Getting habituated to a habit...
There is a competition to live a life that takes you farther from your roots. Our roots are inevitably ecological. Having gained the wonderful experience of knowing ecology from close corners over the last two decades, I behave like an objective chronicler of it. This blog is meant to be a contemporary chronology of ecology, economics and we the being. The blog will have text and visuals. Ranjan Panda
On 27th August we sent out the First Drought
Update for 2011 to you.In the meanwhile
we got attacked by one of the most devastating floods of recent decades.Now that we are at the final stage of
preparations for the first of its kind State Level Consultation on Flood
Management scheduled for 23of of this month, we are shocked by more farmer
deaths in the state due to drought conditions.
In fact, this has been the condition of our state and
each year we experience floods and droughts together.While flood keeps us engaged during a
particular period of time drought has been a silent and persistent killer.From this year on, we are trying to intensify
our efforts to see that the debate and action over disasters in the state don’t
die down.We really need a better
strategy to cope with disasters and manage those to reduce the
devastations.About a decade ago, we at WIO
had termed Odisha as “Disasters own Country”. By now disasters have intensified
further and in the coming years, the way we are managing them and the way
climatic conditions are going to change, the situation is going to be worse. It’s
time we join hands and act fast!!This
Update is just another effort towards that.
Just in case you want to know it again, fifteen years
ago, Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) had started the habit of compiling Drought
and Flood Updates for the state of Odisha and we used to share these among
people, policy makers, media, academicians and other concerned.That time we did it through print papers and
distributed photocopied updates.After
continuing the effort for a few years, we could not keep up with the pace of
the droughts, floods and disasters and stopped the effort a decade back.However, we kept on sending occasional
updates from time to time via the internet and also through our print
publications.Our friends and
well-wishers have been asking us to start it again and we have too realised
that the need for regular updates has become more vital than ever before with
drought and disasters assuming new and gigantic proportions under new
conditions of rapid industrialization and climate change.We are thus resuming the effort.
The format would however be the same: a simple
compilation of news and views on drought and related issues sourced from
newspapers, research reports, field studies and all other sources we can have
access to.We keep it simple also to
reach out to maximum number of people possible.
At the moment, it’s occasional and we may come up with these
updates as and when we can, given our limited manpower and resources.However, with your inputs and support, we are
sure; we shall be able to ensure regular flow of this update.
request you to send in your reports of activities, your views; and any other
interesting and relevant article, books, photographs, and anything that you
feel we should cover in this Update.It’s
YOU who is the most important FUEL of this effort.
Look forward to listen from you and your continued
Thanks and regards,
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
farmer commits suicide!
Lalit Neti, a 35 years old farmer from Bhimjor village of
the Kolabira Block in Jharsuguda district allegedly committeed suicide by
consuming pesticide on Monday, 17th October.It is reported that Lalit, a marginal farmer
who owned two acres of land had availed a loan of 16000 rupees from Samasingh
Co-operative Society for taking up his kharif farming operations.However, crop loss led him to take this
Floods, Dry Spell Worries Farmers
The farmers of southern and coastal districts are at
nature’s mercy again.A prolonged dry
spell after the September 23 floods has left the community worried over the
standing crop prospects.
The heat during the last three weeks is unusually high and
paddy fields have gone dry.
Long duration paddy crops are in the panicle stage and badly
need water for heading and flowering.If
there will be no rain during the next few days, there will be heavy production
loss, said an agriculture expert.
Early and medium varieties of paddy crops are in the dough
stage and ready for harvest.However,
constant water in the paddy field is required for long duration crops from panicle
to dough stage.
There is no problem for paddy crops in areas under assured
irrigation.Reports from the field level
said crop condition is getting worse in the southern district of Ganjam.Farmers of the coastal districts are equally
concerned for their crops.
The system developed in the east central Bay of Bengal had
raised the hope of rain in the coastal belts of the State.As the system has started moving towards
south-west bay, it has dashed the hopes any rain in the State.
Evena s 16 districts were affected by drought and 21
districts were affected by the two spell of floods in September, the
Agriculture Department was confident of a good kharif harvest.The prolonged dry spell had dimmed the hope.
Meanwhile, the Government had asked the Orissa Lift
Irrigation Corporation (OLIC) to operationalize atleast 1000 defunct LI points
The corporation needs to operationalize as many defunct LI
points on war-footing measures to ensure that the standing crops are
saved.Paddy crops on more than 3.5 lakh
hectares were damaged by the recent floods.
