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Flood (mis)magement

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 July 2017 12:00 AM GMT

At a time when the Assam government is taking pride at the “prompt visit so soon after floods” by a Central inter-ministerial team and has aired hopes of a tidy package, Gujarat has already wrested a Rs 500 crore interim flood relief package from the Centre. How much Assam will eventually get as flood relief this time vis-a-vis its estimate of flood damage at Rs 2,939 crore is anybody’s guess. But considering the stinginess the Centre showed to Dispur last year despite Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal’s repeated pleas to the Union Fince Minister, the outlook does not seem bright for adequate flood relief this year either. And this tightening of the Centre’s purse strings over flood relief seems to fall into a pattern, at least over the last decade. This has been brought out in a recent report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in Parliament, showing a 60% shortfall in the release of Central funds for flood magement projects (FMPs) in Assam. In the period between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the Centre was supposed to have released Rs 2,043.19 crore for 141 FMPs in Assam, but ended up giving only Rs 812.22 crore. The shortfall was even more for Aruchal — as much as 78% for 10 FMPs in the frontier State with turbulent rivers. Overall, after sampling 206 FMPs along with other flood magement activities, dams and flood forecasting stations in 17 States and Union Territories, the CAG has blamed institutiol failure and lack of integrated approach, both from Central and State sides.
The CAG report on ‘schemes for flood control and flood forecasting’ has noted widespread official apathy towards flood control measures, observing that the legislation on dam safety initiated in 2010 has not been ected till August 2016. As a result, plans for emergency action or disaster magement were found prepared for only 7% of 4,862 large dams by March 2016. Operating procedures/manuals were found prepared for only 5% of these dams, programmes for their maintence were not prepared, pre-monsoon and post monsoon inspections were not carried out and adequate funds not provided for their structural or repair work. The report further notes that recommendations of tiol Flood Commission on identification of areas affected by floods in the country “remain unfulfilled”. Flood forecasting remains wanting with only 56 telemetry stations installed as of August 2016, against the target of 219 telemetry stations, 310 base stations and 100 flood forecasting stations under 12th Plan. And of the 375 telemetry stations set up across the country, as many as 222 were non-operatiol due to theft and dismantling of equipment. About execution of flood control works, the CAG has found discrepancies like awarding works without floating tenders, splitting of tenders and payment at higher rates. It has therefore called upon the Union Water Resources Ministry to keep strict vigilance on utilization of flood magement funds by State governments and executing agencies to avoid “parking and diversion of funds”. This Ministry should also prepare a time-bound action plan to speed up completion of all long term river magement projects and works in border areas for long term solution to annual floods in Assam, north Bihar and western Uttar Pradesh, along with pressing upon concerned States to prepare standard operating procedures for dams and carry out regular inspections, the report has noted.
As for State governments, their flood magement activities are marked more by mismagement. Take Assam, long clamouring for its flood mece to be declared a tiol problem. The CAG report found that the Assam government released only 16% of funds allocated in budget for FMPs between 2007-08 and 2015-16. Dispur has obviously found it difficult to fork out its share, which was earlier only 10% when Assam used to enjoy special category status. There is much heartburn in the State over the Centre’s withdrawal of this status, but Dispur has been tardy in other aspects of flood magement as well. In projects to install systems for river magement, anti-erosion, draige development and flood-proofing, more than 7 years delay on average was seen in Assam (Punjab with up to 13 years and Aruchal with 4-8 years delay did worse). Due to non-completion of such projects on time, issues like preventing soil erosion of river bank and stabilising the slope could not be addressed. Detailed project reports (DPRs) for projects proposed at divisiol level in Assam were not prepared at all, which was in contravention of FMP guidelines. In case of two flood magement projects in Assam, the CAG found idequate planning — like lack of protective measures to prevent back flow of river or setting up embankment near the sluice gate. Apart from this, land was not acquired before FMP work began, resulting in stalling of the project and consequent wastage of funds. Thereafter, there were deficiencies in maintence and upkeep of the projects, as the Assam government does not have a separate programme and budget provision for maintaining completed projects, the CAG report notes. The lesson Dispur ought to draw is that it must keep its end clear before it expects the Centre to fulfil its responsibility when it comes to flood magement in the State.

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