Central Water Commission (CWC) is the only agency doing flood forecasting in India. CWC’s Flood Forecasting (FF) is available on its website[I]. In this article we have given an overview of CWC’s flood forecasting and monitoring sites in East India. It includes state wise list of CWC’s Level Forecast, Inflow Forecast and level monitoring sites in East India. Similar report has been published for North India[II] and North East India[III] and we hope to publish reports covering other regions of India soon. East India includes five states: Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha and W Bengal.
Under India’s constitution, water is supposed to be STATE subject. That seems to be under serious threat. First it happened with Waterways Act in 2015 (this was opposed by a number of ministries at centre and number of states, but the bill still got passed). Now the three new bills, as listed below are further threatening this. The advocates of centralisation, including the World Bank and the Central govt big dam lobby, have been wanting to change the constitutional status, but they have not succeeded so far, but now effectively, they could achieve that objective if all these bills are passed.
3 Water Bills Threatening Federalism Three Bills are presented by the Centre in the recently concluded session: a) River Basin Management Bill, 2019 proposing 13 River Basin Authorities for various river basins in our country, b) River Water Disputes Bill, 2019, to have a dispute resolution committee DRC, and c) Dam Safety Authority Bill, 2019, which significantly shift rights and authority of the States over rivers to the Centre.
With these Bills staring at federalism, the new question emerging is: Who will have final say on the water in rivers; the Centre or the States, the Peoples’ representatives or bureaucrats? https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/three-water-bills-threatening-federalism (25 Sept. 2019)
The Interstate River Water Dispute Bill is making it mandatory for the Central government to make such scheme. Under the Act, the Central government maintains a data bank and information system at the national level for each river basin. The Bill provides that the Central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such data bank.
This amendment Bill is a mix of some good provisions which are very much required, and over-centralisation of power. Some States like Tamil Nadu and Odisha have expressed apprehension of appropriation of more powers by the Centre. https://countercurrents.org/2019/09/interstate-river-water-dispute-bill-2019-more-centralisation-of-centres-power (26 Sept. 2019)
GANGA Uttar Pradesh Floodplain set to be demarcated for 1st time State government has demarcated the Ganga’s floodplain and submitted a final report to the Jal Shakti ministry. The NMCG under Jal Shakti ministry would be the final authority to decide the floodplain. Once the report is approved, the centre would notify Ganga’s floodplain in the state for the first time.
In the first phase, the river stretch from Haridwar till Unnao has been covered. At least 200 metres from the embankment in the city and 500 metres from the embankment in rural areas might be marked as the river’s floodplain. A floodplain is the maximum area that a river has flooded in 25 years. Though the river may not rise that high every year but the demarcating it will mark the area that a river may engulf.
After the floodplain demarcated, it would further be divided into ‘no-development’ and ‘restrictive’ zones. The activities for each of the zones would be defined by the Centre and state government. If any activity is allowed in the ‘no development’ zone, it would be agriculture but on the condition that no fertilizer would be used, said sources in the state government. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/gangas-floodplain-set-to-be-demarcated-for-first-time/articleshow/70877778.cms (28 Aug. 2019)
Different kinds of Dam Floods is affecting India this monsoon. Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) Dam, thanks to decision of the Govt of India and its Ministry of Water Resources, Narmada Control Authority including its Chairperson UP Singh (Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources), Gujarat Govt is flooding hundreds of villages in Madhya Pradesh, displacing Thousands of families, whose rehabilitation has not been done even as per the Madhya Pradesh government. Medha Patkar and 1000 other women of Narmada Bachao Andolan are on indefinite fast. As we finslise this, the water level of Narmada at SSP Dam is already at 134.99 m and Gujarat Chief Minister has said it will be taken to Full Reservoir Level of 138.68 m this year. The Prime Minister declared his joy when water level crossed 134 M and he will shortly have occasion to celebrate again as water level crosses 135 m. There is not a word of concern for the thousands of victims of this joyous achievement from any of them. The Photo Blog by Parineeta Dandekar provides one perspective of the Narmada Valley events.
In Maharashtra, the govt has set up a committee to investigate the role of dams in floods in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur district in August 2019, but it does not seem to have people who can speak up independently and do not hesitate to call spade when they see one.
Karnataka is yet to set up such a committee for the Krishna basin floods in that state that happened the same time and a few days latter while Maharashtra was suffering. As SANDRP has written, there seems also a case of Dam induced floods in Uttara Kannada district too in Karnataka, that will require a separate investigation. We hope that too happens soon.
The Goa Chief Minister has written to his Maharashtra counterpart that Tillari Dam of Maharashtra created floods in Goa.
Guest Blog by: Amruta Pradhan
Background Three rivers (among some others) with a total length of 44km traverse through Pune city. Mula river flows a distance of 22.2 km, Mutha River 10.4 km and Mula-Mutha River 11.8 km. Plight of these rivers is well known. They have been featured in the list of 300 most polluted rivers of India. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Maharashtra Water Resources Department (WRD) etc. have pulled number of controversies over river pollution, illegal construction of roads and townships through river bed and most recently Pune Metro being proposed through the river bed. Making a case for ‘rejuvenation’ of the ‘neglected rivers’, PMC has now proposed Pune Riverfront Development Project (PRDP). The project has been designed by the same HCP Design Planning & Management Pvt. Ltd (HCP) led by Ar. Bimal Patel from Ahmedabad who conceived and implemented Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project (SRFDP).