Source: Indian Express, 18th
grips farmers in Ganjam
Drought-like situation prevails in the district due to low rainfall
Farmers in Ganjam are facing possible crop loss due to
drought-like situation caused by low and erratic rainfall this year. This is in
sharp contrast to other areas of the State where heavy rainfall has caused
extensive loss due to floods. Most of the canals in the district are unable to
provide sufficient water to farmers for cultivation. In a recent report the officials
of the Agriculture Department have pointed out that all the 22 blocks of this
district are affected by low rainfall.
Non-provision of proper amount of water has started to irk
peasants. In some areas such as Huma and Burupada, farmers have demonstrated at
local offices of the Irrigation Department. Former deputy speaker of State
Assembly Ram Chandra Panda says unless government comes out with some remedial
measures for farmers, it may lead to law and order situation in some areas.
He says it was high time to distribute whatever water is
available through irrigation systems.
Paddy cultivation has been worst affected due to low
rainfall. According to the Agriculture Department data, this year low rainfall
in the beginning of kharif season affected paddy cultivation in four blocks of
the district. But paddy cultivation in other blocks also got affected as proper
rainfall did not occur in subsequent months. It is estimated that no
cultivation could be taken up in around 13,000 hectares of agricultural land in
During his recent visit to the district, State Revenue
Minister Surya Narayan Patra also admitted the agricultural loss due to low
rainfall and drought-like situation in the district. This year, the crop loss
assessment will be made by taking panchyats as units rather than blocks so that
more peasants who are likely to suffer crop loss could be benefited, he says,
adding that efforts are on to save existing paddy crop in Ganjam through lift
irrigation system. Ten thousand lift irrigation points will be repaired and
renovated on a war-footing.
Source: The Hindu, 17th
Withdrawal of Monsoon
The withdrawal started from west Rajasthan on 23rd September with a
delay of more than 3 weeks as the normal date of withdrawal from extreme
western parts of Rajasthan is 1st September. Subsequently, it withdrew from
most parts of northwest India and some parts of west Uttar Pradesh on 26th
September and from most parts of Uttar Pradesh, some parts of Madhya Pradesh and some more parts of Gujarat
state on 28th September. On 30th Sept. it further withdrew from some
more parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. As on 4th October, The
withdrawal line of monsoon continues to pass through Lat. 27.0°N / Long.
84.0°E, Balia, Umaria, Jabalpur, Indore, Baroda, Veraval, Lat. 21.0°N / Long.
65.0°E and Lat. 21.0°N / Long. 60.0°E.
The cumulative season rainfall from 1st June to 30th September 2011 was
excess in 7 meteorological subdivisions (21% of the total area of the country),
normal in 26 meteorological subdivisions (71% of the total area of the country)
and deficient in 3 meteorological subdivisions (8% the total area of the
country). The sub-divisional cumulative season rainfall distribution is shown
in Fig.4. Three subdivisions (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Meghalaya, and
NMMT) from the eastern part of the country recorded deficient rainfall.The monthly rainfall over the country as a
whole during the season is given below:
Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level
coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned,
which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the
state for more than two decades now.
Let me narrate the
story of a woodcutter who was cutting the branch of a tree with an axe from
morning to evening for several days.One
day, a person passers-by asked the woodcutter to show the axe.The axe was blunt.He advised the woodcutter to get the axe
sharpened.The woodcutter said, “I
understand this.But my master says, if
I go for sharpening the axe, who will do this work?”The situation is something like this in the
field.People are busy in work and have
no time to learn and give heed to this.They are working with out-dated knowledge.For this workshop, the master mind has played
a role and hence we are meeting today.
-This was said by the then Engineer-in-Chief,
Water Resources, Govt. of Orissa in September 2005
monsters.Even though these have been
lifeline for the people of the civilization, from point of view of potential
hazard, it is a monster, if not monitored for its proper health and ther is an
outburst, the entire Geography and History of area will be changed.
-Said by Minister of State, Water Resources, during
the above workshop in 2005.
In fact, once dams are built, the
safety and security of the people at the lower levels, during floods, becomes
heavily dependent on the efficient management of the dam.As the Minister rightly pointed out,
“Sometimes release from the dam makes their life miserable.Hence, the dam authorities are to operate the
gates of the dam efficiently, in such a way that the life and property of the
downstream people are safe.”Has
the Hirakud dam been properly managed?We don’t think so.The latest
spell of floods this September last shows how.
