The Delhi government issued its ‘first’ flood warning after Haryana released around 1.3 lakh cusecs of water in the Yamuna on Thursday morning, even as the water level in the river in Delhi is flowing near the danger level.
Rescue boats have been kept on standby and officers of the irrigation and flood control department have been directed to keep a vigil on low-lying areas.
With at least 10 embankments along the river, the released water is unlikely to flood the main city but people living on the riverbed are vulnerable. “At least 15,000-20,000 families live in slums on the floodplain. If the water level increases, people in low-lying areas in north Delhi may have to be asked to move to higher grounds,” said an official from the flood control and irrigation department.
“The Haryana government released 1.36 lakh cusecs of water on Thursday. The water would take at least 48 hours to reach Delhi. We have issued a first warning,” the officer said.
Usually, the Delhi government issues a three-stage warning whenever Haryana releases water from the Hathni Kund barrage, located around 200 km north. The first warning is given when more than one lakh cusecs is released, the second after more than three lakh cusecs and the third when more than five lakh cusecs is released.
Haryana on Thursday released 1.31 lakh cusecs at 8 am, 1.36 lakh cusecs at 9 am and 1.25 lakh around 10 am. When the third warning is issued, people in extremely low-lying areas are advised to shift.
“The water level in the Yamuna (at old Iron Bridge) is already flowing near the danger mark. While the present level is 203.4 m, the warning level is 204 m. The danger level is 204.8 m,” said a senior official.
In 1978, the water level touched 207.49 m – the highest ever. In 2013, when Haryana had released around eight lakh cusecs, the water touched 207.32 m.
“This water would not have any effect on the city but shanties and farmlands on the river banks, particularly in very low-lying areas such as Garhi Mandu, Usmanpur and Sonia Vihar, could be affected,” said an official.
When Haryana releases water for the first time after heavy rain, it takes more time to reach Delhi as it gradually spreads in the floodplains and the river.
Environmentalists said flooding is a natural process, which will help the heavily polluted Yamuna flush out some of its toxins and rejuvenate the riverbed.
“The water will actually help to clean the river. It won’t have any impact on the city. It would also help to recharge the ground water,” said Manoj Misra from the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
“It takes at least two to three lakh cusecs to be released to fill up the entire floodplain. The flood waters hardly enter the city. Only the slum people on the floodplains face the risk,” said Diwan Singh, an activist and convenor of Natural Heritage First.
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