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Floods in Bharuch and Ankleshwar towns man-made disaster? A look at how the situation unfolded

Sardar Sarovar Project is a multi-state project and its rule-level is also dynamic. It's decision are made by the Sardar Saroval Reservoir Regulation Committee working under the Narmada Control Authority.

Reported By : Nirnay Kapoor Edited By : Shashwat Bhandari
New Delhi
Updated on: September 20, 2023 13:37 IST
Representational image
Image Source : FILE PHOTO Representational image

Gujarat: Bharuch and Ankleshwar towns in Gujarat have witnessed severe floods after a heavy spell of rain last week. As the towns struggled with water-logging and rain related problems, it is being claimed that the flood situation was a man-made disaster. It is also being said that the engineers of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited deliberately stopped the outflow of water from the dam to achieve the full reservoir level on September 17 and later a lot of water was released which created flood conditions in downstream. So is this really a man-made disaster? Let's take a look.

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Sardar Sarovar Project decisions not autonomous 

Sardar Sarovar Project is a multi-state project and its rule-level is also dynamic. The decisions are taken by the Sardar Saroval Reservoir Regulation Committee working under the Narmada Control Authority. This committee has members from all the states who decide the rule level after considering the rainfall conditions, power requirement and safety of the dam. The Gujarat government or its engineers cannot take any decision on their own.

Between 15 and 17 September, most of the districts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra falling in the Narmada basin received very heavy rains. Also, the storm moved parallel to the Narmada basin, due to which floods and rain water accumulated in the up stream and dams were already full by 85 per cent to 90 per cent of their capacity.

Since the dams had already accumulated a lot of water, the authorities decided to slowly release the water according to the severity of the situation.

The level of Sardar Sarovar Dam started rising from the morning of September 16 due to the release of water from the dam upstream.

Due to heavy rains between Indira Sagar and Sardar Sarovar Dam, an inflow of 5.79 lakh cusecs of flood started at 11 am on September 16, which further increased to about 21.72 lakh (2172803) at 11 pm. If we look at the narrative of the last two days, it would seem that despite this situation, the FRL of the dam i.e. 138 was deliberately increased on 17 September. Engineers did not start releasing water downstream to fill up to 68 metres. However, this is not correct according to the facts. 

How's the entire process conducted?

The out-flow of water from Indira Sagar Dam started increasing from 7 am on September 16. Let us tell you that it takes 20 hours for the water released from Indira Sagar to reach Satdar Sarovar, but because of heavy rain water had started coming into Sardar Sarovar between the two dams. Due to this, after giving warning in the downstream, 45 thousand cusecs of water was being released downstream of Sardar Sarovar at 10 am on 16 September, which was gradually increased to 4 lakh cusecs at 2 pm, 8 lakh cusecs at 5 pm and 16 lakh cusecs at 12 pm.

On September 16, at 10 am, when water was released from Sardar Sarovar Dam, the water level in the dam had not reached FRL i.e. 138.68 cm. It was less than 136 meters.

On September 16, the inflow of water in the dam increased from 1.6 lakh cusecs at 8 am to about 22 lakh cusecs at 11 pm. The water level in the dam at 8 am in the morning was 135.42 meters and at 11 pm in the night the water level in the dam was 137. 94 meters.

A few hours before this, keeping in mind the safety of the dam and the downstream areas, more than 15 lakh cusecs of water was released from Sardar Sarovar. This was reduced for a few hours and then increased to 18 lakh 50 cusecs so that the local administration could get time and reduce the damage caused by flood in downstream villages and Bharuch.

Questions are also being raised as to why despite having 22 lakh cusecs of water, only 18 lakh cusecs was released. This is because the level of Narmada had reached 42 feet and many areas of Ankleshwar and Bharuch city were submerged in water.

If the entire 22 lakh cusecs of water had been released at that time, the situation would have been even worse.

This was happening within 24 hours in Sardar Sarovar and it is for this reason, the engineers had to save everything.

Let us tell you that there was no rain for about 37 days and the Sardar Sarovar Dam was filled only up to 78 per cent. Due to this, 4 lakh cusecs of water could be stored in the dam and further loss could be avoided. After September 17 and 18 evening, the system moved away from Madhya Pradesh towards Gujarat due to which the water in the dam started decreasing and from the morning of September 18, only 6 lakh cusecs of water was released into the river.

Water reached the lower areas of Bharuch and the old city on September 17 morning and entered the societies of Ankleshwar after 9 pm.

On September 6, 23.72 MAF (million acre feet) of water was stored in the Narmada basin. According to this, Gujarat state's share was likely to get only 7.72 MAF batch in the current year. This is inadequate compared to the 9 MAF received in a normal year, due to which Gujarat could have to face a difficult situation for drinking water and irrigation water. On September 14, there was a total of 24.70 MAF batch in Narmada Basin, according to which Gujarat's share was also 7 MAF. Keeping in mind the situation of the earlier times, it was considered more important to save water instead of generating electricity by releasing it in the river bed so that the state does not get into a dilemma of drinking water and irrigation water.

A request was made to Narmada Control Authority on September 6 itself to close RBPH i.e. River Bed Power House. On September 14, around 2 lakh cusecs was reported by the Central Water Commission, but due to heavy rains in the upstream of Indira Sagar and also between Indira Sagar and Sardar Sarovar, a maximum of 21.72 lakh cusecs of water came into the dam in Sardar Sarovar.

Even if the River Bed Power House had been operational from September 6 to 15, only 120 million cubic meters of water would have been used and the same cushion would have been available in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir.

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