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Hirakud dam fails in managing floods, yet again!

The flood situation in river Mahanadi, especially due to mismanagement of the Hirakud dam, has once again called for urgent attention of the policy planners.  While we write this update at the afternoon hours of 9th September 2011, television channels are broadcasting that 59 out of the 64 gates of the dam have been opened to release 9,74,373 cusecs of water.  10, 37,000 cusec of water is entering into the reservoir.  Almost all the districts downstream have been hugely impacted by this.  In districts like Sambalpur, areas which had not seen floods even in 2008, have been inundated with flood waters.  “The dam management authority kept watching for this situation to come even as the water in the reservoir kept increasing steadily from July 20”, alleges Water Initiatives Odisha.

Analysing the reservoir level, one would find out that it was maintained at about 595 feet for the month of July but started steadily increasing from July 20 when it touched 596.85.  While on July 24 it touched 601.75, by August 1, it reached 607.27.  Then it continued to increase and from August 9 it went above 620 level and as reported currently it’s about 628.5.

Analysing water storage on various dates would show how the dam management is responsible for the current situation which has virtually forced it to release huge amount of flood water within the last two days.  Actually, the dam authorities have been forced to open as many as 49 gates in 48 hours!! As per the ‘rule curve’ (as sourced from various sources), while on August 1st the recommended minimum water level should have been 590 feet, it was in reality kept at as high as 607.27.  Similarly, while on August 13, the recommended min water level should have been 606 feet, the dam authorities kept it at 613.58.  And this was the same for all the days.  With the objective of keeping the flood cushioning space in the reservoir so that it does not reach the Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of 630 by end of monsoon, i.e. 1st week of October, the water should have been kept at much minimum level than where it was kept.  However, the reservoir was holding a water reserve level more than 624 on all dates from 1st to 5th September; which than increased to 625.65 on 6th, 626.12 on 7th, and 626.89 on 8th. The dam authorities may have a maximum limit prescription but keeping in mind the situations that was emerging they should have kept the reservoir at the minimum prescribed levels.

Now the government puts the responsibility of the flood on the heavy rain at the upper catchment and release of water from Chhattisgarh.  However, daily and weekly predictions by the IMD were continuously warning of heavy spells.  It proves that the dam management authority has not been following a co-ordinated approach with Chhattisgarh and IMD.  We at WIO have demanded that the govt. of Odisha establishes proper communication and clearly defined co-ordinated action with Chhatisgarh on management and planning of Mahanadi River.  The govt. must, without any further delay, enter into a legally binding ‘water management and basin planning treaty’ that will help in management of Mahanadi water throughout the year.

(Source: WIO Team, 9th September 2011)


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