Alleging that sudden release of water from Narmada Dam caused flooding in Gujarat's Bharuch district which was avoidable, Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel on Saturday sought fixing of responsibility for this "mismanagement".
The flooding due to the release of excessive water from Sardar Sarovar Dam forced the Bharuch authorities to shift around 9,500 people to safer places in the last week of August.
However, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), a government agency that manages the dam, cited a study to claim that massive floods were avoided despite heavy rainfall. In a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Patel said the flood situation in Bharuch district "prima facie appears to be a result of poor management of the Sardar Sarovar Dam".
The extraordinary surge of water downstream of the dam was "entirely avoidable," as there was sufficient information about heavy rainfall and the Central Water Commission (CWC) had warned about the impending rise in the river's level, the Congress leader said.
The "SSD operators chose to act on an unplanned and ad hoc basis and released a large amount of water in a short period", Patel alleged. It caused loss of life, damage to property and also wasted water, he said, requesting Rupani to ensure accountability for this "man-made crisis" and "take adequate steps to bring in transparency and openness on how advance warning and data is handled at SSNNL."
In the wake of criticism of its dam management, the SSNNL on Friday released a study by four independent experts to defend itself. "Entire stretch of river Narmada from Amarkantak to Sardar Sarovar Project (1,163 km) was subjected to heavy rains during the last one fortnight," the report said.
While as of August 16 there was 7.4 per cent deficit in rainfall in the river basin, on August 31 there was 18.6 per cent excess rainfall, it said. As a result there was huge inflow of water into the Sardar Sarovar Project, it said. Using "state of the art technology" as well as through co-ordination of operations of various reservoirs with the help of CWC and Narmada Control Authority, water discharge was restricted to less than 10 lakh cusec for most of the time with a maximum of 10.72 lakh cusec on September 1, it said.
It helped the SSD save "around 30,000 hectare of downstream area" from flood damage, it claimed. As of Saturday morning the dam's water level had reached 135.36 metres against its full reservoir level of 138.68 metres, officials said.