Poor dam management in Maharashtra
An L-shaped, half-baked, brick-walled structure stands amid a pile of debris and a worn-out plant. Three construction workers are busy plastering the structure with cement. Sitting right across, Vijay Patil supervises the revival of the house that was his fully functional home only about eight months ago.
“The budgeted expense is around Rs 30 lakh,” he said, wearing a track pant and a t-shirt. “The house was entirely underwater for nearly every week in August. It collapsed after the water receded and that we couldn’t recover anything from inside. After managing to place together some amount via loans and borrowings, we began constructing the house recently.”
Patil’s story mirrors the story of his tier two town of Sangli, which is limping back to normalcy after ravaging floods ruptured people’s lives within the first week of August 2019. Cracks on the ground of homes dampened walls of the cafes and therefore the flood levels daubed in blood red on a faculty building testify that this town in western Maharashtra remains reeling from the aftermath.
Between 5 and eight August last year, western Maharashtra witnessed unprecedented rainfall, which led to the overflowing of rivers Panchganga, Bhogavati, Koyna, and Warna. These rivers are basically tributaries of Krishna, the most important river in Maharashtra that flows through Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur before meeting the Bay of Bengal. The three towns and around 600 villages located along Krishna were worst affected with 50 deaths. It even rendered quite 2 lakh people displaced, 10,000 families homeless. The then chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, had asked for the aid of Rs 6,813 crore from the Centre to hold out the rehabilitation process.
Recollecting the horrors of these days, Patil, a sugarcane farmer, said he swam through the lanes to rescue a number of the cattle owned by him and his neighbors. “My wife and youngsters stayed together with her parents,” he said. “And I stayed at a friend’s house that was located up Capitol Hill. The devastation and therefore the force of nature still give me nightmares. it’s something I even have never seen before.”
The last time western Maharashtra experienced severe flooding was back in 2005. people that lived through thought that they had seen the worst. within the village of Padmale, merely 4 kilometers from Sangli town, residents said when the water levels started rising, they moved their precious belongings to the “safe” elevated level, which the 2005 floods had not breached. But the 2019 floods made a mockery of it.
Yasmin Mulla, a resident of Padmale, located along the river Krishna, said that they had to require a ship to urge out of the village to a safer place. “When we came back, the pungent odor had spread across the village due to the death of livestock,” she said. “It took us 15 days to merely clean the house. Our onion harvest had been floating around, the sewage water had entered the kitchen, and dead rats had been hanging on the gate. We even found little crocodiles and snakes within the water that had ruptured our house.
The green walls of her tin-roofed, one-room apartment are still damp. The brown floor has cracks like an old man’s palm. “By the time we had done cleaning up, our feet had injuries due to constantly being under dirty water,” she said. “The smell didn’t leave the shack for a month.”
After touring the affected areas post the floods, Fadnavis had held a news conference during which he virtually blamed nature for the disaster.
“In 2005, Sangli experienced 200 percent rain in 31 days. In 2019, 750 percent of rainfall occurred in nine days alone. In Kolhapur, 31 days of 2005 recorded 160 percent rainfall while in 2019, Kolhapur saw 180 percent rainfall in nine days. The rainfall everywhere was unprecedented. The combined effect of the Krishna, Koyna and Panchaganga rivers caused the present flood situation,” he told reporters.
The torrential rainfall did play its part, largely due to global climate change. But experts believe it had been a human-made disaster, exacerbated by shoddy dam management and urbanization along the rivers that minimize the capacity of catchment areas to carry and absorb rainwater.
Shortly after the flooding, the South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and other people (SANDRA P) released a report stating that the disaster could are averted with better dam management since the spells of heavy rainfall came with a warning.
Floods in Sangli and Kolhapur
The floods in Sangli and Kolhapur transpired at a time when water from three major dams of Koyna, Warna, and Radhanagari within the upper Krishna basin was released. The report noted that the irrigation department might say that they had no choice but to release the water since the dams were full, but the moot question is why the dams were full when the IMD had predicted heavy rainfall within the coming days.
After the 2005 floods, the SANDRAP report acknowledged, the govt had appointed a committee but its conclusions were never released within the property right. “We got to make sure that the water stored in dams is judiciously released to form the way for possible high rainfall incidences and release schedules should be strictly followed. the knowledge must put the public domain in order that accountability is often fixed,” it said.
The report further blamed our obsession with “development”, which reduces the rivers’ water carrying capacity. “We got to specialize in the creation of local water harvesting systems, wetlands, forests, and other groundwater-recharging,” it said.