In September 2014 SANDRP in its article “Riverfront Development in India: Cosmetic make up on deep wounds” had raised serious issues regarding several riverfront development projects sprouting across India. Following the footsteps of SRFDP these projects treat rivers as extension of urban spaces and are more about encroachment of floodplains and river beds for real estate than restoration. Pune’s Mula-Mutha Riverfront Project being one among them, maintains the same focus. The project also shows several signs of an ill planned project which may exacerbate the risk of flooding and may take a severe toll on water quality and river health. This article questions some underlying assumptions upon which the project has been designed. Draft Master Plan (DMP) of the project prepared by HCP has been referred as a base document. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project is of a poor quality and devoid of even basic information about the project. Thus was not referred for details. Continue reading “Pune Riverfront Development Project: Encroachment in the name of Rejuvenation?”
Following recent Punjab floods, the Punjab Chief Minister said that the state government would go for canalisation of rivers, as if that is going to help in managing or avoiding flood disaster. This proposal seems to come out from nowhere, but considering that the CM talked about funding by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, either this is already under discussion or these institutes have proposed this to the Chief Minister. The Proposal seems blind to the impacts, costs, risks and wider implications of the canalisation of rivers.
To avoid duplication, the excellent report in MINT below provides detailed reasons why it is a disastrous Idea. The Indian Express report below is in fact a bad example of reporting, since it does not even mention the impacts, costs or risks of the canalisation proposal. And the report that follows these two from California in USA shows how there the work is ongoing to reverse the trend and bring more flood plains in connection with the rivers at a huge cost. Why do we have to repeat the blunders of others, as propagated by the World Bank and ADB and then pay the price in reversing the blunders?
Southwest Monsoon provides about 75% of our water and yet we have not learnt how to manage that rain water, without creating avoidable flood disasters, without using submergence as weapon to displace people as is being attempted in case of Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, without allowing water to flow to Pakistan, which is against all the rhetoric of the top most government persons and without the needless push for more big dams or interlilnking rivers or such mega centralised projects and programs? If we go through this week’s DRP News Update, it does not seem like we have. All the contrary elements are there for all to see.
It is certainly possible to manage the rain better so that more of it is available beyond the monsoon in a decentralised manner, as decentralised as the rainfall itself. The elements of it all well known: harvest rain where it falls, recharge groundwater, create local water systems, desilt existing such systems, protect wetlands, forests, increase soil’s capacity to hold moisture through increasing carbon/ organic conent of the soils (we know how this can be achieved), use the created large reservoirs judiciously, ensure all the dams in a basin are filled up simultaneously and not sequentially, ensure water flow in the river for maximum period as that will also help recharge groundwater, reduce deforestation in the catchments, increase forest area in the catchments where possible, protect local water systems everywhere including Urban areas, protect flood plains and ensure rivers have capacity to carry floods that it is required to carry, have better and more accurate rainfall forecasts (including riverbasin wise/ sub basin wise forecasts), coordinated actions across river basins and states. There is some minor improvements here and there as we see in this bulltin, but no major change.
It’s more optimal rain water management that will help better water security, sustainable water availability, food production, livelihoods and agricultural security, among others. What is the road map to learn this and learn fast? There is no immediate light to the end of the tunnel.
It’s great to see the top edit in THE TIMES OF INDIA today (Aug 12, 2019) calling for urgent review of flood management in India. Indeed the current floods can be a big wake up call.
TOI Edit rightly says: “Similarly, there’s also an urgent need to upgrade dam management in the region. Despite heavy rain warnings, why couldn’t Maharashtra and Karnataka coordinate to release dam waters downstream as a pre-emptive measure? We need much more proactive and punctilious supervision of dam waters.” Indeed there is need to fix the responsibilities of failures in Dam Management, including forecasting failures, Violations of rule curves, mismanagement of reservoirs and lack of information sharing and coordination. Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 12 August 2019: URGENT REVIEW OF FLOOD MANAGEMENT REQUIRED”
Why are Gujarat and Centre in such a hurry to fill up Sardar Sarovar Reservoir? Shocking Decision of NCA. Stop power generation so that people can be submerged and displaced. The Madhya Pradesh government has objected to a decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to halt production of electricity at the River Bed Power House of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP-RBPH). NCA consented to Gujarat’s request in April this year to halt power generation at the SSP-RBPH so that the reservoir could be filled to capacity this monsoon. In a letter addressed to NCA chairman U P Singh, Madhya Pradesh chief secretary S R Mohanty termed the decision “unilateral” and demanded that the decision should be reviewed immediately. Continue reading “DRP NB 22 July 2019: Submergence as weapon to kill people’s movement?”
The latest update from IMD[i] on Very Severe Cyclonic Storm VAYU (issued at 0700 hrs on June 13, 2019) does not provide any specific risk of floods in any region, nor does it mention any possibility of persistent rainfall leading to risk of floods.
Another IMD update at 1200 hours on June 13, 2019[ii] says large parts of coastal Saurashtra may experience winds of 160 kmph starting June 13 afternoon, but there is no mention of risk of floods. It does give heavy rainfall warning: “Widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places in the coastal districts of Saurashtra” till 0830 hrs on June 15, 2019, in RED colour, the highest risk colour code used by IMD. Further this warning adds: “Flooding of escape routes. Minor disruption of railways, overhead power lines and signalling systems.” Among action suggested it lists: “Inundation of low lying areas along the above mentioned coastal districts due to heavy rainfall and storm surge… Evacuation from low lying areas of the above mentioned Districts, coastal Hutment dwellers, urban slum dwellers and people staying in unsafe house to safer places.” The Ministry of Earth Sciences also sends out these releases through PIB Press Notes as IMD functions under MoES. Continue reading “Will Cyclone VAYU bring floods in Saurashtra, Kutch and South Rajasthan?”