TO PREVENT a repeat of last year’s floods, the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) has created sufficient cushioning in the Bhakra dam by bringing its level down by 41 ft, ahead of monsoon season. However, the Punjab government’s much-needed project to canalise its rivers, which is aimed at preventing floods, is yet to see light of day.
The level of Bhakhra dam on Thursday (June 18) was 1,566.49 feet against 1,607. 42 ft on the same day last year. Space is being created ahead of predictions of a strong monsoon this year.
The dam is built on the Sutlej river, which had created havoc in around half dozen districts of Punjab last year during rainy season and caused major floods here.
The dam has released nearly 25,000-35,000 cusecs (cubic foot per second) water daily since April. BBMB sources said that since April till date, water release from Bhakhra remained between 162.00 billion cusecs to 226.80 billion cusecs. Out of this, around 8.64 billion cusecs water was released to Pakistan in over 10 days in April and May.
The figures from the Central Water Commission (CWC) revealed that water storage in the dam was 1,608.22 feet on April 2 against its total capacity of 1,689.79 feet which has come down to 1,566.49 feet on June 18. Similarly, the current live storage of water in the dam was 2.338 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM) on April 2 which was 1.482 BCM on Thursday.
Sources in the BBMB said water was released continuously downstream in summer months, irrespective of whether there was a demand for irrigation on several days, to create the space so as to prevent flooding during monsoons in Punjab.
Sources also said that space is also being created in the Pong dam, which is built on the Beas in Talwara region of the state, and since April 2 to till date 23 ft space has been created by bringing down the level from 1,367.48 ft on April 2 to 1,344.48 feet on June 18. As against 3.719 BCM water currently, the dam has 2.456 BCM water in its reservoir. Still, the authorities want to bring it down to 1,332 ft against its capacity of 1,390 ft.
“The level of the dam was 1,675.85 feet on August 31 last year and the dam had left with a storage capacity some feet only to touch the maxim storage limit and there was one more month of the rainy season left. So to avoid that situation this year, we made the proper space in summers only before the beginning of the monsoon,” said a senior BBMB official.
A senior officer in the Punjab agriculture department said that for the past two years, the state has been releasing excess water from these dams downstream and from Ferozepur headworks, it flows into Pakistan while the state can utilise it in the irrigation of water-guzzling paddy crop, which is being sown currently, by making water harvesting projects in bulk in the state.
There are three perennial rivers — Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi — and a non-perennial river, Ghaggar, in Punjab. Besides these rivers, there are over 100 local nadies, rivulets, choes and khads, which run during monsoon season only.
“Only the three perennial rivers have dams — Bhakra dam on Sutlej, Pong dam on Beas and Ranjit Sagar dam on Ravi — and Dhussi Bandhs, which are though quite weak at several places and often get breached with a little heavy flow. While Ghaggar river is partially canalised, and other small rivulets need to be managed in a proper manner to avoid floods in future because these flow to the brim during monsoon and create havoc individually or after flowing into the main rivers,” said a senior officer in the drainage department
Chief Engineer, Canal and Drainage, Water Resources Department, Sanjeev Gupta told The Indian Express that they have got made sufficient cushioning in the Bhakhra dam before the rainy season while a Rs 1,312 crore project had been submitted to the central government to canalise Sutlej a few months ago.
He also said that due to Covid-19, flood management work could be started in May end only and Sutlej is being distilled with the help of Environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, villagers, in Jalandhar district while the department has been helping by taking several clearances from railways and providing and technical knowhow.
Punjab’s river embankments, especially that of Sutlej upstream from Ropar, need to be strengthened. The rivers also need desilting at several places. The state has a 7,200 km long rainwater drainage network to save agriculture land from the fury of floods. But the majority of this network remains uncleaned every year, which creates a flood-like situation in several pockets of the state during the rainy season and damages the crops on large acreage.
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