Updated: August 23, 2020 4:53:47 pm
Vinod Kumar (45) stood knee deep in water that had surrounded his house since Wednesday in outer southwest Delhi’s Rawta village.
He was looking for the cap of an overhead water tank in his house that the wind had blown away; it was later found floating among trash nearby.
A few metres away, Kripal Singh (45) had put sandbags around his stable for buffaloes, and where a day earlier he had frantically set up a motor to pull out water that was seeping inside. “Otherwise the stable would have collapsed with us and the animals inside. Who’s going to take responsibility if we die this way?” Singh said, as village residents gathered around him nodded.
Around them was about 1,000 acres of farmland submerged in a mix of wastewater and rainwater overflowing from the Najafgarh drain since earlier this month, after monsoon showers began, village residents said.
Following Wednesday’s heavy rain that lashed Gurgaon — 158mm in 24 hours — water began seeping into homes in Rawta.
“The fields are usually waterlogged around this time every year for the past 20 years, and about 500 acres of land around the drain is submerged in water for all 12 months, but homes had not been affected until now… People here pray it doesn’t rain a lot so that their crops are not destroyed,” said Rajnish Phalswal, a resident.
Farmers said there was no certainty when their fields would dry again, with some estimating weeks or months, and claiming that it all depends on stopping the overflow from drains.
Catfish and other species of fish were being caught in the waterlogged fields on Friday by people from the village and nearby areas, as they kept a watch on snakes in the fields.
Ramesh Singh (56) estimated that nearly every farmer would have suffered a loss of about Rs 30,000 per acre of field, including their investment and returns on the harvest of about Rs 3,000 per quintal of dhan.
“We would have to stop sowing dhan if this continues. There is also uncertainty about our wheat crops that we sow in November, because even then sometimes water from the drain enters our fields,” Singh said.
Residents of the village and nearby areas claimed that they have made several representations to government officials and the local MLA and MP, but no steps have been taken to control the problem.
“The solution is building a retainer wall along the drain here to prevent the overflow. Farmers are demanding that they either be compensated or that gram sabha land a little away from the village be handed over to them as it remains dry,” said Deepak Yadav of nearby Jhuljhuli village.
The problem faced by this village is a result of steps taken after the 1978 floods in Delhi when embankments were built along the Najafgarh drain to prevent the city from flooding in the future, as per an official of the Delhi Irrigation and Flood Control Department.
However, Rawta village lies in a 5.5 kilometre stretch, along the 57-km-long drain, where the embankment was not built by the then Delhi administration.
“The area was supposed to act as a balancing reservoir at the time of floods to prevent the population in dense areas of the city from getting affected. The area around Najafgarh lake is a low lying area, and it was planned at the time that flood water would collect here and not proceed further,” the official said.
After Wednesday’s “torrential rain” in Gurgaon, the waterlogged city began pumping out excess rainwater through three drains into the Najafgarh lake and drain, the official said.
At present, the flood department has set up pumps in the area to pull out water collected in the village, and the water levels were reducing as of Saturday afternoon, the official said.
In the long term, the problem would only be solved by talks between Delhi and Haryana, and through the medium of the National Green Tribunal, which is presently hearing a matter to determine whether the Najafgarh lake is a wetland or a private land. “If the lake is found to be a wetland, then the land of the farmers in Rawta and other villages in Delhi and Haryana would be acquired by the government,” the official said.
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