In the aftermath of Kerala floods, experts cite poor dam management

New Delhi: Following the recent devastating floods in Kerala– which claimed hundreds of lives, displaced millions and inflicted property damage worth billions of rupees– experts have blamed poor water flow management from the reservoirs for the inundation in the southern state.

This is the not the first time when such lacklustre approach by dam authorities have resulted in widespread destruction in India.

A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report during 2016 floods in Tamil Nadu had highlighted the violation of dam safety norms wherein 29,000 cusecs of water was released immoderately for 21 hours in December 2015. The report stressed on the fact that the floods in the state could have been avoided had the Public Works Department followed the Central Water Commission guidelines on regulated water release from the three water tanks upstream of the city.

In the present, the experts are speaking on the same line wherein they suggest that the intensity of Kerala floods could have been much milder only if water from 35 big dams in Kerala was released earlier

As per reports, Kerala government on Friday blamed neighbouring Tamil Nadu for the floods, while making its case in the Supreme Court. It said that the gates of Mullaperiyar dam were suddenly opened without any warning. In quick succession, the Tamil Nadu government denied these allegations.

The haphazard flood management which led to the floods in Kerala raises concern about the safety of people of India who reside in the 15% of its land mass– which is prone to floods.

Each year, floods in the country claim an average of 1,548 lives and around eight million hectares of land gets affected which in turns inflicts a loss of about Rs 5,628 crore to the Indian economy every year.

Currently, there are 5,254 dams in India which play an important role in flood management across the country, apart from storing water for irrigation and generating power.

The CAG report from 2017, which was presented in the parliament, has already revealed the faults in the flood management plan across the country.

Lack in flood management

Listed below are the points made by the 2017 CAG report:

  • Of the 219 proposed new telemetry stations, used to forecast floods, only a quarter were set-up till August 2016.
  • Of the 375 existing stations, almost 60% were non-functional after installation
  • The report also said that there is an emergency action plan for only 7% of the dams in India. For the 61 in Kerala, there is none.
  • In eight out of 17 flood-prone states, the integrated flood management plans for entire river/basin have not been taken up
  • The auditor also said that frequent check of dams before and after monsoon happened in only two — Bihar and Odisha — of the 17 states in recent years.

Expert talk

  • The Secretary in the ministry of earth sciences, Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, recently said that the most of the reservoir in the country lack a decision support system as a result of which the decision of opening and closing the gates are made with complete lack of scientific understanding.
  • A professor at IIT, Delhi spoke on the same lines and said that the dam management in the country is based on a pre-defined principle that at end of the monsoon the reservoirs should be full. He blamed this trend for massive damage during Kerala floods.
  • One of the representatives from the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People, Himanshu Thakkar elaborated on the aforementioned tendency wherein he said that most of the big dams in India are run by the power generation companies. In a bid to avoid any impact on power generation, these companies are unwilling to reduce water level beyond a limit, he added. In Kerala, the water level in the big dams is monitored by Kerala State Electricity Board.