The September Floods
On 9th September, as 10,
51,123 cusecs of water was entering into the 746 sq km reservoir, Asia’s
longest earthen dam looked so small and helpless.The authorities, who virtually waited the
water to come to this unmanageable proportion, were forced to open 59 gates -
49 out of those opened in a span of 48 hours – only to be able to release 9,74,887
cusecs of water.At such a peak, when
the dam’s safety comes to a stake and there is no other way available with the
authorities than to release the water which then goes on to devastate millions
of people downstream.We immediately
questioned this faulty way of managing the dam’s flood control operations as
the reservoir level was continuous kept at a very high level.Please see the box “Up, up and up” for an
analysis of daily flood operations of the dam between 2nd to 10th
September.However, as a regular
practice, the authorities denied these charges.In September 2008, almost the same thing happened and we had raised the
issue then too.The authorities then
said they are looking into the matter and that an expert committee will be
formed to check such devastations in future.Three years on, we are doing the same exercise.The casual and stereotype approach of
managing the dam continued, as a result of which a flood that could have been
moderated was let loose to devastate about 3.5 million people 19
districts.At least 41 people were
killed and 10 were reported missing when the Govt.’s final update on Mahanadi
floods came on 21st September.In the meanwhile, we hear from the department of water resources that a
committee was set up in 2009 and that its suggestions were incorporated during
operation of the reservoir during this flood.However, in reality, we did not find any change in the modus operandi
than what we saw in 2008.
Up, up and up
On 2nd September, when the
inflow forecast for 24 hours was 173042 cusecs, 10 gates of the HIrakud dam
were open.This increased to 22 gates by
4th as rainfall was excessive at upstream nearby places Burla at 153.4 MM and
Hirakud at 130.4 MM.The rainfall at
Seorinarayan (Chhatisgarh) discharge station in the upstream that day was 13 MM
that was to take about 14 hours to reach the reservoir.Further it was 20 MM at Nandaghat, 48.0 MM at
Champa, 28.1 MM at Tarapur, 13.0 MM at Ghorari, 77.6 MM at Saradihi and 27.0 MM
at Deogaon; all upstream stations.So,
within one hour (at Burla and Hirakud) to about 30 hours (at the farthest
discharge station), all this water was to come to the reservoir.That day itself the inflow was 380741 cusecs
but the outflow was maintained at the same level, leaving the reservoir at a
very high level of 624.97 ft.
The next 24 hours’ inflow
forecast was 395525 cusecs but the dam gates were further closed and on 6th
September only 12 gates were open.So, while
the inflow was 314880 cusecs, the outflow was drastically low at 233746
cusecs.On that day, even though the
rainfall at nearby upstream stations reduced by almost half, it was not too
less.However the rainfall at most of
the far off stations had increased voluminously.This means the reservoir was to continue
receiving higher inflow, which was going to gradually increase.But the reservoir was kept at a higher level
of 624.87 ft.
Very obviously the next
day i.e. on 7th September, the inflow into the reservoir increased to a huge
volume of 618340 cusecs, almost double of the previous day.The authorities then started to realise the
blunder and opened 24 gates.Going by
records, each gate takes an hour to open.So, in 12 hours they could open only 12 gates.This resulted in a high inflow but low
discharge at 418220 cusecs and the reservoir level could not be lowered.It was at 626.23 ft.At such water levels safety of the dam comes
into stake and the authorities have no option than to release more water.So, by then even though the rainfall had
increased in almost all upstream stations with slight decrease in the nearby
ones, and even though the projected inflow on the next 24 hours was almost
635665 cusecs, and the desperate effort to start opening the gates had begun,
they could only open 42 gates by which they could discharge only 711542 of the
997428 cusecs that was inflowing.And
the reservoir level had to rise to 627.02 ft.What is important to note hereis that out of the projected upstream
rainfall, the reservoir received almost 30% extra.This definitely created the extra
unprecedented impact but the plight was not going to be much less even if the
dam received only the projected inflow.The damage down streams was already done by then and despite all efforts
the authorities could not moderate the flood.
The next day, i.e. 9th
September, when the reservoir received a whopping 1051123 cusecs of inflow –
just a little less than the projected volume, the authority was but forced to
open 59 gates only to be able to 974887 cusecs of water.The reservoir level thus rose to 628.50 ft,
virtually leaving no further scope for the authorities than to let the flood
loose and do as much devastation it wanted to.This resulted in the increase of the reservoir level to 629.25 on the
Govt. records say that the
maximum discharge ability of the Hirakud dam is 15 lakh cusecs.Imagine, if at 10.5 lakh cusecs of discharge
the dam wrecked this devastation, what would happen at that level.The dam itself may not survive then.This shows how the Hirakud dam is virtually a
failure in flood control.
The point that we want to
bring home is, the dam authorities lost the opportunity of moderating the flood
by keeping the reservoir at very high starting from 1st August and then kept on
increasing it gradually.This is
contrary to what their own documents and reports have been advising them.
