THE MAN MADE FLASH FLOOD OF SURAT- GUJARAT
Dwarika Nath Rath
16 Aug 2006 15:01 GMT
This wrtting has tried to expose the man made flood in Surat of Guajarat State in India and al about the political game
THE MAN MADE FLASH FLOOD OF SURAT- GUJARAT
The danger of second flood is lurking. First it was the district of Kheda where 140 school children were trapped. Then the devastating flood in Surat followed by the floods in Kheda, Baroda, Bharuch, Narmada, Panchamahal, Godhra of Central Gujarat, Ahmedabad district, followed by the Sabarkantha, North Gujarat. In some place it is the first spell of flood and most of the places it is the second one. All the dams have crossed the danger mark. The excess release of water will be a horrible disaster. Due to the lack of preparedness and laxity on the part of the Government, the people of Gujarat are suffering.
In normal times the air of the state is filled with the slogans of Vibrant Gujarat by Mr. Narendra Modi. It appears everything in the state is very normal and smooth. The adjectives are coined to eulogize the state as developing Gujarat, investor-friendly, Vibrant Gujarat etc. But whenever natural or human disaster occurs, the entire Government and its machinery are in slumber. It is a usual practice of Modi to discover the villain for the disasters and hood wink the people and soon spring back to stage manage things and chant the Mantra of Vibrant Gujarat and every thing becomes sacred in the name of development and investments.
Not a single calamity, be it 1998 flood in Surat, Kandla Cyclone, Killer earthquake 2001, floods in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, severe flood in Baroda in 2005 and acute droughts, had never been handled efficiently, leave alone the 2002 carnage. Every catastrophe is followed by this or that social cleavage in the form of riots. More the calamities, more the entry of the fundamentalist organisations in the society to absorb and divert the anger of the people against the Government. Calamities are followed by saffronisation.
The intra party rivalry of BJP matures after one or another calamity with fresh attempt for a come back. They have not lost the opportunity this time too of passing scathing remark against Modi. The Congress, too, wants to regain their lost pockets in South Gujarat. The Surat flood has become the political game for the survival of not the flood victims but the survival of the BJP dissidents, Congress and finally Modi. Under these circumstances, what will be the fate of R&R in the flood affected areas can easily be guessed.
The Government of Gujarat is thinking to impose flood cess similar to the earthquake cess. The Government has not announced the reduction of administrative expenditures, or the diversion of the pay of the ministers but invests the easiest way to tax the people. People had been similarly taxed earlier but there was no transparency to the income and expense. Most of disaster funds are left unspent or diverted.
Now the unprecedented flood of Surat has become the main focus. The Surat flood has virtually overshadowed the floods in other parts of the state which in normal term has destroyed lives and property. The face saving administrative attention on Surat has left other parts unattended.
Overall flood situation in Gujarat is very grim, leaving the people to their own so-called ‘Fate’.
The BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu demands to declare Surat Flood as National Calamity. When they were in power they did not care to declare the Super Cyclone of Orissa and the Killer Earthquake of Gujarat as National Calamity. When the Senior BJP leader is for National Calamity, at the same time the Government of Gujarat is floating Tenders for the Navaratri Festival(Vibrant Gujarat) on the River Front of Sabarmati, Ahmedabad which was under water recently due to flood in the river Sabarmati.
The Surat Flood is the classic case of callousness, scant respect for the people added with the ignorance. This needs a thorough understanding of the genesis of the flash flood and the aftermaths.
THE GENESIS FLOOD
The whole state was reeling under severe hot summer and droughts were prevalent in Saurashtra region of the state. There was no rain till the 2nd week of July. The patchy clouds were moving here and there in the sky. All were scared about the incoming danger of droughts and scarcity of drinking water.
The spell of rain in the second week of July brought a sigh of relief. But this very first spell of rain caused floods in the Central Gujarat, wherein 40 to 50 villages were badly affected. The people of Kheda were worst effected. 140 school children were under water and could be rescued only after three days, which attracted all India media attention. This district of Kheda was the worst affected district last year due to the unprecedented water logging caused by the construction of 90 kms. long Express Highway no1. Golden quadrilateral.
This time the same district is badly affected. Except Saurashtra and the district of Kutch, medium and heavy rainfall was predicted by the meteorological department followed by incessant rain in adjoining Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In spite of the first warning of the flood in the district of Kheda and district of Central Gujarat, the rain was welcomed and taken as a sign of prosperity.
