Flood prevention and mitigation should be all through the season

Ninglun Hanghal *

Heavy Flooding at Kangpokpi :: 15 June 2017
Heavy Flooding at Kangpokpi on 15 June 2017 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

India is highly vulnerable to floods. Floods cause huge loss of lives and damage to livelihood systems, property, infrastructure and public utilities. In north-east India, particularly in Assam and Manipur as soon as monsoon sets in, it is immediately followed by floods. Every year floods continue to ravages the region.

Each year the damage increases, directly and indirectly affecting not only plain areas but even the hill areas. Even as flood continues to play havoc every year, there seem to be no prevention nor better planning for flood preparedness as each year saw even more worst flood situation and situation seems to be even getting worst each year.

According to the Performance Audit report no 10 of 2017 on "Schemes for Flood Control and Flood Forecasting" the total flood prone area in the country was 45.64 million hectare (m ha), which is about 14 per cent of the total area of the country. On an average, an area of 7.55 m ha (16 per cent of the total flood prone area) is affected by floods every year and the average annual damage due to floods is estimated to be 1,805 crore.

The Audit report of 2017 examined a sample of 206 Flood Management Programmes, 38 flood forecasting stations, 49 River Management Activities and works related to Border Area projects and 68 large Dams in 17 selected States/UT during 2007-08 to 2015-16. During these period, 517 projects amounting to 12,243 crore were approved for 25 States/UTs.

Out of these, an approximate cost of 1131.36 crore were for the seven north eastern states. Arunachal Pradesh has 21 projects, Assam 142 projects, Manipur with 22 projects, Nagaland with 14 projects and Tripura with 11 projects approved.

It its executive summary , the Performance Audit report stated that there were long delays in approval of Detailed Project Reports leading to technical designs becoming irrelevant at the time of actual funding. Flood management works were not taken up in an integrated manner covering entire river/tributary or a major segment of rivers/tributaries.

A large number of the telemetry stations installed during the XI plan remained non-functional, as such real time data for most of the period was not available. There were also huge delays in completion of all the projects under River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas.

Emergency Action Plans had been prepared for only a few large dams. Key recommendations of Rashtriya Barh Ayog such as scientific assessment of flood prone areas and enactment of Flood Plain Zoning Act have not materialized. Performance and concurrent evaluation was not done as per scheme guidelines.

In four projects at Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the actual quantity of work executed was below the approved scope of work. In the four projects expenditure of 9.78 crore was incurred without the approval of the Competent Authority. According to the audit report, there were huge delays in completion of River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas projects which were long term solutions for the flood problems of Assam, North Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The performance audit observed that no performance evaluation was conducted for the projects in five States (Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha). Three State Governments (Manipur, Sikkim and West Bengal) did not take any action for rectification of the deficiencies pointed out during the performance evaluation of 26 completed projects under Flood Management Programme.

Concurrent evaluation of projects under Flood Management Programme was not conducted in accordance with schemes guidelines in nine projects under Flood Management Programme in three States (Assam, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal). Remote Sensing was not used in the monitoring of projects under Flood Management Programme.

The Audit report also observed several discrepancies in project proposals. It says there was no integrated approach in identification of flood management works and selection of projects based on different rivers/basins, such as in Assam, where the Brahmaputra Board was also not involved during the formulation stage.

The Water Resource Department stated that projects are shortlisted based on problem areas as identified by Divisional/district level offices. One project (AS-105) with an estimated cost of 14.94 crore was recommended for review however, the project was implemented without obtaining the final approval of TAC.

Moreover data of past damage was not available in the Project proposals. The area likely to be eroded in 50 years was worked out on the basis of average annual erosion (calculated on actual erosion of four to 12 years). Thus, data on probable damage was taken into consideration instead of actual data on damage. Such as in Assam the data was based on the approximated value of crop, etc. flooded during one year, and the figures were not authenticated by competent authorities

In Manipur three works executed under the project (MAN-7) remained abandoned since April 2013 after incurring an expenditure of Rs 2.54 crore, the audit reported. Moreover 334 project works pertaining to 11 sampled Anti-erosion Flood Control project amounting to 2.83 crore PGB was not obtained. The State Governments did not take action on the deficiencies pointed out by the expert agencies after performance evaluation of the projects.

Moreover project MAN- 13 indicated that the performance of the scheme/project at two locations i.e. Jirighat and Khutchoithup were not satisfactory. At Jirighat, heavy damages had been caused to the retaining structures and at Khutchoithup, the river had completely submerged some portion of the retaining structure.

Action was not taken for rectification of the deficiencies pointed out by the performance evaluation team. Anti-erosion Project of Iril River, the bracing structure was found broken/separated and tilted towards the river. Cement Concrete retaining wall of 40 m length was constructed on Right Bank Bund (R/B/B) instead of Left Bank Bund of the river.

In Arunachal Pradesh- Flood protection works on Pachin river from Naharlagun to Nirjuli, against a total provision of 6.03 crore for 2,053.00 m length of only 1,531.33 m of the structure was constructed at a cost of 1.64 crore. Similarly, under the project: ArP-5 – Anti-erosion works of Noa Dehing river to protect both bank of river in the downstream of Border Roads Task Force (BRTF) bridge, against the requirement of 10,136.9 cu m of wire netted boulder crates and 3,732.45 cu.m of Boulder pitching at a cost of 3.63 crore, only 4,332.10 cu.m and 1,598.91 cu.m respectively was done at a cost of 16 lakh.

In Assam: Under the Project AS-85 – Emergent measures for protection of Rohmoria area in Dibrugarh district, the erstwhile Planning Commission accorded investment clearance to the work at 59.91 crore. State Finance Department restricted the rates of items of the estimate and accorded concurrence at 52.35 crore. However, against the sanction, actual expenditure of 59.82 crore was incurred, resulting in unauthorized expenditure of 7.46 crore.

Flood forecasting and flood warning in India commenced in 1958 . Since then, there were 175 Flood Forecasting Stations (FFS) comprising of 147 level flood forecasting and 28 inflow forecasting stations until 2006-07, and the number remained stagnant till 2014-15.

Presently flood forecasting network covers 184 FFS in 19 States, UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and NCT Delhi. Central Water Co-mission has not established any FFS in 15 States/UTs i.e. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan and Sikkim.

Among the north-east States only Assam has Flood Forecasting Station. In one of the most flood prone state, Assam, none of the three Flood Forecasting Station sites at Naharkatia, Jiabharali and Sivasagar had wire-less system in operation and in two sites (Naharkatia, Jiabharali) Telemetry system is not functioning, the audit report found.

While flood has been a recurring phenomenon every monsoon, state government seems to wake up only when monsoon sets in and only when homes and agricultural lands and roads are inundated making life comes to a stand-still. State government and civil society must continue preventive measures and mitigation all through the season, monsoon or no monsoon. Moreover the planning and policy needs to be implemented in true letter and spirit in order to save lives and livelihoods.

* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 13, 2017.

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