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Man- made Floods devastate AP & Karnataka అక్టోబర్ 6, 2009

Posted by Telangana Utsav in Gadwal, Mahabubnagar, politics.
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Were the southern flash floods avoidable?
Max Martin and A. Srinivasa Rao
Bijapur and Hyderabad, October 6, 2009 India Today

The death toll from the floods crept up to 227 in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka amid blame games between the states. But what underscores the extent of the disaster is the fact that it cannot be relegated to the realm of natural calamities and forgotten.

Experts have unanimously called it manmade and have blamed the floods on the poor coordination among Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Experts said irrigation engineers, who control the release of water from dams, have little understanding of what goes on upstream, midstream or downstream.

Leo Saldanha, Bangalore-based environmentalist and director of Environment Support Group (ESG), said it was “criminal” to keep dams full and release water during heavy rains.

Initially, both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka blamed each other for “irresponsible” flood management. Officials in the Andhra Pradesh irrigation department said Karnataka should have alerted them about the flow in Almatti and Narayanpur dams in upstream Krishna.

They said the neighbouring state should not have released water from the two dams. On the other hand, Karnataka officials said the Andhra officials did not release water from the Srisailam dam in Kurnool district till the eleventh hour. This, they claimed, flooded Kurnool and areas in the reservoir’s backwaters.

A picture of the river’s course and impact of the heavy rains makes things clearer. The Krishna originates in the Western Ghats at Mahabaleswar in Maharashtra; enters Karnataka at Kurundwad and passes through Belgaum, Bijapur and Gulbarga districts.

It covers 220 km before entering Andhra Pradesh at a village called Krishna near Raichur. It meanders through the Nallamalla forests in Mahbubnagar and Kurnool districts, and crosses Nalgonda, Guntur and Krishna districts before meeting the sea.

Tungabhadra, one of the Krishna’s main tributaries, rises in the Western Ghats in Karnataka and enters Andhra Pradesh near the temple town of Mantrayalam. It passes Kurnool and joins the Krishna in Mahbubnagar district. Several other tributaries such as the Bhima, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Handri, Neeva and Kundu join the two rivers en-route. While Karnataka built Almatti and Narayanapur dams in upstream Krishna, Andhra Pradesh constructed three major dams on the Krishna – at Jurala, Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar – and a smaller one at Sunkesula on the Tungabhadra. The two dams in Karnataka restrict inflows into downstream Krishna as the water is released only when the dams are full, affecting crops. This has been a bone of contention between the two states.

However, whenever heavy rains cause floods in upstream Krishna, Karnataka opens the Almatti dam gates to prevent a submergence of places in Bijapur and Bagalkot.

The water’s release is periodically monitored by the Central Water Commission (CWC), which has installed “flood gauges” every 100 km along the Krishna to measure the speed of the flow. It sends bulletins every six to 12 hours to the respective governments, alerting them about floods, so that they monitor the water release at their dams. The bulletins also alert the administrations about evacuations.

Though Andhra officials blame Karnataka’s release of water for the floods, there is a technical detail in the latter’s favour. There is a time gap in the water releases between Almatti in Karnataka and Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. It takes about 72 hours for the water released from the former to reach the latter. Similarly, it takes 60-65 hours for water released from a dam on the Tungabhadra at Hospet to reach Srisailam. This gives Andhra officials enough time to manage the water releases from Srisailam to avoid flooding in Kurnool and Mantralayam.

“If hourly data is available, why can’t people be informed on time?” asked Saldanha. He takes the Karnataka government to task too, criticising the cabinet for staying aloof of ground realities during three days of heavy rains and leaving local officials unguided. The Cabinet members were at a Bharatiya Janata Party brainstorming session from September 29 to October 1 when north Karnataka was being pounded by heavy rain. It rained 10 times more than usual in some places, causing the floods,” said Karnataka state disaster management authority secretary H.V. Paraswanath.

He acknowledged that the release of water from the dams harmed Karnataka, too. But he added that not releasing the water during the rains would have damaged the dams. Paraswanath said warnings had been issued about the release of water from the dams.

In Bijapur, adjoining the Maharashtra border, villagers were anticipating more water to be released from dams further upstream along the Krishna and its tributaries. But officials dismissed the threat.