Shying away from the hard reality
of failure to manage the floods, the authorities first blamed Chhatisgarh rains
for the flood; then other factors and finally – while responding to the
Governor’s call for establishment of a high level independent committee to
inquire into the alleged mismanagement – blamed Chhatisgarh waters again, even
as only about 15 per cent (1,77,000 cusecs) of the total inflow on peak flood
inflow time came from Chhatisgarh rivers (as informed by the Chief Engineer).The fact that there is no proper mechanism
to monitor flows from rivers from inside the state; and that there is a severe
lack of coordination between Odisha and Chhatisgarh in managing the flood flow
– that we had raised - were never admitted.At that time, as was informed by the Chief
Engineer of the dam, Ib and Bheden rivers were contributing 1,00,000 cusecs
each.Actually, flood management of the
Hirakud dam has always been a controversial issue.Each time there is a flood the authorities
try all ways to cover up the failure of the dam in managing the same.
This time too, despite clear cut
evidence that the dam was kept at a very higher level from the minimum
recommended level, they kept saying that they did not violate the designed Rule
Curve.This is what the Secretary of
Water Resources has repeated in recent media statements informing that they
have reported to the Governor about this.Buying his argument would mean the management of the dam was perfectly
done according to the Rule Curve.But
that also means, the dam has failed miserably.Would he or his department agree to this?They won’t admit that managing flood control
operations with the help of an old and obsolete Rule Curve itself is faulty and
gives rise to mismanagement of the dam increasing the risks of floods and
devastations.The current floods are the
worst in recent decades. It would be interesting to see what govt.
reports and representatives have said about the dam; its flood control ability
and the Rule Curve.
Strangely, there is no storage
earmarked for flood control:
The only existing reservoir scheme for flood control measures across
Mahanadi is the Hirakud dam. This is a multipurpose project where irrigation
and power generation are other important benefits in addition to flood control
benefit. But strangely, there is no storage earmarked for flood control. The
FRL and MWL are kept same (630 ft RL). The flood storage is obtained through
the operation schedule (rule curve). The operation schedule approved by the
Central Water Commission never allows the reservoir to be sufficiently at lower
level to absorb the inflow from the U/s catchment of 83,400 sq km, especially
if the flood hits late in monsoon. The live storage is rather small for such a
large catchment. The safety of the dam is always endangered when the inflow
approaches the PMF value.
(State Water Plan 2004)
The projects which were constructed prior to 1968, the spillway design
flood was determined basing on the empirical formulae, envelop curves or
frequency analysis.Let us discuss about
Hirakud.During 1947, the magnitude of
maximum flood discharge at head of delta i.e. Naraj was estimate as 15.7 lakh
cusec based on long term gauge observation at site.This flood was reduced in proportion to 3/4th
of power of catchment area to obtain a value of 11.5 lakh cusec at dam
site.Later on, International
Engineering Co. evaluated the design flood from study of flood in Godavari
basin and with their knowledge from other major river basins of the world as
But in 1952, a 500 year return period flood was calculated as 15 lakh
cusec which was adopted as spillway design capacity.Since the spillway of the same order as the
peak inflow design flood (i.e. 15 lakh cusecs) has been provided at FRL, it
seems that no routing has been done for this flood.
In 1974, the PMF was estimated as 28.74 lakhs by a team of experts
constituted by Govt. of India for formulating rules for flood conservation and
flood control below Hirakud.
In 1982, CWC finally communicated PMF as 14.59 lakh cusec (which is
higher by almost 10 lakh cusec).This
necessitated provision of additional spillway to accommodate flood of such high
As there may be serious problem in providing auxiliary spillway for
pasing this flood from techno-economic consideration, it was therefore thought
of to regulate the flood by advance release from the reservoir by use of flood
forecasting and flood warning system.
Safety of the dam is primary concern and it overrides all other
consideration during operation.The
operation should be in such a manner that it balances in best possible way the
two conflicting uses i.e. flood conservation for generating additional power
and flood control.
(Er. G. C. Sahoo, Former
No lessons learnt
In fact, several other documents
of the govt. itself have been pointing out that a lower reservoir level before
onset of monsoon is the most effective way to moderate high floods.However, the reservoir level was kept at a
very high level, leaving little scope for the flood waters to pass without
creating much damage.First of all,
going by the realisation of its own Water Plan, the water resources department
should have lowered the FRL by several feet as an earmarked flood water
space.Instead of doing that it kept on
increasing the reservoir level and kept it almost near to full even much before
the currently practiced obsolete Rule Curve suggested.This definitely gives one the impression that
this was done with sheer assumption and not through any scientific forecasting
methods.And this fuels to apprehensions
by several quarters that the reservoir was deliberately kept at higher level to
satisfy the new priorities of the dam i.e. to provide water to burgeoning
industries around the reservoir.
