Few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the flood situation in the state, the latter wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, describing the flood as a ‘man made one’, alleging that the “unprecedented release of water from the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) dams Panchet, Maithon and Tenughat” is responsible for the situation.
“Recently, there has been a low-pressure formation resulting in high rainfall in West Bengal and Jharkhand. Nearly 2 lakh cusec of water was discharged from the Panchet, Maithon and Tenughat dams of DVC, leading to severe flooding of huge areas in Hooghly, Howrah, Purba Bardhaman, Paschim Bardhaman, Birbhum and Paschim Medinipur districts,” the Chief Minister said.
“Apart from the loss of 16 precious lives, there has been unprecedented displacement, suffering and loss of livelihood of lakhs and lakhs of farmers and people at large, causing extensive damage to agricultural crops, fisheries, houses, roads, bridges, power lines and other infrastructure,” she added.
“Despite raising the issue with you and DVC way back in 2015, for the urgent need for renovation, upgradation and modernisation of assets of DVC and other allied systems, inter alia, essential de-siltation and dredging, to prevent the recurrent wrath of floods in West Bengal and most importantly increasing water-holding capacity of the DVC dam by around 1.2 lakh acre-feet, the issue still remains unaddressed. Nothing tangible has been done yet, as a result of which, year after year, West Bengal is having to face a severe flood situation, affecting lakhs and lakhs of people for inadequate system management by DVC,” the Chief Minister alleged.
Urging the PM for a comprehensive and holistic plan to reach a permanent solution to the problem, Banerjee said, “In my view, the issue cannot be addressed in an isolated manner. It has a regional perspective. Damodar has another dam at Tenughat located in Jharkhand. The discharge from this dam feeds into Panchet and obviously there is an inter-dependence in the ways adjoining states operate their systems. There is another river, ‘Khudia’, located in Jharkhand which discharges into Barakar with a large catchment of 450 sq km. However, no dam has so far been built on this river for flood control and protection.”
“In this context, there is an urgent need for building a holistic regional plan for the upgradation and operation of these dams. As a part of mitigation measures, development of real time forecast & decision support system, automation of gates, structural rehabilitation of dams and last but not the least restoring/ augmenting the storage capacities of these dams need to be taken up on priority,” Banerjee added in the letter.
“As three states, including a Central agency, DVC, are the important stakeholders, this may kindly be taken up as a project of national importance, as it is essential to save precious lives and property of West Bengal,” she said.
The Chief Minister also said that the state would send an assessment of the loss incurred by the floods soon.
“In respect of the current flood, we will shortly be sending our damage assessment for your kind intervention. I would reiterate the need to develop holistic and long-term solutions in respect of augmentation of storage capacity of the DVC system to ensure that West Bengal is spared the regular devastation and suffering from man-made floods perpetrated by huge releases from the DVC dams,” she said.