Kerala – the God’s own country is in strong grip of unsustainable sand mining which has been happening for decades in the rivers and coastal areas of the state. The state has suffered hugely in 2004 Tsunami and 2018 Floods which, as several reports explain, were aggravated by illegal sand extraction. Yet nothing seems to have changed. Apart from violation of environmental norms, the extraction of finite mineral is going on, ignoring the nature’s warnings.
Guest blog by: Madhusoodhanan C.G. and Sreeja K.G
The state of Kerala experienced extreme precipitation events during the 2018 South West monsoon period with multiple episodes culminating in devastating floods across the state during 14th-18th August 2018. This year, with an early onset of monsoons that dovetailed with strong summer showers, the state received about 41% excess rainfall (2394 mm against the normal of 1700 mm) during the period June 1st to August 22nd . Almost all of its reservoirs were near full storage by mid-July.
The heavy downpour and the uncontrolled opening of the spillway gates of almost all reservoirs that inundated huge stretches of river banks and floodplains, along with massive landslides across the Western Ghats affected more than 1.5 million people, with close to 500 human casualties, immense losses to property, livelihoods and resource security apart from the extensive damage to forests, wildlife and biodiversity. Maximum destruction was observed along the rivers of Periyar, Chalakudy and Pamba, all having multiple dams on their tributaries. The debate is still on as to the various reasons, both manmade and natural, behind the floods and the resultant wide-ranging casualties [2,3,4,5,6]. Meanwhile things have taken a rather unexpected turn in the flood ravaged state.
The Dam Bachao Abhiyaan has been coming up in various forms. They blame the upstream water use in the catchment for dams not filling up. The catchment area could be using the water through groundwater (e.g. Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad), Johads (e.g. Sahibi catchment in Alwar), Tanks (e.g. Cauvery catchment in Karnataka), or check dams (e.g. Gandhisagar catchment in Madhya Pradesh, Bisalpur and Ramgarh catchment in Rajasthan), the latest episode reflected in the news below.
One key question that is never answered is, does the construction of dam extinguish all the rights of the catchment area to harvest and use any water for even basic needs and livelihoods? Does the very existence of the dam make all such water use in the catchment illegitimate? What about the right to water and livelihood of the catchment area? Should dam filling be so sacrosanct as to not allow any legitimate water use in the catchment? Hope the court and the government resolves these issues. Hope there is debate on this to decide in which circumstances there will be legitimacy to such Dam Bachao Abhiyaan.
Guest Blog by Jacob Chandy Varghese (firstname.lastname@example.org)
An Old Story: I read an account about Netherlands in the journal, Annals of Botany (2010)[i] . This story dates from the 11th century. Many centuries ago, the coastal plain of the Netherlands consisted of a dynamic landscape of meandering river channels, extensive floodplains and large complexes of fens and bogs. Sediment deposition and peat formation kept pace with the gradually rising sea level, so that the level of the land remained well above the water for most of the time. Since 11th century, inhabitants of the low-countries started to modify the hydrology of their surroundings to create protection from flooding for their dwellings and agricultural fields. They built dikes and started to manipulate the water level. Continue reading “Ithikkara River in Kerala: Tampering with Nature – a recipe for negative NPV”
The tendency of filling up reservoirs in the beginning and middle of monsoon season have been leading to avoidable flood disasters in the country. Apart from Kerala flood 2018, which was aggravated by mismanagement of reservoirs, various reports show that reservoirs in river basin of Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari and Ganga were also filled up well before the end of South West monsoon season. Resultantly there were many man made flood spells in downstream areas affecting lives and livelihoods of people.
