Rajya Sabha

July 27, 2017

Dola Sen speaks during a Calling Attention Motion on flood-like situation in several States

Dola Sen speaks during a Calling Attention Motion on flood-like situation in several States


Sir, I wish to raise a matter which needs to be looked at urgently regarding the flood situation in Assam, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, Bengal and other States. The floods were caused due to the formation of two separate depressions at the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal at the same time. In these circumstances, it is essential for the Centre and the States to work together to ensure that there is minimum damage to life and property. That is the federal structure which is enshrined in our Constitution.

However, I must point out that the cause of these floods is not completely due to natural causes. These are man-made floods, as we are witnessing in Bengal. I hold the Central Government greatly responsible for this mismanagement. Due to heavy rains, water levels in barrages rise. But the sudden release of water, without any prior intimation to State Government, leads to a flooding situation which is beyond management.

In Bengal, some low-lying areas of Labhpur in Birbhum district, Purulia, Ghatal in Paschim Medinipur and Goghat, Arambagh in Hooghly districts have been inundated. This is caused mostly due to the discharge of water by DVC from its barrages.

Sir, in this regard, I would also like to share some statistics regarding the release of water from Durgapur barrage by the DVC:

24/07/17 – 41,400 cusce (9:00 PM), 43,550 cusce (11:00 PM)
25/07/17 – 52,400 cusce (6:00 AM), 57,150 cusce (9:30 AM), 76,220 cusce (1:00 PM), 79,620 cusce (3:00 PM), 92,734 cusce (5:00 PM), 1;30,026 cusce (7:00 PM) and 1,42,255 cusce (8:00 PM).

Even after having a capacity to contain water up to 425 ft in the Panchet dam, DVC released water from the dam when the level was 417 ft. This can be attributed to the lack of dredging of the river and not removing the encroachments there.

In Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, about 150 dams and projects were not pushed over years, depending only on Narmada waters. This year water from Sardar Sarovar was taken into the main canal, but the heavy rainfall has resulted in overflowing of dams.

This is also happening because the DVC dams have failed to hold water up to their capacity. More so because the Centre has failed in its duty to provide funds for dredging and modernisation of these barrages.

Sir, every year since 2012, the Bengal Government has tried to address the problem of not dredging the river to increase the capacity of the reservoir. Even after writing numerous letters to the Centre to address the matter at the earliest, no help has been forthcoming.

In the Farakka barrage, funds are yet to be released and dredging has not been done even once. In February 2017, a high-level panel was set up by the Centre to prepare guidelines for desilting of Ganga which suggested that the shoals formed in front of Farakka should be dredged to address siltation. But these recommendations are yet to see the light of day.

This multiplication of causes eventually led to the untold misery of the people of Bengal which now battles with grave floods-like situations. It was only due the forethought of our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, that pre-emptive measures were taken, so we could bring the situation under control. Measures such as prior warnings to fishermen, setting up a control at the State Secretariat Nabanna, and distributing tarpaulin sheets in all affected areas has saved the lives of lakhs of people in the State.

The Eleventh Planning Commission has recommended a two fold increase in dredging, to 298.28 million cubic metres for major ports and 367.18 million cubic metres for non-major ports. The Government needs to take immediate action in this regard.

Decentralised water management and systematic groundwater recharge are the key solutions to prevent flooding, not big centralized dams or interlinking of rivers. This needless loss of life and property due to floods caused by Government negligence and mismanagement needs to stop immediately.