FLOOD AND TOURISM-The Narmada Dam tourism was promoted. People from outside the state were pursued to visit the overflowing of Narmada Dam and the comments of the tourists were telecasted in the electronic media. This promotion of tourism to watch the overflowing of water from the Narmada Dam was with utter disregard to the plight of people of the upper basin areas on Narmada basin. Apart from that, the overflow led to floods in the districts of Narmada and Bharuch. It is difficult to understand that in spite of the rise of the height of Narmada Dam there is flood in Narmada and Bharuch districts. It appears that allowing the dam to overflow is the hidden agenda of the administration and the Government of Gujarat and so no attention was paid to the incoming danger of flood.
In the mean while the Government of Gujarat was preparing for the mega show on the day of 15th August, which has become a normal practice of Modi for last five rears of his tenure to exhibit the so-called vibrant Gujarat. Modi uses all the National days like 15th August, 26th January and days like Navaratri, Kite flying, Kutchi New Year etc. to go for all out Mega events. The entire administration is geared up for all these events. Modi believes all these mega events will enhance the vibrant image of prosperous Gujarat and draw the attention for investments in the state which has dropped after the carnage 2002 due to the absence of law and order situation in the state. So the entire Government machinery was busy for the mega events on 15th August whereas there was continuous rain in the state as well as in the adjoining states. The whole attitude of the Government was to let all the dams and the reservoir be filled with the rain water to the overflow which became counter productive in the case of Ukai Dam causing unprecedented floods in Surat.
Ukai is one of the hydro electric generating dams constructed in 1970 on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra to save Surat and the adjoining villages. Its Catchments area is Maharashtra. The height of the Ukai Dam is 351 feet having a capacity of 345 feet. There was torrential rain in the upper basin, which is Maharashtra . Ukai is the only dam on the river Tapi. It is roughly 200kms from Surat and the water takes six hours to reach Surat.
It is to be noted that there is Akhnoor weir in Maharashtra- which has no gates to control the inflow of the water.
The heavy rain started in Maharashtra from 5th of August. When the rain started in Maharashtra, the Ukai Dam was half empty.
FAILED TO LEARN FROM PAST FLOOD- 1998
The Indian Express comments “The floods have taken the people of Surat by surprise. There was hardly any excessive rainfall in the period preceding the deluge. The level of Tapi started rising on a calm Sunday evening after the Irrigation Department started releasing 8 to 10 lakh cusecs of water from the upstream Ukai dam as against the normal outflow of 6 lakh cusecs. Soon, the swirling Tapti inundated the fastest-growing town of Gujarat. Apparently, officials haven’t learnt their lesson from the 1998 deluge, when release of only 6.73 lakh cusecs of water had caused the worst-ever flood in a quarter century. If 6.73 lakh cusecs was enough to cause havoc in the diamond city in 1998, one can easily imagine the magnitude of the catastrophe brought in by the release of 50 per cent extra water.
Apparently, it is not a natural calamity. The Irrigation Department says it was forced to release water in unprecedented quantity because Ukai dam was facing grave danger, having already crossed the full reservoir level of 345 feet. Could they have not released water in a phased manner? Irrigation officials say they were misled by Central Water Commission, which supplied them with unrealistic figures about inflow of water upstream. A miscalculation that cost heavily.
Floods normally connote nature’s fury. In the present instance, it is man’s foolishness.
The citizens of Surat are angry and blaming the administration, and rightly so.
Indian Express 10-8-06
According to Central Water Regulation- the water level in the Ukai Dam be maintained as follows:
On 1st July 321 meter, 1st August 333meter, 1st September 340 meter water level be maintained. The warning level of the dam was marked “after consultations with the Central Water Commission, the warning level was reduced from 10.5 m to 9.5 m to afford more time to administrators to prepare for any flooding of Surat” -India Express 13-8-06
Let us look at the level of water in the dam of Ukai
The water level in Ukai dam on 30th June was only of 29.44% of its capacity. On 5th of August it was 82.95%, on 6th August the position was same. On 7th August the water was filled to the capacity of 88.92%. In one day, there was an increase of inflow to 6%. On 8th August it became 98.37%. In 24 hours, the water level rose by 9.45%. In a nutshell, from 5th August to 8th August the water level rose by 15.42%. The high alert was declared on 8th August. On the rest of the previous day it was declared alert
If the water would have been released from 5th August
The Water levels on 5th. August 335.29’ in the morning—335.50’ evening
6th. August- morning. 335.12’ evening. 336. 50’
7th August- Morning, 339.45’ evening. 341. 92’
8th.August Morning, 344. 40’ Evening 345, 65’
The way the water has been received and released. in Cusec
5th.Morning 85,958 23.664
5th. Evening 48.554 23.640
. 6th Morning 75.087 1.24.920
6th Evening 3.30216 2.54,780
7th. Morning 85,3679 4,09, 004
7th. Evening10.72680 8.16036
8th. Morning 10,53,137 8,44,092
8th. Evening9,61,466 9,07316
9th. Morning 8,56,000 8,50000
(Mumbai Samachar-13-8-06 )
OPINIONS ON THE RELEASE OF WATER
Let us take a stock what are the general opinion on the release of the water from the Ukai Dam
“……. The water level at Ukai should have been released as soon as they realized that there was heavy inflow from the catchments areas. They waited till the last minute.”- a Surat administration officials said. “ When they finally decided to open the flood gates , it was too late.”, the official said.