As such also, as evident from all
the above discussions, the dam has miserably failed in its primary objective
due to its multi-purpose nature.Further, considering that the dam’s water retention capacity is already
reduced by about one third; and its initial design is already a faulty one that
cannot properly balance between its multipurpose functionalities, the govt. in
first case, should never have allowed industries to draw water from this
reservoir.Without making any review of the
fallacies in the design and the functionality of the dam, the govt. kept on
adding new priorities. Further, the Rule Curve of 1988 was supposed to be
reviewed and changed in 1998 and then in 2008, was kept in force and no serious
improvement has been brought in the flood forecasting, telemetry analysis and
inter-state coordination aspects of the dam’s management.
The State Water Plan admits that manual collection of information involves human error and
consumes time; data transmission mechanism is unreliable and more so at the
time of cyclone and flood; the existing data communication mechanism is time
consuming; considering a single UG for a big catchment unit area up to 60,000
error; process of estimation of effective rainfall error; and that there is
enough scope for development in the existing flood forecasting mechanism.
Emphasising on the need for proper flood
forecasting, researchers of IIT, Roorkee mentioned that “Out of 19 floods 14
are due to intercepted catchment downstream of Hirakud.As far as structural measures are considered
second flood moderation structure is a rare possibility.The existing flood forecasting system
requires a lot of improvement.The
present weariness is the frequency and magnitude of the flood. The present
decade has seen so far 4 floods 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008.The delta of Mahanadi is encroached day by
day, due to growth of activities. This delta is highly fertile and thickly
populated (400-450 persons /sq.km.)” For more information on what experts have
spoken about Hirakud dam and the issues we have raised, please see the box
“Experts Speak” at the end of this paper.
Responding to the call of the Governor of
Odisha for formation of an independent enquiry committee to probe the alleged
mismanagement of Hirakud dam during flood control operations, the Secretary,
Water Resources of the state has said that a committee is already formed in
2009 and that the recommendations of the committee were taken into
consideration during this year’s flood management.However, we at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
don’t buy this.We had urged upon the
govt. of Odisha to release a white paper on flood operations of the dam in
2008; then in 2009 on the unnatural reduction of power generation and now, this
year, we realize that no change has taken place in the way the flood waters
were managed by the dam.So,
the flood devastation is clearly man made.
We urge upon the
Release a white paper, through constitution of an independent
inquiry committee, on the flood management by the dam with day wise
details from August 1st to September to 30th
providing information on what all factors were considered – with all
details there in – to keep the reservoir at a particular level on a
particular date.This should
include the flood forecasting upstream and downstream; inflow and outflow
at different stations and travelling time of flood waters between
stations; flood warnings issued; so on and so forth.
Revise the Rule Curve with immediate effect considering the past
experiences of floods, climate change and related factors.
Release a status paper on the life, threats and priorities of the
Upgrade and modernise the flood and weather forecasting as well as
warning mechanisms in place.
Start dialoguing with the people of the river basin and devise a
Flood Management Policy that talks about river basin management through
forest and run-off water conservation; flood plain zoning and management;
clearing congestion at the deltaic plains; initiates an interstate
mechanism with Chhattisgarh to manage the Mahanadi and its ecology.
Refrain from any further big dam and barrages across the
river.Instead, go for small water
harvesting and irrigation structures that will not only control flood in a
decentralized manner but also recharge the basin as a whole.
Review the water allocation to industries from the Hirakud
reservoir and upstream rivers and stop giving away any further water to
industries from there.
Almost five decades down the line, the
official rhetoric of controlling the Mahanadi has been replaced with a concern
for saving the dam itself. In July, hundreds of villages in the Mahanadi Delta
were flooded by a surge of water caused when authorities opened 51 of the dam’s
64 gates in July.
Engineers feared that the rapidly rising
reservoir could overtop the dam, causing an even greater disaster. In the words
of Orissa’s chief secretary, D. P. Bagchi, “the dam’s safety was of prime
importance.” The Hirakud Dam is holding back flood waters as designed, but only
to release them in lethal torrents.
To explain this irony as a story of
excessive rain would wrongly perpetuate the myth that flood control through
embankments and reservoirs is a viable and unavoidable response to
bank-bursting rivers. The Orissa Delta, much like other deltas in eastern
India, has, over the past 150 years, been transformed from a flood-dependent
ecology to a flood vulnerable landscape. This has occurred through a range of
technological interventions driven chiefly by political considerations.
