Expectations from Shinde Government
More than 10,000 people in Gadchiroli district have been shifted to safe places as the flood situation worsens in the district. In Chandrapur the situation is better as the rains have ceased in the city. 994 people of Chandrapur city from areas such as Rehmat Nagar, Sister colony, Bhangaram, Haveli Garden, Rashtrawadi Nagar, Thakkar Colony and Apeksha Nagar had to be shifted to safe places. The present floods in Vidarbha are reminiscent of previous floods like those that occurred in 2006 and more recently in August – September 2020. The floods of 2020 which had impacted around one lakh people in the five districts of Eastern Vidarbha including Chandrapur, Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli districts. Vidarbha has been struck by disaster within weeks of the formation of the new Eknath Shinde government and there are expectations from the new government especially from the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is from the region.
In 2020 neither the Chief Minister nor the Deputy Chief Minister had come to Vidarbha for taking stock of the flood situation and there had been grave discrimination against Vidarbha with regard to compensation. The amounts given to Vidarbha were a pittance compared to the amounts given to those who were impacted by the Nisarg Cyclone in Konkan region. However, this time both the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and the Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Phadanvis visited the flood affected areas of Gadchiroli and conducted meetings with the district administration. It is expected that their visit will result in concrete support to the flood-affected persons especially in Gadchiroli which is the poorest district in Maharashtra with a high Adivasi population.
Floods in Gadchiroli: Impact of Medigudda Laxmi Barrage
The entire Gadchiroli district falls in the Godavari basin. At the South Western boundary of the district, near Sironcha, Godavari enters the district and flows eastwards for about 50Km along Southern boundary of the district. The Pranhita river, formed by confluence of Wainganga and Wardha rivers forms the South-Western boundary for 190 Km till it’s confluence with the Godavari. The Indravati river enters in near Kowande village of Bhamragad Tehsil in the district and forms the South-Eastern boundary for a distance of 120 Km before joining the Godavari. After its confluence with Indravati, at the South-Eastern corner, the Godavari turns south into Telengana.
On 11 July the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief minister Devendra Phadnavis visited Gadchiroli when there was already a flood situation in the district. In the previous three days i.e. since the 8 July the district had witnessed three deaths and more than four hundred people had been shifted to safe places.
There are several questions as to the impact of the Medigudda Laxmi Barrage which has been constructed in Telengana and to what extent the obstruction caused by the 18 km long barrage exacerbated the impact of floods in Gadchiroli.
In 2016 Telegana and Maharashtra entered into a MoU for the construction of the Medigudda Laxmi Barrage. There are reports that there was an inflow of 22,15,760 cusecs into Medigudda barrage on 13th – 14th July and by the evening of 14th July there was 28,46,140 cuses of water which was being released downstream as the water storage level in the barrage had reached its full capacity of 16 TMC and was overflowing. By this time all the 85 gates of the barrage had been opened and the entire water was flowing downstream. However the gates had not been opened prior to 13 July which led to floods in Gadchiroli district.
The Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has made a welcome announcement that he wants to find a permanent solution to the flood problem of Gadchiroli. If he wants to seriously pursue the matter then he must take it up with his counterpart in Telengana for long-term and permanent solutions.
Mines and OB Dumps in Chandrapur
In Chandrapur, the incessant rains of the past week along with other factors like the release of 12000 cusec water into the Wainganga riverbed on 13 July as well as the opening of the gates of Erain dam led to the disastrous situation across large parts of the district.
The impact of floods is exacerbated because of the extensive mining operations in Chandrapur district. The unsustainable dumping of overburdens by the mines on the banks of rivers and in the floodplains creates obstructions in the river drainage leading to floods in adjoining areas. According to geographer-activist Yogesh Dudhpachare, “Mines in Chandrapur district are should dump the OB at a distance from the river and outside the floodplains, but they are openly violating norms and creating dumps between 10 – 15 ft of river banks and across the floodplains. The Lalpeth mines near the city area and the OB dumps exacerbated the floods in Chandrapur city.”
The changes in the landscape brought about by mining has to be taken into account to minimise the impact of floods in the adjoining villages and city area.
Housing on priority for the flood-affected
Housing for the poor is one of the key issues that emerged both in 2020 as well as this time. Kutcha houses made of materials such as mud, bamboo mats, plastic sheets are worst affected. Hundreds of houses in the district are either fully or partially damaged. The survey in the rural areas is still going on but it is expected that number of damaged and destroyed houses in each block would exceed several hundred.
While interacting with flood-affected persons from Bhangaram area who had been shifted to Shahid Bhagat Singh School, several Muslim families shared their desperate need for houses. For instance Nafisa Pathan (45) a single mother of mentally retarded son lives in a kutcha house made of bamboo mats. She said that nobody in the area is ready to rent her a room because she is a Muslim. Najmunissa Pathan (40) also narrated how people who agreed to rent her family a couple of rooms immediately refused after her husband told his name. Both women said, “How long can we live in this school room? People are not ready to rent us rooms even when we are ready to pay for it. Only the sarkar can help us now.” This is a very serious situation and the Chandrapur City Municipal Corporation should help the poor families in the minority community to get adequate housing. The assurance by the Central Government to provide Housing for All by 2022 is yet to be fully realised. There are hundreds in urban and rural areas still waiting and there is a demand to distribute ‘gharkuls’ to the flood-affected on a priority basis. Also, while allocating the gharkuls, it is expected that the government will not deduct the compensation amount to be paid under the National Disaster Relief Fund.
– Paromita Goswami