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Friday 3 April 2020

Puja arenas flooded; Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand precarious

While it is only celebrations at stake in Kolkata, the catchment areas of Maithon and Panchet Dams in Bihar, Bengal and Jharkhand face life-threatening deluge

Editorials

In India

It is doubtful Kolkata will be able to celebrate Durga Puja this year with as much fanfare as is associated with the festivity. In Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh, rains continue to devastate lives for the fourth day in a row. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of heavy rains on Monday, and it came true. Bihar is the most affected state, with 29 deaths reported from the state so far. Rainfall has continued in most parts of the state for the last 76 hours.

For the last two days, heavy rains have disrupted the preparations for Durga Puja in the capital of West Bengal. Organisers have ordered the contractors to stop further construction of pandals due to continuous rains since Thursday. The decorations have been damaged in many arenas. In several of the pandals, one has to wade through knee-deep rainwater. Labourers are working in wet conditions, with paints taking more time than usual to dry up.

An affected Puja arena in Kolkata

Water has accumulated in many places due to the rains in northern, central and southern Kolkata. Rains have thrown routine life out of gear in Central Avenue, Rabindra Sarani, Barabazar, College Square, Thanthania Kalibari, New Town, Laketown, Ultadanga and Baguihati. Due to rain in Howrah, Hooghly and other townships, people are facing difficulty in commuting due to waterlogging of the streets. The change of weather has left the puja organisers a worried lot.

Back in Bihar, more than 100 mm of rain was recorded in 27 districts including Patna on Sunday. This has led to flood-like situations in many districts. Boats are plying on the roads in many areas of Patna. Rail-road traffic, health services and operation of schools have been affected. Electricity supply has been disrupted. People are struggling to meet their daily needs. There are situations like flooding in low-lying areas like Rajendra Nagar and Pataliputra Colony of Patna.

NDRF teams are taking people to safe places. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has given an emergency meeting. He has issued necessary instructions for the relief and rescue work. According to Disaster Management Minister Lakshmeshwar Rai, the state will witness heavy rains for two more days.

The IMD has said that on Monday, the monsoon will be fully active in eastern Bihar. Following the warning, a red alert was declared in Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger, Katihar, Madhepura, Purnia, Saharsa, Khagaria, Supaul, Araria and Kishanganj.

Due to continuous rains, the water levels of Maithon and Panchet Dams have increased. The water level in Maithon is 490.5 acre-feet while it is 419.32 acre-feet at the Panchet Dam. To cope with the pressure, Maithon released 5,000 cusecs of water on Sunday in the evening while Panchet Dam released 15,000 cusecs.

The dam authorities are left with few options as the Maithon Dam is receiving 1,00,000 cusecs of water whereas the Panchet Dam is receiving 42,000 cusecs per hour.

Due to the release of water from both the dams, a high alert has been issued in the lower parts of West Bengal and upper parts of Jamtara. A team comprising the Central Water Commission and DVC’s MRO department is monitoring the status of the dams.

With a greater capacity, Maithon Dam, with 495 acre-feet of water level, is still safe but Panchet Dam’s 425 acre-feet level corresponds to the danger mark. On Sunday, nine gates of Maithon Dam were opened.

On behalf of the DBRCC and the Department of Central Water Conservation Commission (CWC), member secretary Amit Kumar Jha has issued a high alert to its chairman, the DM of Purulia, the DCs of Dhanbad and Jamtara, the senior chief engineer at Maithon, the chief engineer in Kolkata, the chief engineer of the WRD and the government of Jharkhand.

The message says if the water level of DVC Panchet, which is 425 acre-feet now, will cross the danger mark at 3 PM today if rains go on at the current rate. In that scenario, areas in the catchment of the Panchet Dam will get inundated. People living in the danger-prone areas of DVC Panchet are being evacuated. The affected lower area may get submerged soon. This can cause loss of life and property.

Apart from Sri Sri Gokulanand Ashram, Bandrabad, Pabanya, Dumariya, located in the marshes of Nirsa zone, the situation is precarious in Barakar, Disargarh, Burdwan, Durgapur, Andal and Hooghly of West Bengal.

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