A four-decade-old temple on the bank of the Narmada river, 12 kilometres downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, was washed away and several villages were inundated on Monday following a constant inflow of close to 11 lakh cusec water into the Narmada basin from the Indirasagar and Omkareshwar dams in Madhya Pradesh.
The swollen Narmada river inundated several villages in Narmada, Vadodara and Bharuch districts, while the authorities said the water leven in the dam, which stood at 132.9 at 5pm on Monday — just six metres away from its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) capacity of 138.68 metres, may rise further.
The Narmadeshwar Mahadev temple, located alongside the Garudeshwar Dutt temple, collapsed into the raging Narmada around 8 am onMonday. The temple is frequented by several known personalities through the year. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were among those who visited the temple recently.
According to the priests at the Garudeshwar temple premises, the structure showed signs of collapsing on Sunday, following which it was closed. Rahul Narve, a priest at the adjoining temple told this newspaper, “Two trees that were about 80 years old fell over the weekend and we could see the erosion of the bank. The base of the temple structure also loosened up. On Sunday, police came and advised us to shift whatever we could and close the temple. Accordingly, the donation box and other removable items were taken out but the Shivaling was washed away with the structure.”
“The ongoing construction of the Weir might have led to this. Otherwise, this kind of erosion has never happened before. We have also lost a part of the structure that was used as a lodging place for pilgrims,” Narve said.
According to Narmada District Collector Manoj Kothari, “There was no report in the department about any structural weakness of the temple. We believe that it happened because of the erosion due to the floods this year.”
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) officials said that the presence of Garudeshwar Weir about 200 metres from the site where the temple stood would not have any adverse effect on the structures along the riverbank.
MB Joshi, General Manager (Technical & Co-ordination), SSNNL, said, “The temple was located on the Narmada bank on the right-hand side, about 200 metres away from the Garudeshwar Weir. We started releasing the water from August 28 with 50,000 cusec, which was slowly increased to 2.65 lakh cusec and further to 8 lakh cusec, including the spillway discharge and also the powerhouse. The release was 9.4 lakh cusec from 11pm Sunday… It is unfortunate that the temple collapsed. It could be due to the erosion of the bank.”
Joshi, however, said that the Weir, with a crest level of 31.75 metres, cannot be the cause of the erosion on the riverbank. “When we build any obstruction in the river, the water is blocked temporarily but when the level rises and reaches the crest level, it will overflow. The Weir is about 12 km downstream… The structure does not increase the flow. The Weir will allow the water to flow downstream but the dam cannot damage the structures on the riverbank,” Joshi said.
He added that the Weir has an overflow part in the middle and high level non-overflow parts at the two ends. “The work on the middle and ends is complete but the work on the downstream spilling basin is yet to be completed. When the water falls from the spillway, it is received in the bed of the river and to ensure that there is no erosion of the riverbed, we create a spilling basin. That work is still ongoing. But it does not have any bearing on the riverbanks,” Joshi said.
The Narmada Dam is witnessing an inflow from Indirasagar and Omkareshwar dam of about 11.07 lakh cusec since Sunday night and SSNNL is faced with the challenge of maintaining the level in the dam as well as caution. “We have to maintain caution because the forecast for rain for the Narmada basin is still high. Hoshangabad city in Madhya Pradesh has received very high rainfall and Indirasagar dam has also been receiving about 16 lakh cusec water. They are routing it but they have almost reached their full reservoir level. They have no other choice but to release it downstream to the dam,” Joshi said.
This, however, is not the highest discharge from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, according to SSNNL. The highest release happened in the year 2013 when the gates of the dam were yet to be fitted and its spillway level was 121.92 metres.
“The dam saw about 15 lakh cusec of discharge from the spillway in 2013. Last year was a different story because it was for the first time that the dam was filling up to its FRL and every 30 centimetres we were required to release water. We received a total 62 MAF of water of which 35 MAF went to the sea,” Joshi added.
Meanwhile, around 5,000 persons people, including 4,300 in low-lying areas of Bharuch district, were shifted to safer locations as the Narmada continues to swell. Several homes in Chandod and Karnali in Vadodara district ,as well as places of worship along the riverbanks, were inundated.
Vadodara city is also staring at a flood like situation with the Vishwamitri river crossing the 24 feet mark at 8 pm on Monday. Several residents from lowlying areas of the city have been shifted to safer places even as the Ajwa reservoir, which releases water into Vishwamitri is above its rule level of 212 feet, at 212.45 feet.