In Orissa, a prescient flood committee of
1928 noted that floods were inevitable in a deltaic country and it was
“useless” to attempt to thwart the “workings of nature” through flood control
measures. This committee argued that in Orissa the problem was not how to
prevent floods but how to pass them as quickly as possible to the sea and
therefore the solution lay in “removing all obstacles” from the path of the
flood. The report of the 1928 committee, however, was buried by the politics of
the period which instead facilitated the construction of the Hirakud Dam.
More recently, the World Bank studied 25
large dams in India and singled out two that were particularly unable to cope
with high flood flows, one of which was Hirakud. The investigators wrote of
these two dams that “the consequences of dam failure during a major flood would
have to be described with some adjective beyond disastrous.”
from Politics, not Nature made Orissa floods calamitous Rohan D’Souza, in The Telegraph
– July 25, 2001 on the July 2001 Floods
India’s Hirakud Dam was first justified in
the name of flood control, yet extreme floods in the Mahanadi Delta between
1960 and 1980 were three times more frequent than before Hirakud was built. In
September 1980, hundreds of people were killed after releases from Hirakud
breached downstream embankments. Orissa’s Chief Minister admitted that panic
releases of water from Hirakud were responsible for much of the devastation but
argued that if the water had not been discharged as quickly as possible, the
dam could have failed.
McCully, in an undated paper
The wrong operation of Hirakud Dam is
majorly responsible for the current flood disaster in Mahanadi basin in Orissa.
Ever since Aug 1, 2008, when the rule curve for current year came into
operation, the Hirakud dam operators have kept the water level at the Hirakud
Dam way above the rule curve recommended for the dam in 1988. Had the dam
operated in a way to keep the level below the recommended level, the current
flood disaster could have been avoided, it impact hugely reduced.
Thakkar, in response to the September 2008 floods.
Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society
organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been
working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more
than two decades now.
As we gear up for the State Level Consultation on Flood Management to be held on 23rd October at Bhubaneswar, we are highly encouraged by the tremendous response received from many organisations and individuals. We thank you all for supporting us in this first ever such civil society intervention aimed towards working on a contributory process to help build an effective flood management platform in the state.
As we have already informed, this is just the beginning and we envisage a lot of collaborative and coordinated action with all of you and other networks, people, researchers, experts, govt. departments and all others concerned. We will ensure that the debate around floods do not hibernate as soon as the floods recede. With all your support, we are sure, we can do this.
Even as we are finalizing the agenda and discussion points for the Consultation, we have initiated a debate across various groups in the nation seeking people to give in their suggestions on the issues we have raised so far. The India Water Portal made a brief analysis of all the matters we raised through our regular Updates. We have circulated that to you. Currently, we have initiated a debate on some issues in the Solution Exchange network hosted by the UN. We are writing below a detailed note on the same and want to run the debate in Odisha, through all the e-groups we are part of, as a consultative preparation for the State Level Consultation.
We request you to please give your thoughts on the same and write back to us with your comments and suggestions. This will make the day long deliberation much more enriching and engaging.
Look forward to hear from you.
Thanks and regards,
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
On behalf of WIO, ODAF, FCFC, OKAA and all other organisations and individuals who are supporting us in this unique initiative.
Your Comments Needed on Ways to Improve Flood Management in Odisha
Odisha, a disaster prone state, has just been ravaged by two spells of devastating floods this September.The floods have virtually caught the state and its floods response system unawares.The state is among the firsts in the country to have set up a Disaster Management Authority but there seemed a big vacuum in all the three stages of response: 1. Flood Forecasting and management (including dam management); 2. Rescue and relief; and 3. Rehabilitation.
The floods have affected more than 5.6 million people in 21 districts (with eight districts overlapping between the two floods) out of the 30 districts of the state.This is about 13.3 per cent of the total population.The officially recorded human casualty is 83 and livestock casualty is in several thousands.More than 8 thousand villages have been affected, 3 thousand out of which were completely submerged during the floods.One third of a million houses were damaged and crop damage has been enormous.
From the day one when the flood deluge occurred, the mismanagement of the Hirakud big dam over river Mahanadi (6th largest river of the country) once again came to the limelight and this time, unlike the 2008 floods – when too the dam’s mismanagement caused lot of damage that could have been avoided - the issue was picked up by both political parties and civil society circles, finally resulting in the Governor of Odisha ordering an inquiry into this.A PIL has also been filed by some groups in the Odisha High Court with this regard.People of the state say this flood surpassed the damages and devastation of the 1982 floods, known to be the deadliest in recent history.
