23/08/2019 2:46 PM IST | Updated 23/08/2019 2:49 PM IST

Punjab Government, Bhakra Dam Officials Lock Horns Over Cause Of Floods

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has blamed the flood on the unscheduled release of water from the Bhakra dam, and asked the Centre for a special package worth Rs 1000 crore.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

CHANDIGARH— While flood rescue operations are underway in Punjab, the Congress-led state government has blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government for exacerbating the floods by releasing extra water from the Bhakra dam between August 16 to August 19.

The ensuring deluge, the Punjab government contends, caused over Rs 1700 crores worth of damage. 

On Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought a Rs 1000 crore special package to address the losses from flooding.

“The flooding in river Sutlej due to the discharge of water from Bhakra Dam, the heaviest since 1958, had caused extensive damage to the standing crops and inundation of residential areas in the villages adding that an early estimated suggested the damage to be of Rs 1700 crore,” the CM stated in a press release. 

The government had declared it a natural calamity in the affected areas and stated  that necessary assistance though was given by the Army authorities, the floods in river Sutlej had severely damaged standing crops, houses and other rural and urban infrastructure at many places, especially in the districts of Ropar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Kapurthala covering over 100 villages.

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BBMB, IMD refutes Punjab CM’s  claim 

The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and India Meteorological Department (IMD) management have refuted the Punjab government’s claims.

The damage, dam officials say, was caused by floodwaters that gushed through the Sirsa and Swan rivulets from Himachal Pradesh and entered into Sutlej river downstream near Ropar district of Punjab. 

“While we released only 40,000 cusec of water downstream, the 2.40 lakh cusec received by Punjab from various rivulets near Ropar actually flooded the entire state,” said BBMB Chairman Devendra Kumar Sharma while speaking HuffPost India. 

 He further added that the main challenge was to hold the water in Bhakra reservoir till the time the water downstream passes through the state to avoid 1988 flood like situation. 

“We didn’t increase the outflow even when our reservoir crossed the critical mark of 1680 feet. However, keeping in view of the dam safety, we had to resort to controlled water release of 19000 through the spillway from August 16 which was later increased to 41000 cusec on August 19 at 4 pm,” said Sharma. 

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Army personnel carry food for villagers affected by severe floods, at Jamaliwala Village in Ferozpur district. 

Punjab CM directs to canalise the rivers 

Reviewing the ground situation in the flood-hit villages for the second time this week, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has announced that his government would canalise all the rivers of the state, taking technical support from World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Going around the Sarupwal in Sultanpur Lodhi sub-Tehsil today, where the overflowing river Sutlej led to a breach in Dhusi bund, affecting 62 villages, the Chief Minister also promised due compensation to the affected farmers as soon as the water recedes and special girdawri is completed. 

Talking to the media after an aerial survey to assess the damage caused by flooding in Sultanpur Lodhi (Kapurthala) and Jalandhar areas, he announced a project to project to realign river streams and courses, besides strengthening and widening of the river embankments for a permanent solution to the problem of floods.

Also,  a dedicated village-relief teams in the affected areas will be deputed soon. Each team would comprise officers of Health, Civil Supply and Animal Husbandry departments, and would ensure regular and timely supply of food, medicines and fodder for all affected families.

In response to a question, the Chief Minister further said nothing would be allowed to hamper the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, and his government was geared up to celebrate the historic occasion in a befitting manner.

The Chief Minister, who earlier on his way to Kapurthala conducted an aerial survey of the flood affected areas of Nawanshar and Ludhiana, told media persons in Gidder pindi in Jalandhar district that even if the central government fails to extend support, the state would ensure full support to every person affected by the flooding. It may be recalled that he had written to the Prime Minister yesterday, seeking a special flood relief package for the state.