Blame it on rains or call it nature’s fury. Andhra Pradesh witnessed a massive scale of floods in 2009. About 300 villages and cities like Vijayawada and Kurnool experienced the worst flooding. More than a decade down the line, the flood banks of Kurnool Cuddappah (KC) Canal, which was totally damaged in the floods, still cries for the attention of the government. Situation is more or less similar across the State.
The successive governments have hardly paid any attention to the flood management. Meagre allocations for Operation and Maintenance (O&M), inadequate staff and zero equipment are some of the reasons for the dire state of affairs as far as flood banks and flood management is concerned. Flood mitigation plans and contingency plans have remained on paper or ‘limited to formal meetings.’
According to information, the allocations for the O&M have come down in the last six years and also not utilised optimally. On other hand, the flood control funds, which are primarily aimed at taking up evacuation, rescue and rehabilitation operations, flood stores etc., are being used for strengthening of bunds and maintenance of barrages. There is a gross mismatch between allocations and expenditure on this head. While the highest allocation of ₹150 crore was made in 2018-19, the highest expenditure was ₹380 crore in 2016-17, sources say (see chart).
The successive governments, however, have not given priority to flood stores. While ‘literally there are no flood stores’ in the Krishna and the Penna, the flood stores in the Godavari delta are in a dilapidated condition. Neither the required equipment such as dozers, tippers and other vehicles has been made available at central places.
Of the three Deltas – Godavari, Krishna and Penna – the first one is in spate every year. Floods in the Krishna too are registered but not on the same scale. Floods in Penna delta is a rare phenomenon. To some extent, rivers Vamsadhara and Nagavali in north coastal Andhra also create flood havoc. The Godavari has flood banks at a length of 535 km, while the Krishna has flood banks at a length of 346 km.
The maximum flood of 35.5 lakh cusecs in the Godavari was witnessed in 1986. On average, 15 lakh cusecs of flood is recorded every year. The river witnessed floods in 49 out of 67 years for which data is available. During these floods, the flow crossed the danger level of 17 lakh cusecs. “We don’t see any problem if the flood is 20 lakh cusecs to 25 lakh cusecs. The flood banks might not withstand if it crosses 25 lakh cusecs,” says a senior official.
Proposals only on paper
Proposals that cost ₹685.10 crore have been sent to the government for taking up 69 flood damage works under National Disaster Management in the Godavari delta. Similar proposals have been sent for the Krishna delta.
Another main lacunae is that there is no sufficient field staff. Posts of lashkars, gate operators, mechanics, welders, etc were not filled for the last one and half decades. It impacts the monitoring of flood banks. Only 25% field staff are available. About 3,000 field staff have to be recruited for better flood management.
It was proposed to take up 1322.34 kilometres of flood bank works at a cost of ₹2,312.77 crore. The proposals were not taken to a logical conclusion.
The moot points are: what would happen if State witnesses floods similar to 2009. Now, with a great difficulty, about 2,000 cusecs is being discharged from the KC Canal which has been designed with a carrying capacity of 38.50 lakh cusecs. Will the flood banks such as at Golla and Sundarapalli on the river Godavari withstand if the flood crossed 25 lakh cusecs? What if the Prakasam Barrage received more than 22 lakh cusecs like in 2009?