The question is why we are grappling with the same issues that we encountered in 1982?This is especially when we keep saying that we have learnt lessons from the Gujarat earthquake and Odisha Super Cyclone that gave rise to the formation of the National Disaster Management Authority.
Each time a flood occurs, govt., civil society and the media wake up to it and the tempo dies down as soon as the floods recede and/or impacts’ scars are temporarily healed.We at WIO are now trying to change this ‘short lived memory’ system and have decided to stir up the minds and actions of all involved in these issues.We are already organising/participating in several such debates/discussions in the grassroots level; in the media and at other forums.
On 23rd of this month, WIO along with its member and support organisations and individuals, is organising a State Level Consultation to discuss the history of floods in Odisha - including the 2011 floods - in order to find a solution towards its management.WIO believes that we have to live with floods and should now gear up to manage these floods in a more systematic, participatory, decentralised and scientific manner than ever before.We have to initiate the change.We have to demand a proper flood management policy.This debate is to seek your help and suggestion in that regard.
We request all members in the list to share their views on the following questions:
1.What we can do to improve the flood management along rivers?Do you think an integrated river basin management system where the people take the centre stage of participation and governance will help?
2.What kind of a flood plain zone management will be of use in the current day society where urbanisation and encroachment of flood plains is just becoming the other name of development?Do you think we should think about going back to the Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning that was circulated by the CWS to all states way back in 1975?
3.Do you have any examples of a proper flood and flood plain management in your state or country?If yes, please do share.Also, please give your thoughts on what kind of inter-state agreements should exist for river basin management?Should they be legally binding or not?
The information thus provided by you would help us to enrich the debate we are hosting in the state at the moment and will also contribute towards our recommendation for a Flood Management Policy.It will also help the state and its people adapt to floods and other disasters. So, please consider this at utmost urgent and kindly respond.
-- Ranjan K Panda
Water Initiatives Odisha: Fighting water woes, combating climate change... more than two decades now!
Man-made floods in Orissa - Key issues raised by the Flood Updates and Press Releases of Water Initiatives Orissa
Orissa was hit by two spates of flood in September 2011, the first one being caused by heavy rains in the Mahanadi catchment and release of huge discharges from Hirakud dam. The second one was caused by heavy rains and flooding of Brahmani, Baitarani and Budhabalanga rivers.
The sheer scale of the flood can be judged from the fact that “nineteen of the state’s 30 districts are affected. Initial calculations by the state government reveal that almost 4.5 million people -- more than 11% of Orissa’s total population -- have been directly and significantly affected. Crops on 4.78 lakh hectares of land -- nearly 7.5% of total cultivable land have been destroyed. At least 68 deaths have been reported so far. More than 2,900 km of road have been damaged. Thousands of affected people are still desperate for food (Ranjan K Panda, InfoChange, October 5, 2011)”.
These floods point to the loopholes in river basin planning and management and calls for urgent attention of planners and policy makers.
Image courtesy: The Hindu
We present here some of the issues that have been raised on Orissa floods by Water Initiatives Orissa (WIO) through its press releases and updates in the recent weeks. The updates present analytical write-ups on the situation, latest news on impact of floods and relief rehabilitation measures. They also present an analysis of the water storage and rainfall situation on various dates most of which point to the lapses in dam management.
Hirakud dam failed miserably in managing Mahanadi floods
Flood Update II of WIO has a lead article titled “How effective are big dams in managing floods?” which presents important observations by scholars and experts on big dams. It states that the floods of 2011 exposes not only how the Hirakud dam, the largest reservoir in Orissa, a multipurpose dam commissioned in 1958 in Sambalpur for among other things controlling floods in the state's delta region has failed miserably in managing floods.
It shows that there is an absence of systems in place through which Orissa can co-ordinate with Chhattisgarh and the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The unprecedented rainfall in Chhattisgarh, which accounts for 85 per cent of the river's catchment area, led to a huge inflow of water into the dam's reservoir that used to hardly ever be full. Furthermore, the obsolete ‘rule curve’, which has not been revised since 1988, needs an immediate overhaul with integration of latest flood forecasting projections, that incorporates effective climate change models.
And both the states must understand that Mahanadi needs to flow unabated and a lot has to be done regarding flood plain management including in urban habitations. Large dams have never been effective in flood control. Rather, they have always aggravated the impacts.
In a recent move the Governor of Orissa has asked the state government to investigate the alleged mismanagement of Hirakud dam through setting up of a Committee to be formed under the chairmanship of a former Central Water Commission (CWC) Chief.