According to the District collector of Surat Vatsala Vasudev “---the release from Ukai into Tapi leading to Surat flooding, was not done in a phased manner.” She is learnt to told state officials that, given the amount of rainfall in the upstream area, it was possible to asses the danger ahead. Surat flooding has happened because of a “late decision” of releasing over 9.02 lakh cusecs. Times of India – 10-8-06
Interestingly, the State Government has not disclosed the official log of the dam containing data related to inflow and outflow of water since August 2.
Revenue Minister Kaushik Patel refused to share the details at a press conference held in Gandhinagar and walked out in a huff when media persons questions pertaining to releasing water. State Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Narottam Patel had tried to justify his department’s decision.
Indian Express 10-8-06
What Surat is facing today cannot be compared to anything before, except probably 1998. The Former Surat Municipal Commissioner S R Rao who handled the 1998 floods is now principle secretary, Urban Development, in Gandhinagar. He was rushed to Surat on Monday night to coordinate the activities between the various agencies. ‘‘If you go by Surat’s flood history, post-dam it has experienced less floods. Of course, 2006 will probably be the worst after the dam was constructed,’’ he says.
Rao describes flood as an ‘‘act of God.’’ ‘‘I have checked all statistics. None including you could have prevented this,’’ he says, refusing to admit any mismanagement of Ukai reservoir. Indian Express13-8-06. Irrigation Chief Engineer J B Patel says that according to the manual they prepared after the 1998 floods, if the inflow was 11-12 lakh cusecs, they had to release 7 lakh cusecs. Though, the exact log is not available, it seems they miscalculated and released only 4.5 lakh cusecs earlier. The result was that reservoir was full even before the main spell of rain began in the area, forcing them later to release all the excess water I. E 13-8-06
Surat MP belonging to BJP Kashiram Rana says, ‘‘All of us had forgotten that Ukai was meant to be a flood control device and not a reservoir. As Surat expanded, power and irrigation demands compelled authorities to start using it as dam to store all the rainwater that flowed in. The level to be maintained in the dam before the inflow starts during monsoon was always a matter of contention.” Indian Express13-8-06
The leading citizens of Gujarat has criticised the callous attitude of the Government and castigated it as “criminal negligence” and demanded Judicial Inquiry.
THE IGNORANT MODI AND HIS GOVT!.!!
But the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on telephone that the Maharashtra government should ensure that no waters were released from the upstream areas into the Ukai dam, which had already crossed the full reservoir level of 345 feet.
V. Thirupugazh, the additional CEO of GSDMA, in his conversation with the Cabinet minister who was visiting the flood affected areas of Surat said “There is no big dam in the Catchments area either……There is a small weir with hardly any storage capacity”- 14-8-06, The Times of India.
Mr. Modi, in response to the severe flood situation and keeping an eye on the people of Gujarat, mentioned that Maharashtra is responsible for the present flood in Surat. This tactic of shifting of the blame, creating of euphoria and hoodwinking the people is Modi's standard style of propaganda . The ignorance of Modi is nakedly exposed along with the ignorance of the Irrigation Minister who preferred to by the manual even without having knowledge of it. Had he gone by the advice of the engineers and officials the catastrophe could have been avoided.
This very fact of Modi and the Irrigation Minister exposes the depth of their knowledge about the affairs of the state related to the people. Their ignorance is baffling.
All the print media as well as the electronic media criticized this callous attitude of the Government. The concerned leading citizens of Gujarat came forward to denounce the government and sent a memorandum to the Governor.
