Friday, 28 July 2017

Bengal Floods: 12 Dead, Many Villagers Swept Away

With six Bengal districts reeling from floods, the state government on Thursday held the Centre and Damodar Valley Corporation responsible for the ‘man-made’ crisis. In a two-pronged attack, CM Mamata Banerjee took on the Modi government from an inundated village in Howrah while MP Saugata Roy lashed out at DVC in Parliament.
“This is a man-made flood. This will go on till September. It has rained more this year. In addition, water is being released by DVC without informing us,” Banerjee said at Udaynarayanpur in Howrah after inspecting flooded areas in the district. All south Bengal districts except Kolkata, and North and South 24 Parganas have been affected.
The CM entreated the villagers to leave their homes to avoid a larger tragedy as water released from Panchet dam during the day was expected to flood villages in the belt around midnight. “We will re-build your homes and compensate the loss of crops. But right now it is your lives that are more important,” she told the villagers. “What you see here is not due to rains. Over two lakh cusecs of water has been released by DVC. Unless the DVC is reformed, the problem will persist,” she said. At least 80 families in Purulia’s Raghunathpur were rescued at the nick of time late on Wednesday as flood waters gushed into their homes. At Daspur in West Midnapore, the body of a 42-year-old man, was recovered on Thursday. At Udaynarayanpur, another person was swept away on Thursday, taking the flood toll this year to 12. Several more are missing.
Banerjee had on Wednesday demanded that the Centre immediately “revamp” the DVC and start dredging work at places like Farraka barrage and ports of Kolkata and Haldia to stop the annual flooding.
In Parliament, Saugata Roy accused the DVC of releasing water without informing the state and reiterated the CM’s complaint that persistent requests since 2012 to dredge DVC barrages upstream to increase their capacity had been ignored.
On Wednesday, the DVC released 2 lakh cusec of water from the Panchet dam. On Thursday, a further 1.85 lakh cusec was released. While Panchet has a capacity to hold 3.25 lakh cusec, Maithon’s capacity is slightly lower at 3 lakh cusec.
“Incessent rain over the weekend in Bengal and Jharkhand led to dams filling up to the brim. The situation was controlled by releasing water after a go ahead by the Damodar Valley River Corporation where all stakeholders, including the West Bengal government, has a representative. Had we not discharged the water, the Panchet dam would have collapsed leading to flooding of an even bigger scale,” a DVC official said.
The heavy discharge of water by DVC has put embankments of several rivers under pressure. In Budwan’s Jamalpur block, emergency repair work began after a breach was spotted in the embankment. In the wee hours of Thursday, a breach in the Silabati river embankment in West Midnapore led to inundation of Chowdhurypara. Cracks also surfaced at five points in the embankment at Udaynarayanpur. Breaches have also occurred in five places in Punsurah and Khanakul in Hooghly.
The DVC was set up in 1948 to tame the Damodar river, known then as the ‘Sorrow of Bengal’ due to the largescale devastations it caused down the centuries. The dams built on the river have managed to tame the wild and erratic river but controlled flooding continues to happen every monsoon when water is released from the overflowing dams.
“If the dam breaks, there will be regular flooding in monsoons. Also, irrigation water for Rabi crop as well as power security will be affected. The release of water is inevitable when there is heavy rain and it happens during monsoon,” another DVC official said.
Mamata though, insisted it was DVC’s erratic water discharge that had heaped misery on the state’s people. “Since June we had been warning DVC that it should not release water at such speed and should keep the state informed at all times, but the agency does not bother to do so. It has not dredged the rivers despite our request,” she fumed. The CM said a World Bank-sponsored project worth Rs 1,800 to desilt rivers in the state and increase their water-bearing capacity would begin soon.