Image courtesy: Firstpost
Rengali dam: Absence of reliable systems of flood forecasting
The Rengali dam, the second largest reservoir in Orissa was built across Brahmani river in Angul district in 1988. Through a special note WIO discusses how the multi-purpose project welters through controversies during each flood. Further, the incomplete canals have also added to the woes as water from the reservoir could not be drained out faster than envisaged.
At the crux of it, the dam authorities should never have allowed so much of water to stay in the reservoir preceding the recent floods till the last moment leading to devastation of about half a million people by design.
Effective flood mitigation through Rengali dam requires proper information well in advance about the flow conditions upstream as well as downstream of the dam. The Rengali dam releases travel in about 20 hours to the delta, which is only slightly less than the basin lag of the uncontrolled areas (about 24 and 30 hours for Brahmani downstream of Rengali and Baitarani respectively).
Image courtesy: Orissa Spider
Need for a flood management policy
The case of Rengali suggests that it’s time the state government comes up with a flood management policy which is not only technically advanced by integrating climate change scenarios but also transparent and involves all sections of the society through proper river basin management, reservoir operations and flood plain management activities.
Some specific suggestions put forth by WIO include –
The first thing we need to understand is that we have to live with floods. All the mechanisms of better flood management practices, flood control measures, flood preparedness activities and flood forecasting practices depend on a reliable data transmission and telemetry system. Time has come that the government catch up with the scientific practices for better flood forecasting, flood control and flood mitigation measures.
Regular and continuous study of river morphology, hydrology and necessary changes due to climate change and other phenomenon needs to be done so as to keep updating the flood management practices. The upper as well as lower catchments should have well defined stations for recording river discharge and water levels.
Having interstate agreements for all interstate rivers for a proper mechanism of flood information sharing.
Flood inundation area demarcation in the whole state.
Flood plain zoning regulation be implemented.
Greater coordination with Chhatisgarh needed
The Government of Orissa put the responsibility of the flood on the heavy rain in the upper catchment and release of water from Chhatisgarh. However, daily and weekly predictions by the IMD were continuously warning of heavy spells. It proves that the dam management authority has not been following a coordinated approach with Chhatisgarh and IMD.
The Government of Orissa, which has been aggressively pushing for water sector reforms through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) needs to also understand that Mahanadi belongs to Chhattisgarh as well and that the latter has to be taken on board.
WIO demands that “it’s time the Government of Orissa establishes proper communication and clearly defined coordinated action with Chhatisgarh on management and planning of Mahanadi river. It also demands that the Government of Orissa must, without any further delay, enter into a legally binding ‘water management and basin planning treaty’ that will help in management of Mahanadi water throughout the year.”
Disaster Management Authority caught unawares
In spite of being one of the first states to have a Disaster Management Agency in place, the state has virtually failed in both predicting and managing the floods.
Need for flood plain zoning
A press release from Water Initiatives Orissa (WIO) dated September 13, 2011 highlights the need for a participatory discussion on the National River Regulation Zone and a proper notification that helps in river basin planning and management.
It urges the Government of Orissa to immediately enact a legislation on the lines of the model bill on flood plain zoning that was circulated way back in 1975 by the Central Water Commission. The bill was meant to be taken up by state governments as a model for freeing flood plains from encroachments.
The model bill provided clauses about flood zoning authorities, surveys and delineation of flood plain area, notification of limits of flood plains, prohibition of the use of the flood plains, compensation and most importantly removing obstructions to ensure free flow of water. However, 36 years have passed and the state government has not brought it into action.
As an immediate measure, before this process takes place, WIO urges upon the government to issue strict circulars to all urban bodies of the state to remove encroachments from flood plains by entering into ‘free prior informed dialogue and consent’ process with the would be affected communities and by adhering to best rehabilitation packages.
The Government of India, under its Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), had recently proposed to issue a river regulation zone notification to protect riverbeds from any harmful constructions in future. The press release urges upon the Government of Orissa to take proactive action to persuade the Government of India to put this plan in public domain and initiate discussion with each state and the people of the country and bring into force a strict river regulation zone which can help in proper river basin planning and management and hence help rivers from further dying and also in reducing flood furies.
Given that in this decade, the frequency of floods have increased and there have been five major floods, the state needs to draw lessons from its disaster filled history. It is high time that it looks for ecological measures for flood management and bans construction activities on the flood plains altogether. It is only with these holistic measures that least damage to life and property can be ensured in Orissa.
Download the updates and press releases by WIO below -
Water Initiatives Orissa (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two decades now.