SAFFRONISATION OF RELIEF
After the flash flood many social organisations, people came forward with relief materials , depositing them in the circuit house in Ahmedabad where the relief materials were to be collected and supposed to be sent. With much fan fare and publicity stunt the relief materials were sent, which reached late due to closure of both Rail and Road. When those materials reached Surat it bore the picture of Narendra Modi and BJP state President Vajubhai Vala along with the symbol of BJP. This was the style of functioning of BJP and the Sangha Parivar during killer earthquake in 2001 and in other calamities in the state. In true tradition of the people of Gujarat, they came spontaneously to help the victims in whatever way they can. But their emotion and enthusiasm and the aid are taken for granted as the Government Relief. The people of Surat were without water, food and electricity for more than 96 hours. The rescue operation shown in media time and again was very marginal in comparison to the magnitude of devastation
There are 16 Army columns, 32 boats, four engineering task force, 15 heavy motor vehicles, 6 helicopters. 4000 people have been evacuated. 118 were airlifted. Times of India 10-8 06
The few helicopters that roared above dropping food packets, or of the handful of boats moving about trying to rescue people looked like a drop in literally an ocean. The Times of India -10-8-06
GSDMA A WHITE ELEPHANT
The much hyped and awarded Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority has again become an icon of the mismanagement. This GSDMA came into existence after the Killer Earthquake. The malfunctioning of GSDMA was first exposed by 800 days of earthquake report prepared by S.U.C.I. and again the fourth year of earthquake and the 5th year of Earthquake. It was again exposed in last year’s severe flood in Baroda and Kheda district. But the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi was selling the idea of GSDMA to Tamil Nadu Government after Tsunami. The S.U.C.I. warned the Tamil Nadu Government not to be swayed by the idea of GSDMA which may bring more disaster due to mismanagement and lack of basic understanding of the calamities. But surprisingly the Prime Minister of India endorsed the idea of GSDMA on an all India scale. Now not only the media, but the citizens, the ex C.M. Keshubhai Patel, Ex Cabinet Minister Kashiram Rana criticize the role of GSDMA. He says, “The disaster management may be good on paper, but it has failed on the ground in Surat’s hour of need”.
POLITICS OF AID AND INTRA PARTY RIVALRY
The verbal war between the ruling BJP State Government and Central Government headed by UPA centering on aid and relief package by the Central Government has compounded the administrative indecision. Both Modi and Congress are hurling criticism on each other. Modi is tactfully trying to divert the attention to the point of callous indifference of Central Government whereas Congress is trying to take political mileage out of the situation and focusing on Sonia Gandhi’s visit and the Central relief package and thereby gain political mileage in Surat and South Gujarat which was once their bastion.
Sensing the political motive of Congress, Modi has become more aggressive. The dissident group of BJP headed by the ex Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel are trying to wrest political advantage out of the situation.They have started parallel relief work because they are sidelined by Modi. They are criticizing Modi and the Government for the present catastrophe.
Ironically, Keshubhai Patel was not allowed to land from his helicopter in the last 1998 Surat flood. This time when Modi was visiting in a Military boat, he was jeered by the people. In 1998 all the present dissident leaders including Kashiram Rana were jeered by the people of Surat. The political rivalry between BJP and Congress and the intra- group rivalry will have very bad impact on the R&R work.
One of the MLA utters “From being the number 1 CM in good administration, he has become number 1 mismanagement.”
Another MLA said “He said vote me to power and sleep for 5 years as I will be awake. People have realized at a heavy cost that they have to keep awake as Modi sleeps.” I.E 14-8-06
Keshubhai Patel hit out at Modi, “people in some areas are complaining even today that they are yet to see the Government Relief.’
The sudden rise of the dissident group of BJP has worried Modi more than the criticism of Congress and media and the people of Gujarat.
THE ENCHROACHMENT OF RIVER
The flood provides the best opportunity to demolish the slums as it happened last year in Baroda. There is the same approach in Surat too. The obstruction of the releasing of flood water is blamed on the slums but not on the town planning and the encroachment of the river basin by the builders lobby abetted by administration with utter disregard to the environment and ecology.
The narrowing of the Tapi river is revealing one. 40 years back it could carry 10 lakhs cusec of water. It has been reduced to 3.5 lakhs cusec. After the flood it can not accept more than 3 lakhs which can be further reduced if there is high tide to 2.5 lakhs. I. E 14-8-06
The general width of Tapi is 600 meter which is 400 meters at Adajan. 200 meters has been reduced because of encroachment of Tapi by the builders.
