M A I N   N E W S

No threat from Bhakra Dam
Flood alert is for encroachers of riverbeds
Ajay Banerjee & Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 6
Flood-threats in Punjab are not like the old days when meandering rivers marooned villages. Today, fired by greed, people have sown crops in areas that once formed the path of the rivers and have virtually "embraced" the oncoming flood while apportioning blame onto "ill-timed" release of water from dams like the Bhakra or the water regulating headworks.

Even as alerts on floods issued by the civic authorities have spread panic in areas downstream of the Satluj and the Beas, in reality the immediate threat is to encroachers and it seems there is no threat of flood caused by release of "excess" water from the Bhakra dam.

The Dam reservoir still has the capacity to take in more than 2 lakh cusecs of water at any given point of time hence it will stop any major inflow of water in the Satluj and regulate its release. The Pong Dam on the Beas can still take in about 3.50 lakh cusecs of water. The real threat is to people, who have encroached upon areas that have traditionally formed the river's bed, said sources in the irrigation sector.

Senior functionaries of the Bhakra Beas Management Board told The Tribune that they do not visualise any problem of flood on account of release of water from the dam. Today the release of water from the Bhakra Dam was no more than 13,783 cusecs while the inflow into its reservoir was 19,282 cusecs. The BBMB canal systems originating at Nangal can take upto 23,000 cusecs of water and no water was being released in the river.

Today the water-level in the reservoir of the Bhakra Dam was at 1677.14 feet. The optimum filling point is 1680 feet, however, a buffer of 5 feet is also allowed to control sudden surges of water and the engineers are permitted to fill the reservoir upto 1685 feet. The brim of the dam is at 1690 feet and in 1988 the water-level went upto 1687 feet.

As per irrigation parameters, the BBMB is allowed to release upto 50,000 cusecs of water downstream of the Nangal headworks without even issuing a flood warning. Due to encroachments, the water carrying capacity of the Satluj has been reduced and even a release of 30,000 cusecs by the dam authorities into the river sends the Ropar Administration in a spin. This situation occurred just ten days ago.

The civic authorities are supposed to get the low-lying areas near the river bed vacated during the monsoon, however, the fertile lands have attracted people. Vast areas of the bed of the Satluj between the Nangal and Ropar have been cropped. A few unscrupulous people have even built cattle sheds. Another problem is the Swan rivulet join the Satluj between Nangal and Ropar. This also carries a lot of water in the monsoons and the blame is apportioned onto the dam, explained a senior engineer at the BBMB.

Apart from this there is another category of encroachment. In 1988 the BBMB decided that the optimum filling level be brought down from 1685 feet to 1680 feet. This meant vast areas at the brim of the reservoir were open to misuse.

These are fertile lands falling in Bilaspur District of Himachal Pradesh. People have now used this for crops. When the water-level starts rising, they are also affected.



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