At 10 pm on Sunday night, the Sutlej packing all its might roared into the boundaries of Nawanshahr. It had already unleashed its wrath in Ropar, and the destruction in Jalandhar was to unfold after crossing this present spot. But as water surged, the embankments in Nawanshahr refused to give way. The district survived the blow, thanks to 18 hours it had spent preparing for this precise moment.
More than 18 hours before swollen Sutlej entered Nawanshahr, a routine alert from Bhakra authorities jolted the district headquarters into action on Saturday afternoon. At this time though, there was no information about the massive release from Ropar Headworks next morning at 6am. The alert just said that due to heavy rains in the catchment areas of the Sutlej, the Bhakra dam planned to release 40,000 cusecs additional water on Sunday. At meeting summoned by the Deputy Commissioner, Vinay Bublani, in the afternoon, the administration decided to get to work immediately.
Civic and police administration lost no time in identifying sensitive points and got down to the work of strengthening the Dhussi Bandhs right away. Army teams were requisitioned Saturday night itself, and villagers told to join hand with the drainage department, which started work Saturday night. Army teams reached Sunday morning and started work at Bela Tajowal, Dugri, Khoja Bet in Balachaur, Tajowal Mandala, Burj Tehal Dass in the dark and were at work in the morning when another alert brought more bad news.
While BBMB had just released 19,000 cusecs extra water Sunday, Ropar Headworks first sent out 1.63 lakh cusecs at 6am and was to send forward a 2.40 lakhs cusecs after receiving more water from small rivers upstream. After the release of water from Ropar Headworks at 11 am Sunday, 67 villages of the Nawanshahr and Balachaur subdivisions were put on Red Alert. Fear stalked the residents of these villages.
But already at work, Nawanshahr administration still had a 6 hour window before the surge. “We had called Army teams immediately and started the strengthening work on all sentive points on Saturday night itself, while water reached Nawashahr on Sunday late evening,” said Deputy Commissioner Vinay Bublani.
There were half a dozen highly vulnerable points on Dhussi Bandh along with Sutlej in Nawanshahr where leakage was already taking place due to heavy rain. These points were located at Bela-Tajowal, Dugri and Auliapur in Balachaur subdivision of district, Tajowal-Mandhala, Tajpur Khoje, Burj Tehal Dass and Mirzapur in Nawanshahr subdivision.
On Sunday, all these points withstood huge pressure of water and the situation at Dhussi Bandh remained under control and no breach was reported here in the past four days.
“We had our fingers crossed when Sutlej entered our district and flowed past the sensitive points of Dhussi Bandh, but fortunately our hard work paid off,” said DC Bublani.
Balachaur’s SDO, Drainage Department, Avtar Singh and Kehar Chand, SDO, Drainage, Nawanshahr, said that all the sensitive sites were strengthened to some extent before Sutlej water hit the district and the work was has not been stopped even now.
“The administration called our teams well in time to avert flooding,” said incharge of an Army team engaged at one such sensitive Dhussi Bandh spot.
Officials from PWD, Punjab Mandi Board, Panchayati Raj and Water Supply and Sanitation Departments were involved in the operation.
The DC added that though water flow in Sutlej had receded to just 46,000 cusecs now against 2.40 lakh cusecs, the other departments deputed to assist the Drainage Department would continue to keep vigil as the rainy season was still is on.