar Pradesh. http://amritprabhat.com/mirzapur-mirzapur-floods-with-heavy-rain-dozens-of-houses-and-five-people-of-the-same-family-found-dead-body-of-two-shivsagar-dam-broke/

Similarly, there is information from reliable sources proving that the wrong operation of dams end up creating flood situation in downstream areas which were already facing heavy rains. The devastating floods in Lakhimpur Assam around July 09, 2017, were a result of release of huge amount of water from Ranganadi dam in Arunachal Pradesh. https://scroll.in/article/844509/severity-of-assam-floods-heightens-old-fears-about-dams-in-the-brahmaputra-basin

In one more similar and latest incident, untimely release of water by Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), Jharkhand resulted in flood disaster in Birbhum, Purulia, West Medinipur and Hoogly districts. As per West Bengal Govt the DVC officials discharged the around 2 lakhs cusec of water on 25 July 2017, from many dams built on Damodar river without intimating it.  https://scroll.in/latest/845268/mamata-banerjee-blames-west-bengal-floods-on-centre-run-damodar-valley-corporation  

The third dimension in the flood tragedy is the fact that responsible authorities like Central Water Commission (CWC), concerned state department have failed to issue timely warning in so many incidences which could have otherwise been avoided or mitigated. There are also reports suggesting that there was no prior forecast and warning for ongoing floods in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Similarly there have been dozens of incidents in different parts where flood situation has been either caused or aggravated by faulty dam operation, breach in dams and lack of timely warning by responsible authorities.

The breach in Jaitpura dam and over spilling of Jawai dam in Jalor Rajasthan has inundated several villages. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/jawai-dam-pali-disrict-floods-rajasthan-heavy-rains-rescue-operations-ndrf-food-material/1/1012924.html The breach in Narmada canal has led to floods in Badmer districts. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/narmada-canal-damaged/articleshow/59762317.cms

The sudden discharge from Seepu dam on West Banas River, Dharoi dam on Sabarmati river has created severe flooding in downstream districts killing many villagers. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/aerial-survey-of-banas-river-to-be-undertaken-as-death-toll-in-gujarat-floods-touch-111-4768335/ , http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/gujarat-sabarmati-waters-flood-anand-villages/articleshow/59786379.cms  

Further, the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) latest report only goes on reinforcing all these issues. The shocking report tells us that out of 4,862 large dams, emergency action plans or disaster management plans of only 349 (seven per cent) large dams had been prepared till March 2016. http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/jul/22/huge-delay-in-completion-of-flood-control-projects-in-country-cag-1632017.html

In a similar development another CAG report has put onus on Hirakud dam officials for 2011 floods. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2017/jul/23/cag-puts-onus-on-hirakud-officials-for-2011-flood-1632412.html 

The CAG has also presented scathing indictment of India’s CWC’s shoddy flood forecasting system. https://www.dailypioneer.com/todays-newspaper/indias-flood-forecast-capability-a-washout-cag.html

The efficiency of flood monitoring can be judged from the fact that Irrigation Department Uttar Pradesh still relies on blade runners to convey flood information in the digital era. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/in-e-age-runners-alert-officials-about-flash-floods/articleshow/59676066.cms

The DAM FLOOD sanction of this update is full of such reports proving that dams have turning the floods into disasters.

Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 31 July 2017 (Dams Turning Floods into Disasters, Yet We Continue to Push More & Bigger Dams)  “

Dams · Ganga

दो बाॅधों की कहानीः क्या बिहार की अप्रत्याशित बाढ़ एक टाली जा सकने वाली मानव जनित त्रासदी है?

