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Amid heavy rains, overflowing river systems taking a toll

Jul 11, 2023 02:02 AM IST

Heavy rains in the upper reaches of Chamba and Kangra districts, the source of the Ravi river, have resulted in flooding of several downstream areas.

The story of the floods ravaging parts of north India is the story of four major river basins and river systems: Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, and Ganga. The most-affected states have all been inundated by one or more of these river systems, most of which are in spate due to extremely heavy rain in catchment areas. While that is the primary cause of the flooding, the situation has been exacerbated by inadequate preparation and planning and, in the case of the hill states, indiscriminate development.

A temple submerged as the river Beas overflows following heavy rains in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. (Reuters)
A temple submerged as the river Beas overflows following heavy rains in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. (Reuters)

Read here: Rain-heavy system over north likely to subside by today, to shift to east: IMD

Hindustan Times - your fastest source for breaking news! Read now.

Ravi river basin

Heavy rains in the upper reaches of Chamba and Kangra districts, the source of the Ravi river, have resulted in flooding of several downstream areas in Jammu and Gurdaspur and Kapurthala in Punjab. The Ravi river basin area is estimated to have received at least 600 mm of rain since Friday. Ghamroor in Kangra received 166 mm of rain in 24 hours on 5.30 p.m. on Monday, breaking the previous record set in 2006.

Several link roads in Kangra and Chamba district including those to popular hill station Dharamshala which is in the river basin were blocked due to the landslides caused by heavy rains. The Ujh river in Jammu, which acts as a feeder to the Ravi was overflowing due to heavy rains which also washed away portion of the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

The Punjab irrigation department on Monday issued a flood alert in the Majha region with the Ravi’s level rising at an “alarming” rate. Punjab irrigation minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said people have been warned of possible evacuation if the water level continues to rise .

The Pakistan disaster management authority has issued flood alert for cities in the Ravi basin such as Rawalpindi and Lahore anticipating increase in water levels as gates of several barrages on the river have been opened to release additional water.

Beas river basin

Close to 950 mm of rainfall has fallen in the Kullu district of Himachal since Thursday, flooding the Beas and its major tributaries such as the Parbati . The most dramatic videos of the rains have come courtesy the Beas, with a hotel in Manali, cars parked along a monsoon steam in Kasol and logs in forest depot in Thunag, in Seraj assembly constituency of former chief minister Jairam Thakur all getting swept away. In Mandi in Himachal and several other places in Punjab, the Beas is flowing close to the danger mark.

Read here: North India rain toll rises as water level turns dangerous

“A private hotel fell into the Ravi as fast gushing water washed away the retaining wall on which the hotel was built,” an official said. Hundreds of hotels and buildings have come up along rivers and streams in Manali and nearby areas to cater to tourist demand with no heed to natural water flow systems and the local ecology.

Heavy rains also washed away the Manali-Kullu highway just ahead Mandi town leaving thousands of tourists stranded. Himachal chief minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu said bridges were washed away in Kullu and the Largi power project submerged in water. There are around 300 people stuck across various parts of the hill state, officials said.

Sutlej river system

Sutlej , which originates in China and passes through Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Bilaspur districts before entering Punjab at Ropar, is in spate with heavy rains in its higher catchment areas. Kahu in Bilaspur received 171.5 mm of rainfall in 24 hours on as on Monday , surpassing the previous record of highest rainfall in 2004.

Water from the Sutlej entered the Punjab Police Training Academy in Phillaur after the “Dhussi Bandh” (a temporary embankment along the river) was breached on Monday. Nearly 100 villages adjoining Ghaggar and Badi Nadi in Devigarh, Sanaur and Balbera are inundated, officials said.

The Sutlej was expected to receive approximately 2.50 lakh cusecs of water on Monday. Around 1.50 lakh cusecs of water have been released from Ropar . Residents of some villages in Jalandhar district have already been shifted to relief camps, officials said. Residents of remaining villages along the banks of the Sutlej have also been put on high alert. Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar Vishesh Sarangal said that all precautionary measures have been taken and the situation is being closely watched.

Gaggar, which is part of Sutlej water system, has caused flooding in Pinjore, Panchkula, Patiala and other areas due to record rainfall in Solan district of Himachal, from which this monsoon river originates. The Shimla-Chandigarh highway and Dharampur-Kasauli highway was blocked at several places due to massive landslides. Videos of cars floating down in the industrial town of Parwanoo in Solan district have gone viral. Solan received 135 mm of rain till Monday morning, breaking a 52-year record of 105 mm of rain in a day in 1971. Since Friday, the district has received 380 mm of rain, the highest rainfall ever in a 72-hour period.

The tri-city of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali, part of Gaggar basin, received more than 531.6 mm of rainfall in 72 hours, the highest since 1953. One of the four pipelines that carry drinking water from Bhakra main line canal to Chandigarh at Kajauli waterworks was damaged because of which water supply to the entire city will be affected for a couple of days.

Flooding was also reported in Patiala and some other areas on the banks of river Gaggar. National Disaster Response Force has been called out in Tiwana village of Mohali. “They are at standby, as water is flowing at 12.5 feet, against 10-foot danger mark,” Chief Engineer Irrigation H S Mehndiratta said.

Ganga basin

Both the Ganga and Yamuna which originate in Uttarakhand were flowing close to danger mark at most of the places.

According to the Central Water Commission, at Devprayag, where two holy rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi merge to form the Ganga, the national river was flowing at 454.76 m, while the danger mark is 463 m. At Rishikesh, the Ganga was flowing at 338.32 m on Monday, while the danger mark is 340.5 m. “The water level is rising at most places as rains continue in higher reaches,” said State Disaster Management officer Ranjit Kumar Sinha. Several other tributaries of Ganga such as Solani river and Banganga (Raisi) river were also flowing close to the danger mark in Haridwar.

Read here: High intensity rains unlikely in the coming days in Delhi: IMD

At Uttarkashi, the Yamuna was flowing at 1059.20 m on Monday, while the danger mark is 1060.00. In Haryana, authorities have sounded a flood alert in Yamunanagar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat districts as 3.09 cusec of water was flowing into the river. Water entered agriculture fields in Karnal and Yamunanagar districts, officials said.

“The flow from 70,000 cusecs to 1.5 lakh cusecs is considered ‘low flood’, from 1.5 lakh cusecs to 2.5 lakh it is called ‘medium flood’ and if the water flow in river crossing 2.5 lakh cusecs mark it is considered as ‘high-flood’ situation,” a Haryana irrigation department official said. Additional water is being discharged into the Yamuna from Hathinikund barrage and will take two to three days to reach the national capital.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

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