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India’s flood forecast capability a washout: CAG

| | New Delhi
India’s flood forecast capability a washout: CAG

A majority of India’s flood forecast systems have either been washed away or their parts have been stolen. As a result, despite two decades of modernisation of telemetry stations for flood forecasts, India does not have ‘real time data’ on floods which destroy the lives of millions across the country every year.

As many as 222 of the 375 telemetry stations, set up on major rivers like Ganga, Brahmaputra, Damodar among others for real time data collection, transmission, and flood forecast formulation, are non-operational. Normally, flood forecasting is done after comparison of telemetry and manual data, with the latter adopted if the two sets mismatched.

According to a Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report on ‘Schemes for Flood Control and Flood Forecasting’ in Upper Yamuna Division, out of 14 telemetry stations, eight have been non-functional as six sites telemetry stations were washed away or parts were stolen since 2008.

“In Himalayan Ganga Division, seven out of nine are non-functional since 2013 while one station had provided incorrect reading/data during flood in 2013 and 2014. In Middle Ganga Division Varanasi and Patna, all 24 telemetry stations are non-functional since 2011. In some cases, telemetry stations had never been provided real time data. The data (both water level and rainfall) received were erratic and reported to be non-reliable since commissioning,” it said.

The middle Ganga division is considered flood-prone area in the country.

In Damodar Division, which is also flood-prone area, 12 out of 24 telemetry stations were non-functional from June 2007 to October 2013. In Brahamputra Division in Guwahati and Jalpaiguri, seven out of 11 telemetry stations were non-functional. The Brahmaputra, one of the mightiest rivers in the world, runs through Assam like a throbbing vein, sustaining lives and livelihood along its banks. But every monsoon, the lifeline snaps, breaks all boundaries and causes widespread misery to about 20 of the State’s 32 districts.

“In Tapti division, all 38 telemetry stations were non-functional. Similarly all 38 telemetry stations were found non-functional. Out of 38, only seven stations have found matched water level with manually observed water level up to November 26, 2012,” the report said.

The CAG report found that the telemetry stations were non-functional due to various reasons such as theft of telemetry equipment, dismantling due to inadequate security arrangements and non-installation of Radar Sensors/Bubbler.

“There are cases where telemetry stations were washed away, parts of stations were stolen, parts not working, parts damaged, receipt of non-reliable data and non-functional modeling centres. Flood forecasting data was used in formulation of flood forecast only after comparing the telemetry data with manually observed data; and in the case of mismatch between the two sets of data, manual data was adopted,” it said.

“Thus, Central Water Commission (CWC) did not depend on telemetry data and relied on manual data even after investing in modernisation of telemetry station network for nearly 20 years,” CAG report said.

Telemetry is an automated communications process by which measurements and other data are collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. It is important in water management, including water quality and stream gauging functions.

India has high vulnerability for floods as out of total geographical area of 329 million hectares, about 45.64 million hectare is flood-prone. Every year, an average of 7.55 million hectares of land is affected and the damage caused to crops, houses, and public utilities due to floods is estimated at Rs 1,805 crore.

Exposing the loopholes in the system, the report pointed out that no flood forecasting stations have been established in Tamil Nadu. In XII Plan, action plan for installation of 41 telemetry stations in Tamil Nadu was prepared (July 2016) but tenders remained to be finalised. In Odisha, non-maintenance of water level in Hirakud dam as per the rule curve and simultaneous opening later on of 50 flood gates caused heavy discharge of water resulting in flooding in downstream areas. In Uttarakhand, the flood forecasting could not be issued in time due to incorrect fixation of warning and danger levels. The report has also pointed out that a 60 per cent shortfall in release of Central funds to the state for flood management schemes.

According to report, out of 4,862 large dams, emergency action plans/disaster management plans of only 349 (seven per cent) large dams had been prepared (March 2016).



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