बाणसागर बाॅध, सोन नदी, गंगा नदी और पटना को दर्शाता मानचित्र

21 अगस्त 2016 की सुबह, गंगा नदी का जलस्तर लगातार बढ़ते हुए, पटना में 50.43 मीटर पर पहुॅच गया। जिससे पटना में गंगा नदी अपने पहले के उच्चतम बाढ़स्तर 50.27 मीटर से 16 सैंटीमीटर ऊपर बह रही थी। 22 अगस्त 2016 तक पानी का जलस्तर गंगा नदी के किनारे तीन अन्य स्थानों पर उच्चतम बाढ़स्तर को पार कर गया। जिसका विवरण निम्न हैः-

       स्थान                        22.08.2016 को उच्चतम बाढ़स्तर                      पुराना उच्चतम बाढ़स्तर
बलिया उत्तरप्रदेश                         60.30 मीटर                                     60.25 मीटर (14 सितंबर 2003)
हाथीदाह, बिहार                           43.17 मीटर                                      43.15 मीटर (07 अगस्त 1971)
भागलपुर बिहार                           34.55 मीटर                                      34.50 मीटर (05 सितंबर 2013)

इस तरह से हम देखते हैं कि पटना में उच्चतम बाढ़ का रिकार्ड तोडने के बाद, अब यह बाढ़ गंगा नदी के किनारे बसे बिहार और उत्तरप्रदेश के अन्य इलाकों में पहुॅच रही है। यहाॅ यह बात उल्लेखनीय है कि बिहार में अब तक वर्षा औसत से 14 प्रतिशत कम हुई है। सवाल यह उठता है कि इसके बावजूद गंगा में रिकार्ड तोडने वाली बाढ़ क्यों आयी?

Continue reading “दो बाॅधों की कहानीः क्या बिहार की अप्रत्याशित बाढ़ एक टाली जा सकने वाली मानव जनित त्रासदी है?”


Know our rivers: A beginners guide to river classification 

Who has not seen a river? And who has then, not been moved by a fierce emotion? The common man sees its life granting blessed form, the government or CWC engineer sees in it as a potential dam project, the hydropower developers a site for hydro project, a farmer his crop vitality, fisher folk, boatspeople and river bed cultivators a source of livelihood, the industry & urban water utilities view it as their personal  waste basket, the real estate developer as a potential land grab site, a sand miner as a source of sand and the distraught villager his lifeline. In earlier days, film makers used to see it as site for filming some memorable songs, but these days even that has become a rarity.[1]

Nadi Naare na jaao from Film Mujhe Jeene do
Song “Nadi Naare na jaao” from Film Mujhe Jeene do

Rivers truly are a complex entity that invoke varied emotions and responses!

Leh_Indus river

A river shifts in colour, shape, size, flow pattern of water, silt, nutrients and biota, in fact all its variables seem to change with time and space. The perceptions differ as one moves from mountains to plains to the deltas. The same stream displays a wide variance of characteristics that depend upon the land it flows through and the micro climate along its banks. Rivers many a times seem to mirror the local flavour of the land they flow through. Or is it the local flavour that changes with river flow? Clearly both are interdependent.

Today, as we talk of rivers, their rejuvenation and try to figure out their ecological flow and their health quotient , a good beginning  to understand the existing rivers would be their classification modules. What defines a river? Which factors are used for their classification? How do we actually classify our rivers?

As far as the first of these questions is concerned, none of the official agencies have tried to define a river!

Possiby, the first post independence classification of river basins was attempted in 1949 by precuser institute of current Central Water Commission (CWC). Since then various organisations have followed their own methodology and criteria for basin classification and arrived at different numbers.

Basin Map of Rivers by Central Water Commission
Basin Map of Rivers by Central Water Commission

NIH (National Institute of Hydrology), Roorkee organises our 7 major rivers, that is the Brahmaputra (apparently this includes the Ganga and the Meghna), Godavri, Krishna & Mahanadi (that flow into the Bay of Bengal), and the Indus, Narmada & Tapi (which drain into the Arabian Sea) , along with their tributaries to make up the entire river system in our country.[2] This is clearly problematic and chaotic, since it leaves out vast areas of the country and the rivers that flow through them.

A quick look at the classification based on these 3 aspects –origin, topography and the basin they form.

  • Based on Origin or Source

Depending on the origin or where they begin their journey from, there are the Himalayan (perennial) rivers that rise from the Himalayas and the  Peninsular rivers that originate from the Indian plateau. The Himalayan rivers include the Ganga, the Indus and the Brahmaputra river systems along with their tributaries, which are fed throughout the year by melting ice and rainfall. They are swift, have great erosion capacity and carry huge amounts of silt & sand. They meander along the flat land, create large fertile flood plains in their wake and their banks are dotted by major towns and cities.