“I don’t expect the release from Maharashtra to be a big problem,” said S.M. Jaamdar, the nodal officer in Karnataka dealing with the current flood situation. “The flow in the Krishna was 35,000 cusecs two days ago and it was 50,000 cusecs on Monday,” he said. “Water was released from several dams on the Krishna and its tributaries,” he said.

“But the Krishna can carry six to seven lakh cusecs.” Karnataka officials also defended the release of 150,000 cusecs from the Tungabhadra and 300,000 cusecs from the Krishna, saying it was within limits. Jaamdar called it a “normal release” and blamed Andhra Pradesh for failing to release the water from reservoirs downstream earlier. He said the sudden release during heavy rains caused flash floods.

“Foreseeing major rains, the engineers (in Andhra Pradesh) should have started releasing the water gradually,” Jaamdar said.

“Irrigation engineers in all three states are ignorant,” he added.

Engineers in the upstream states should inform those midstream and downstream appropriately to avoid a disaster. He reiterated that there was enough time to issue warnings and act on data.

The rains just added to the poor coordination.

On September 30, the inflow into the Srisailam reservoir was just 57,000 cusecs.

The CWC bulletin No. 107 issued on September 29 forecast an inflow of 63,563 cusecs for the next 12 hours. But on the night of September 30, there were heavy rains in the catchment areas.

The Krishna basin in Mahbubnagar received 30 cm rainfall and the Tungabhadra basin received 28 cm, leading to flash floods. Against an inflow of 1.16 lakh cusecs forecast by the CWC in its Bulletin No. 108 on September 30, the water flow multiplied to 5 lakh cusecs.

The Srisailam dam authorities first opened four gates and later 11, to let out water on October 1. On the same day, the CWC’s next bulletin predicted 5.95 lakh cusecs.

But the actual flow turned out to be 9.72 lakh cusecs.

In the meantime, the Tungabhadra went in spate because of a breach at the Sunkesula dam. The Gajuladinne dam on the Handri and several small and medium tanks along the catchment areas of the Tungabhadra were also breached. Added to this, the swelling backwaters around Srisailam flooded Kurnool on October 2. The situation worsened in the next 24 hours as the inflows into the Krishna touched 25 lakh cusecs at Srisailam. This was almost double what the dam is designed to hold. All the gates of the dam were opened soon after.

At Nagarjuna Sagar, too, the authorities lifted all 26 gates on October 1 to release 13 lakh cusecs of water to create enough cushion to regulate the flood. At Prakasam barrage, further down the Krishna at Vijayawada, the authorities discharged 10 lakh cusecs for the first time in 50 years. The ripple effect spelt doom.

On October 3, Karnataka also started releasing 3 lakh cusecs from Almatti dam. However, though Karnataka later regulated the outflows, the damage had already been done.

Courtesy: Mail Today

source: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/64993/Top%20Stories/Were+the+southern+flash+floods+avoidable?.html

…………………..
Indifference, greed caused the breach

Special Correspondent, Oct 7, 2009 The Hindu

REPALLE (GUNTUR DT.): What caused the breach of Right Flood Bank of River Krishna at Kollapalem, a hamlet of Voleru village was purely man-made and an outcome of human greed.

The lands along the river bank inside the flood bank usually get saline water from the sea and lands are not very fertile, but a few rich and influential people illegally got the bund dug up and laid pipelines from Vellatur branch canal to irrigate the lands with sweet water.

The vents that were not properly compacted, gave scope for small leaks and over a period of time developed into major vulnerable spots for breach during such heavy flow of water. While the Congress supporters blamed the Telugu Desam Government for allowing such activity with the connivance of officials, the TDP supporters blamed the Congress for all this, which takes place with a bribe of Rs.10,000 per pipe connection – a number of them seen all along the flood bank.

Added to these vulnerable spots, the top of the bund was dug up at some places and fresh soil added for the purpose of widening, but it was not compacted properly by the contractors. The indifference of officials to the suggestion to stack sand bags at the point in sufficient numbers made matters worse. Even as the process of evacuating people was in progress, the blame game began between supporters of MLAs present and TDP workers.

source:
http://www.thehindu.com/2009/10/07/stories/2009100759510600.htm

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