After highlighting role of dams in floods in Kerala and how improper dam operation affected people in Assam and Himachal Pradesh, this third and concluding part throws light on other dam induced flood (and canal breach) incidents in 2018. Continue reading “Dams Floods 2018: Filling up Dams well before Monsoon end, Invitation to Disaster”
Even as the rainfall during South West Monsoon of India during June Sept 2018 was 9.4% below normal, a number of HFL (Highest Flood Level) crossing flood events were recorded on CWC’s (Central Water Commission) Flood Forecasting (FF) website[i]. Since CWC’s FF site does not provide archived information or comprehensive list of such events, we are here putting together a list of such events that we had noted during the SW monsoon, for future records and also understanding trends of high floods. Continue reading “HFL crossing flood events during India SW Monsoon 2018”
Bansagar Dam in Sone river basin in Madhya Pradesh already full, violating the rule curve, is ready to create yet another flood disaster along Sone river in Madhya Pradesh and along Sone and Ganga in Bihar.
As per Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Department website’s Flood Report[i] on Sept 10, 2018 afternoon (5pm) (see the screenshots of the website below), ten gates of Bansagar dam were opened by 0.5 m at 11 am on Sept 9, 2018, releasing 35315 cusecs water. The gates were further opened to 0.75 m at 4.40 pm on same date to release 54315 cusecs. A bit curiously, the website is completely silent about any gate opening before that, it implies that no gates were opened this year before 11 am on Sept 9, 2018. The website says the water level at Bansagar Dam reached 341.63 m at 12 noon on Sept 9, 2018, level is given only at intervals of 4 hours during the day. The Dam FRL (Full Reservoir Level) is 341.64 m, so it is likely that when they opened the gates at 11 am on Sept 9, the dam may have already reached FRL. The water level at the dam has remained at 341.58 m till 8 am on Sept 10, 2018, just 4 cm below the FRL, as per the latest available information. Continue reading “TALE OF A DISASTER FORETOLD: Bansagar Dam ready to create another flood disaster along Sone and Ganga”
Central Water Commission is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. As per CWC’s Flood Forecasting website[i] the Data Flow Map has information about 226 Flood Forecast Sites in the country comprising of 166 Level Forecast Sites and 60 Inflow Forecast Sites. It also monitors 700 Flood sites, information made available through List Based Exploration and Hydrograph View, but no flood forecasting is done for these sites.
In order to better understand the CWC’s flood monitoring and forecasting work, in this article, we have given an overview of CWC’s flood forecasting and monitoring sites in South India. It includes state wise list of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in South India. Similar report has been published for North India[ii] and North East India[iii] and East India[iv].
Tamil Nadu There are 3 Level Forecasting, 48 Level Monitoring and 14 Inflow Forecasting sites in Tamil Nadu State. Out of total 65 sites, 19 Level Monitoring and 2 Inflow Forecasting sites are inactive. MWL information is given only for 1 Inflow Forecasting site out of 14. IRRUKKANKUDI, Sathanur and Gomukhi sites are repeated with incomplete information. Out of 48, HFL figure and date is not provided for 25 Level Monitoring sites.
Traditionally, our river management strategies are mainly focused on the water flows, including flood management, and these have resulted in various interventions such as dams, barrages, canals and embankments. Most of these interventions have had very little consideration for sediment transfer and even if they did, they were generally defunct within a few years of their operations either due to improper design or inadequate maintenance.
A long-term sediment management strategy has never been a part of any protocol of river management, not just in India, but in several other parts of the world. It is amply clear that sediment management must form an important component of management strategies for the Himalayan rivers. The Union Water Ministry has recently circulated a draft policy on sediment management.
Kerala is facing serious floods. Army, Navy, NDRF, neighbouring states are all out. Dozens of people have died, landslides happening, houses washed away, the whole machinery is out to deal with the crisis.
In this flood crisis, Idukki & Idamalayar two of the Kerala’s biggest dams along with about two dozen others, are releasing water, adding to the floods and the disaster. Why are Idukki and Idamalayar, both having live storage capacity above a Billion Cubic Meters, releasing water NOW, when whole of Kerala is facing floods due to recent excessive rains? Standard excuse: The dams are full and they have no option but to release the water, they cannot store more. But why did they wait to start releasing water till the dams are full and they are faced with TINA: There is No Alternative. This love to be in TINA situation seems like a disease affecting all dam operators.