The peninsular rivers, on the other hand are more or less dependent on rain. These are gentler in their flow, follow a relatively straighter path, have comparatively less  gradient and include Narmada, Tapi, Godavari, Krishna, Cauveri and Mahanadi rivers, among many others.

  • Based on topography

The Himalayan Rivers flow throughout the year, are prone to flooding and include Indus and the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna.

The Deccan Rivers include the Narmada and Tapi rivers that flow westwards into the Arabian Sea, and the Brahmani, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Pennar & Cauvery that fall into the Bay of Bengal.

The Coastal Rivers are comparatively small in size and numerous in number, with nearly 600 flowing on the west coast itself.

Rivers of the Inland Drainage Basin are centered in western Rajasthan, parts of Kutch in Gujarat and mostly disappear before they reach the sea as the rainfall here is scarce. Some of them drain into salt lakes or simply get lost in the vast desert sands.

Island Rivers Rivers of our islands: A&N islands & Lakshadip group of islands

  • Based on basin formed

On the basis of the basin formed, our rivers are distributed into 7 river systems. The Indus River System originates in Kailash range in Tibet, and includes Zanskar,  Shyok, Nubra ,Hunza (in Kashmir) along with Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej as its principal tributaries. In the Brahmaputra River System, it was earlier assumed that the Mansarovar lake is the source of the Brahmaputra river, however, now it is confirmed that Angsi Glacier is the main source (see: See: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-maps-brahmaputra-indus/article2384885.ece). Most of the course of the river lies outside the country. In India it flows through Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, where it is joined by several tributaries. For more information on this river, see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/brahmaputra-the-beautiful-river-or-the-battleground/.

Mighty Brahmaputra in  Assam
Mighty Brahmaputra in Assam

The Narmada River System comprises of the Narmada River that represents the traditional boundary between North & South India and which empties into the Arabian Sea in Bharuch district of Gujarat. Tapi river of the Tapi River System rises in the eastern Satpura Range of Madhya Pradesh and then empties into the Gulf of Cambay of the Arabian Sea, Gujarat. Its major tributaries are Purna, Girna , Panzara , Waghur , Bori  and Aner rivers.

Also called the Vriddh (Old) Ganga or the Dakshin (South) Ganga,  Godavari of the Godavari River System, originates at Trambakeshwar, Maharashtra and empties into the Bay of Bengal. Summers find the river dry, while monsoons widen the river course. Its major tributaries include Indravati, Pranahita, Manjira, Bindusara and Sabari rivers.

The Krishna River System includes Krishna river, one of the longest rivers of the country,that originates at Mahabaleswar, Maharashtra, and meets the sea in the Bay of Bengal at Hamasaladeevi, Andhra Pradesh. Tungabhadra River, formed by Tunga and Bhadra rivers, is one of its principal tributary. Others are  Koyna, Bhima, Mallaprabha, Ghataprabha, Yerla, Warna, Dindi, Musi and Dudhganga rivers.

The Kaveri River System has the Kaveri (or Cauvery) river whose source is Talakaveri in the Western Ghats and it flows into the Bay of Bengal. It has many tributaries including Shimsha, Hemavati, Arkavathy, Kapila, Honnuhole, Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Lokapavani, Bhavani, Noyyal and Amaravati. The Mahanadi of the Mahanadi River System,  a river of eastern India rises in the Satpura Range and flows east into the Bay of Bengal.

