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Floods in Bihar: More than monsoon, were they man-made?

The tragedy has once again highlighted the need to have more consultative decision-making process on operations of large and medium dams that have an impact across state boundaries.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Published: August 25, 2016 3:41 pm
Transport vehicles moving at submerged national highway 31 near Fatuha in Patna district of Bihar on Sunday. (PTI Photo) Transport vehicles moving at submerged national highway 31 near Fatuha in Patna district of Bihar on Sunday. (PTI Photo)

In the last two weeks that it has been flooded, Bihar received well below normal rainfall. In the last one week, it had a rainfall deficiency of 40 per cent while the week before that, between August 11 and August 17, it received almost 30 per cent below normal rainfall. And yet, it has seen widespread flooding, in and around Patna, and some other areas.

The flooding happened for two main reasons. There was widespread rainfall in the foothills of the Himalayas during this period and the rivers flowing from those areas like Rapti, Sarada or Ghagra, were carrying excess water by the time they reached Bihar. The other reason was the sudden release of large amounts of water from the Bansagar dam MP, into the Sone river that travels through south Bihar before meeting the Ganga.

While little could have been done about the excess flow of the Himalayan rivers, the release of water from the Bansagar dam could have been managed better. Data from the Madhya Pradesh water resources department website shows large volumes of water were discharged from the dam over a three-day period starting August 18, once the reservoir got very full. Very little water was released before that, even though the reservoir level was swelling and there were forecasts of more rains in central India.

Water officials in the central government say that had the water been released phase-wise, ignoring the tendency to hoard water in the reservoirs, the situation would have been much better.

The tragedy has once again highlighted the need to have more consultative decision-making process on operations of large and medium dams that have an impact across state boundaries. It has also brought back the focus the way Bansagar is being managed.

A big inter-state project like Bansagar usually has a reservoir regulatory committee with representation from all the concerned states. This committee decides on operational issues, including the time and quantity of water to be discharged. The Sardar Sarovar project or the Damodar Valley project have such committees. Officials say that in the case of Bansagar, however, this regulatory committee has not been constituted because of objections from the Madhya Pradesh government which apparently claims the project as its own. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, therefore, have no say on when or how much water is released from the reservoir.

The two states do have a representation on the Bansagar Control Board that was constituted when the project was initiated in the early 1970s, but this board’s mandate is restricted towards the construction and expansion of the project. It does not deal with operational issues, officials say.

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  1. D
    Dinesh Roy
    Aug 25, 2016 at 3:05 pm
    I seems the level and flow management and control doesn't have an Standard Operating Procedure. Also, the people managing this should be investigated for their callusness.
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    1. G
      Ganesh Dore
      Aug 25, 2016 at 3:41 pm
      The flooding is not necessarily Totally Man Made. If there was no Bansagar .. Flooding would have been the same . Bansagar could have released 300000 cusecs for four days the previous week. Indian minds have a DNA flaw when it comes to action . We have the brains but have paralysis when it comes to action . Just like Arjuna at Kurukshetra. Krishna ( Happy Janmashtami ) had to instruct him that war was necessary .
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      1. M
        Mohan
        Aug 26, 2016 at 11:25 pm
        Why corrupt and non-performing politicians are not put behind bars for looting Bihar in last 25 years? The repeated flooding and drought are man made since none of past govts had performed for development and progress of state except looting resources of state. Nitish has totally failed in bringing progress and prosperity in state. So he is trying to divert opinion of public from acute problems like poverty, backwardness, rotten education system, rampant corruption from top to bottom, no roads in rural areas, no medical facilities in rural areas, complete lawlessness after JD(U)-RJD alliance etc. It is difficult to narrate all problems of people prevailing in state due to mive corruption and bad governance. Nitish has appointed illiterate and useless Laloo's sons as DYCM and minister in his govt byping merit of educated and experienced people as minister. This all exposes double speak of Nitish Kumar. The illiterate and irresponsible people of state are responsible for electing regional parties like JD(U) and RJD run by individual time and again since last 25 years when there is no tangible progress visual anywhere in urban and rural areas. Bihar is still facing recurrent drought and floods every year but no sincere and honest efforts are made by state govt to control it and people are left at mercy of GOD while these politicians are enjoying power by looting all resources of state. In view of above facts when Nitish has failed badly in Bihar, how he can run w country which is far from truth. So youths of country should not believe these liar politicians.
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