Bracing for monsoon madness

Ninglun Hanghal *

Flood in Imphal city :: 06th May 2018  .
Flood in Imphal city as seen on 06th May 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The entire country is prone to floods. Every year it causes huge loss of lives and damage to property, infrastructure and public utility services. Yet there seems to be no preventive or effective planning to control the annual menace. And even if temporary measures are recommended and necessary funds sanctioned, the unfortunate part of it is that they are not taken up seriously. Some evidence of apathy is clear from the audit report 2017 on “Schemes for Flood Control and Flood Forecasting”.

According to it, the total flood prone area in the country is 45.64 million hectares — that is, about 14 per cent of the total area of India. On an average, an area of 7.55 mha (16 per cent of the total flood prone area) is affected by floods every year and the average annual damage is estimated at Rs 1,805 crore.

The report 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/Union Territories between 2007-08 and 2015-16. During this period, 517 projects, estimated at Rs 12,243 crore, were approved for 25 states/UTs. Out of these, an approximate Rs 1,131.36 crore was for Arunachal Pradesh (21 projects), Assam (142), Manipur (22) Nagaland (four) and Tripura (11).

In its executive summary, the Performance Audit report stated that there were inordinate 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 Eleventh Plan, remained non-functional; as the real time data for most of the period was not available. There were also long delays in completion of all the projects under the river management activities and works related to the border areas and emergency action plans were prepared for only at a few large dams.

The key recommendations of the Rashtriya Barh Ayog, such as scientific assessment of flood-prone areas and enactment of Flood Plain Zoning Act, have not materialised. Performance and concurrent evaluation were done as per scheme guidelines.

In four projects in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the actual quantity of work executed was below the approved scope. In the four projects, an expenditure of Rs 9.78 crore was incurred without the approval of the competent authority. The audit report states that there were delays in completion of river management activities and works related to border area projects, which were long-term solutions to the flood problems of Assam, North Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The audit observed that no performance evaluation was conducted for the projects in Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Manipur and Sikkim. West Bengal did not take any action to meet the deficiencies pointed out during the performance evaluation of 26 completed projects under the Flood Management Programme. Concurrent evaluation under the FMP was not conducted in accordance with schemes guidelines in nine projects under the programme in Assam, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal. Remote-sensing was not used in monitoring of projects under the FMP.

The report also found 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 Rs 14.94 crore, was recommended for review, however, it was implemented without obtaining the final approval of the authorities.

Moreover, the 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, the data on probable damage was taken into consideration instead of actual one on damage. Such as in Assam the data was based on the approximated value of crop 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 and amounting to Rs 2.83 crore was not obtained. The state governments did not take action on the deficiencies pointed out by the expert agencies after the valuation of the projects.

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

Action was not taken to rectify the deficiencies pointed out by the performance evaluation team. An anti-erosion project of the Iril River bracing structure was found broken/separated and tilted towards the river. Cement concrete retaining wall of 40m length was constructed on the right bank bund instead of the left of the river.

In Arunachal Pradesh, flood protection works on the Pachin River from Naharlagun to Nirjuli, against a total provision of Rs 6.03 crore for 2,053.00 m, only1,531.33 m of the structure was constructed at a cost of Rs 1.64 crore.

Similarly, under the project — ArP-5 — anti-erosion works of the Noa Dehing river to protect both banks in the downstream of Border Roads Task Force 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 Rs 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, emergency measures for protection of the Rohmoria area in Dibrugarh district, the former Planning Commission accorded investment clearance to the work at Rs 59.91 crore. The state finance department restricted the rates of items of the estimate and accorded concurrence at Rs 52.35 crore. However, against the sanction, the actual expenditure of Rs 59.82 crore was incurred, resulting in unauthorised expenditure of Rs 7.46 crore.

Flood forecasting and warning system in India commenced in 1958. Since then, there are 175 such systems comprising 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, Union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and NCT Delhi. The Central Water Commission has not established any FFS in 15 states/UTs namely, 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 the flood forecasting station. Of the three such sites Jiabharali and Sivasagar had wireless system in operation and in two sites (Naharkatia and Jiabharali) telemetry system is not functioning, the audit report found.

While flood is a recurring phenomenon every monsoon, the state government seems to wake up only when monsoon sets in and only when homes and agricultural lands and roads are inundated and life comes to a standstill. The state government and civil society must continue preventive measures and mitigation all through the season, monsoon or no monsoon. Moreover, planning and policy need to be implemented in letter and spirit to save precious lives and livelihoods.

(Originally published at The Statesman NE page )

* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article and shared with
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This article was webcasted on May 08 , 2018.

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