Broader definition: Catchment area size

River basins are widely recognized as a practical hydrological unit. And these can also be grouped, based on the size of their catchment areas (CA). This easy to understand river system classification divides them into the following categories as tabulated below:

River basin CA  in sq km No. of river basins CA in million sq. Km % area % Run off % population
Major river basin CA > 20,000 14 2.58 83 85 80
Medium 20,000<CA<2,000 44 0.24 8 7 20
Minor (Coastal areas) CA< 2,000 Many 0.20 9 8
Desert rivers Flow is uncertain & most lost in desert 0.1
Drainage System of Indian Rivers
Drainage System of Indian Rivers

Major river basins include the perennial Himalayan rivers- Indus, Ganga & Brahmaputra, the 7 river systems of central India, the Sabarmati, the Mahi, Narmada & Tapi on the west coast and the Subarnekha, Brahmani & the Mahanadi on the east coast and the 4 river basins of Godavri, Krishna, Pennar and Cauvery, which takes the total to 14. The medium river basins include 23 east flowing rivers such as Baitarni, Matai & Palar.  A few important west flowing rivers are Shetrunji, Bhadra, Vaitarna & Kalinadi. The minor river basins  include the numerous, but essentially small streams that flow in the coastal areas. In the East coast, the land width between the sea and the mountains is about 100 km, while in the West coast, it ranges between 10 to 40 km. The desert rivers flow for a distance and then disappear in the desert of Rajasthan or Rann of Kutch, generally without meeting the sea.[3]

A need for details

Under India-WRIS (Water Resources Information System) project too, the river basin has been taken as the basic hydrological unit, but the country has been divided into 6 water resource regions, 25 basins and 101 sub basins, which are an extension of the earlier 20 basins delineated by CWC, as detailed in the ‘River basin Atlas of India’. [4] The details of the individual catchment area of these 20 river basins is tabulated here:

S No River Basin CA (Sq. Km) Major river River Length, km
1 Indus (Upto border) 321289 Indus(India) 1114
2 Ganga- Brahmaputra-Meghna
a Ganga 861452 Ganga 2525
b Brahmaputra 194413 Brahmaputra (India) 916
c Barak & others 41723 Barak 564
3 Godavari 312812 Godavari 1465
4 Krishna 258948 Krishna 1400
5 Cauvery 81155 Cauvery 800
6 Subernarekha 29169 Subernarekha 395
Burhabalang 164
7 Brahmani & Baitarni 51822 Brahmani 799
Baitarni 355
8 Mahanadi 141589 Mahanadi 851
9 Pennar 55213 Pennar 597
10 Mahi 34842 Mahi 583
11 Sabarmati 21674 Sabarmati 371
12 Narmada 98796 Narmada 1312
13 Tapi 65145 Tapi 724
14 West flowing rivers from Tapi to Tadri 55940 Many independent rivers
15 West flowing rivers from Tadri to Kanyakumari 56177
16 East flowing rivers Between Mahanadi & pennar 86643
17 East flowing rivers Between Pennar & Kanyakumari 100139
18 W flowing rivers of Kutch & Saurashtra includes Luni 321851 Luni 511
19 Area of inland drainage in Rajasthan 60269 Many independent rivers
20 Minor rivers draining into Myanmar & Bangladesh 36202 Many independent rivers

Note: 1. River Length is only for the main stem of the river, does not include tributaries, etc.

  1. Area of inland drainage in Rajasthan is not given in this reference, it has been arrived at by inference.
  2. Indus basin is constibuted by six main rivers: Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum and Indus itself. Some tributaries of this system form independent catchment in India (e.g. Tawi river in Chenab basin) as these confluence with the main river only in downstream of the border.

Of course these methods only classify rivers based on their physical & geographical attributes, their drainage area, river length, volume of water carried and tributary details. For a detailed study of a river, what is also needed is its ecological assessment.  The methods for river classification may be varied and still evolving, but this information is fundamental to better understand and map the rivers that criss cross across the country.

And definitely a first step to try and understand our rivers!

Sabita Kaushal, SANDRP  (sabikaushal06@gmail.com)


[1] This blog is part of a series of blogs we plan to put up in view of the India Rivers Week being held during Nov 24-27, 2014, see for details: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/press-release-india-rivers-week-from-24-27-nov-2014-first-irw-event-to-be-held-in-delhi/

[2] Rivers of India: National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee


[3] India’s Water Wealth: KL Rao, Orient Longman, 1975

[4] River basin atlas of India, 2012: A report by Central Water Commission and Indian Space Research Organisation: http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/river-basin-atlas-india-report-central-water-commission-and-indian-space-research