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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”→
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Rivers truly are a complex entity that invoke varied emotions and responses!
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.
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. 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
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:
CA in sq km
No. of river basins
CA in million sq. Km
% Run off
Major river basin
CA > 20,000
Minor (Coastal areas)
Flow is uncertain & most lost in desert
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.
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’.  The details of the individual catchment area of these 20 river basins is tabulated here:
CA (Sq. Km)
River Length, km
Indus (Upto border)
Barak & others
Brahmani & Baitarni
West flowing rivers from Tapi to Tadri
Many independent rivers
West flowing rivers from Tadri to Kanyakumari
East flowing rivers Between Mahanadi & pennar
East flowing rivers Between Pennar & Kanyakumari
W flowing rivers of Kutch & Saurashtra includes Luni
Area of inland drainage in Rajasthan
Many independent rivers
Minor rivers draining into Myanmar & Bangladesh
Many independent rivers
Note: 1. River Length is only for the main stem of the river, does not include tributaries, etc.
Area of inland drainage in Rajasthan is not given in this reference, it has been arrived at by inference.
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!
During Sept 4-6, 2014 Jammu and Kashmir in North India is facing one of the worst floods. NDTV has reported that these are the worst floods in 60 years (The Times of India reported that this was worst flood of the state since independence based on number of casualties.). More than 160 people have died and some 2500 villages are affected (1615 in the valley, rest in Jammu), out of which 450 are completely submerged (390 in valley). Over 10 000 people are stranded across the state. The flood has affected almost all 10 districts in the Jammu region. J&K Chief Minister admitted that the rescuers have yet to reach the worst affected South Kashmir region. Jammu Srinagar Highway has remained blocked for over three days. Several rivers have been flowing above the danger mark and most parts of south Kashmir, including Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam districts have been submerged. Jhelum was flowing at 30.7 ft in South Kashmir, 7 ft above the danger mark. Chenab river was also flowing above the danger mark at several places.
Unprecedented floods Landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have damaged roads, dozens of bridges, buildings and crops. As many as 40 people went missing after a landslide in Thanamandi area of Rajouri district in Jammu region. Heavy rain in the catchment areas of Jhelum river has so far submerged more than 100 villages in the south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, where the river was still rising, as well as the north Kashmir districts of Ganderbal, Srinagar and Badgam. The flood has surpassed the 1992 memories and revived the 1959 flood memories.
Vehicular traffic has been stopped on the Jammu-Pathankot highway due to incessant rain. Jammu is on red alert and Tawi bridge is also in danger.
State Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said Chenab was flowing at 38 ft at Akhnoor which is four ft above the danger mark cumulatively discharging 2.75 lakh cusecs, a quantum of discharge which equals all other rivers of the state.
The situation is very grim indeed: “According to the Army, the situation in the state is as grim as it was in Uttarakhand last year.” Union Home Minister has visited the state and the prime minister has expressed grief.
VERY HEAVY Rainfall during Sept 3-6 The state received massive 250 mm of rainfall in just three days between Sept 3-4, out of its seasonal monsoon rainfall of 568 mm till Sept 6, 2014. Rainfall just on Sept 6 was 106 mm, which is unbelievable 3116% of the normal rainfall for that date for J&K.
It can be seen from the season rainfall map see above of India Meteorology Department as on Sept 6, 2014 that J&K had received 558 mm rainfall till that date, progressing to Excess Rainfall category (blue colour code) from Deficit season rainfall of 308 mm as on Sept 3, 2014 (see IMD map below), in just three days.
CWC has no flood forecasts for J&K However, shockingly, India’s premier water resources body, Central Water Commission, responsible for flood forecasting and providing advisory to the states for tackling floods, has no flood forecast for any place in the state. The CWC’s flood forecast list on Sept 6, 2014 has 18 level forecasts and 8 inflow forecasts, but NONE from J&K. CWC’s Flood forecast site has another option that provides hydrographs for various rivers and location. Again for J&K it provides NO hydrographs. The options on CWC’s Flood Forecast site for list based selection and map based selection again has no information about Jammu & Kashmir.
This seems like shocking omission on the part of CWC, which functions under Union Ministry of Water Resources and reminds one that CWC completely failed to provide any flood forecast when Uttarakhand faced its worst floods in June 2013. We hope CWC will urgently include the flood vulnerable sites of J&K in its flood forecasting and also explain to the people of J&K and rest of the country why these sites were not included so far.
Mismanaged hydro projects increase the damage In this context, media has reported that Dulhasti Hydropower project on Chenab river decided to open its flood gates DURING the worst flood period, which lead to further increase in flood levels in the downstream areas: “Release of water by NHPC dam is expected to increase the levels of the Chenab massively between Kishtwar and Ramban. Surged level can lead to submergence of the highway.” Such additional floods could have been avoided if the gates were kept opened in anticipation of floods. Such opening of gates during the floods can lead to catastrophic consequences for the downstream areas as happened in case of Srinagar Hydropower project in Uttarakhand in June 2013.
MoEF’s wrong decisions The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests have been clearing hydropower projects in the Chenab basin even without proper social and environment impact assessment as was evident in case of Sach Khas project most recently. As SANDRP pointed out in a submission to the Expert Appraisal Committee, the EIA and public hearing process of the Sach Khas HEP has been fundamentally inadequate and flawed and yet without even acknowledging the issues raised in this submission the EAC has recommended approval of the project. This is bound to be legally untenable decision. Such decisions by the EAC and MoEF are likely to add to the disaster potential in Chanab and other basins in J&K. There is also no cumulative impact assessment of such massive number of big hydropower projects any basins of J&K.
It is well known, as witnessed in case of Uttarakhand in 2013, that hydropower projects hugely add to the disaster potential of the vulnerable areas. We hope the J&K and central governments make this assessment on urgent basis and we hope the apex court does not have to intervene for such assessment as the Supreme Court had to do through its order of Aug 13, 2013 in case of Uttarakhand.
POST SCRIPT: This is one possible fall out of this, also flashed by several newspaper and following CWC questioned by media: http://www.cwc.nic.in/main/webpages/Flood%20Forecasting%20in%20uncovered%20Himalayan%20and%20interstate%20inflow%20forecasting%2011092014.pdf
Stumbled upon this on January 14, 2015. Hope the government will be now implementing this.