Again when Ukai dam was constructed, there was no Hazira Complex. The Hazira Industrial complex raised 2 to 3 meter reducing the releasing of water of Tapi to the sea.
During the last Municipal election, Modi promised the Tapi River Front project similar to the Sabarmati River front Project of Ahmedabad. The Sabarmati River Front Project which is inundated in flood water this time has been the only plank in the last Municipal Election in Ahmedabad which was held prior to Surat and Baroda Municipal election. This high profile River Front project on Sabarmati is developed spending crores of rupees to beautify the city, and attract the investors in lies of vibrant Gujarat. This type of development minus human face has been the catastrophic for the people.
The Present situation
The water has started receding. The entire city looks like a garbage dump. The dead bodies of the animals are lying here and there. The human dead bodies are lying in the vicinity of 20 kms. Till now the unofficial figure is that 300 people have died. Hundreds dead bodies are lying in the morgue of civil hospitals unclaimed. No attempt is made to identify them and the dead bodies are disposed off without proper record. It is believed that those who could escape to sky rise buildings, could save their lives but people staying in the low line areas, mostly the poor, met the watery grave. About 70% people of Surat are from different states working in power loom sectors, diamond industries and other unorganized sectors. Their identity has always been denied by the employers and the local administration which we have been fighting for years. This will be the key to hide the real figures of the dead.
Hiding figures of the dead is the usual practice of the ruling party of Gujarat. The numbers of dead of Kandla cyclone, killer earthquake were suppressed, such that there won’t be any claimant for the financial assistance.
Now much of the workers coming from outside the state are leaving Surat.The power looms , diamond industries, and other work in the unorganized sector are yet to start. Most of them are daily bread earner. Under the chaotic situation prevailing in R&R, they have no confidence on the Government and its machinery. Again there are all chances of epidemics. The Government has failed to provide at even the drinking water. There are no relief camps to take care of the flood victims. The insensitive and rude behaviour of the administration towards the victims is alarming. The victims are scared to approach the administration apprehending inviting the wrath.
The loss in the industry will have its direct bearing on the common people too
Crumbling City , Mounting Losses
Rs.21,875 Crore -- Total losses according to a preliminary estimates submitted to the Prime Minister on Friday, 11th August ’ 06 .
Rs. 1,700 Crore -- estimated production loss in Surat's diamond & textile sectors in the last few days.
In Surat, there are 10,000 diamond units & 7,000 textile units.
Hazira Hit - Captive power plant at Essar Steel in Hazira had to scale down due to a cut in gas supply from the ONGC & GSPC grids.
Production at the Gas Authority of India Limited ( GAIL ) is also disrupted .
ONGC has suffered a production loss of nearly 80,000 barrels of oil at its Hazira Processing facilities .
In brief, the recent flood has exposed the inefficiency of the BJP Government led by Narendra Modi, its lack of preparedness, publicity hunger, saffronisation of relief works, love for mega events, refusal to learn from past, inventing ways to indulge in blaming game to create euphoria and divert the real issue, ability to stage manage, and lack of proper knowledge of the subject.
ALL PEOPLES RELIEF COMMITTEE- What is needed is to develop All People’s Relief Committee for the R&R work with the mandatory power to keep watch on the functioning of the administration. It will take time to heal the wounds. The short term relief as well as long term relief has to be continued.
IMMEDIATE CONCERN-There are so many demands to be raised for justice and restore human dignity of the flood affected people. Few vital demands are of much importance for the present situation.
• A white paper giving all details about the Surat flood and responsible persons be punished.
• The R&R work should be supervised by People’s committee wrested with legal power. Total R&R packages and tax holiday should be declared for the common people also.
• Judicial and expert inquiry committee to find out guilty for this man- made flood .
• The workers coming outside the state be assured of R$R and unidentified or unclaimed bodies be identified with publishing of the photographs in the dailies all over India and proper compensation be given to the members of the families.
• Long term planning including design of reservoirs, sub canalling of reservoirs and to suspend all construction activities on the mouth of rivers and dredging of the rivers be done in regular interval .
• The financial aid as per the old manual be scraped, the loss be assessed as per the present market valuation and aid be given. If necessary, the old manual on Relief be replaced new manual though legislation.
• The attitude of sab thik hai (every thing is normal) be guarded. The Right To Information be used to provide all the details of the R&R.
• The accountability of the administration must be ensured
This article is prepared by
Dwarika Nath Rath