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Floods an excuse for misgovernance

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on August 29, 2019 with No Comments

While the people of Punjab are battling its worst floods in three decades, their leaders are busy in allegations and counter allegations.  The opposition leaders from AAP has blamed the ruling Congress of ignoring the corruption-ridden irrigation and drainage department in connivance with the sand mafia lording over the affected rivers. The maximum damage has occurred around the three rivers flowing in the state. The leader does have a point, when in winters and summers these rivers run almost dry, even the ruling party and the government departments have arrested sand mafia carrying out illegal mining.

Obviously making the banks of the rives vulnerable to cracking up when there is high pressure of water, and the beds deprived of any vegetation that can hold it together. Whether it has been the previous government led by BJP-SAD Prakash Singh Badal or the present one under the command of Capt Amarinder Singh, they have failed to act tough against the sand mafia. These leaders have been feeble to act, as taking action against colleagues in the government and within the party is not an easy task.

The blame game took an ugly turn when both the opposition and the ruling party took a dig at the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) for the devastation suffered by several districts due to the release of excess water into the Sutlej river. BBMB regulates the supply of water and power from the Bhakra-Nangal and Pong (Beas) dam projects to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, with each having one member.

Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra accused the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) of “mismanaging” the release of excess water in the wake of recent heavy rainfall, and expressed that it would move the High Court. The opposition also sought the reconstitution of the BBMB, demanding that it office-bearers, including the chairman, should be from the state so that they would be able take care of state’s interests “in a better manner”. The assertion camea day after the BBMB claimed that it handled the situation brought about by the recent rainfall in Punjab in the “most professional” manner. The allegations against the BBMB came when BBMB chairman D K Sharma claimed, “The BBMB, by resorting to controlled water releases, could successfully handle one of the worst floods occurred in the past 40 years. The situation has been handled in the most professional manner.” However, the damage has been done and the initial assessment by the Congress government puts the damage around Rs 1700 crore. The Congress government did delay flood protection work and acted late on taking appropriate action despite the BBMB’s warning on discharge from the Bhakra Dam.

Amid the blame game, it is apparent that there was lack of co-ordination between the Punjab Government and the BBMB. Instead of releasing water on a regular and controlled basis, it preferred to release the water from all the dams in connection with the Bhakra Nangal Dam, when the water hit the danger mark. It’s not the first time, that BBMB is in the eve of storm. It had opened the flood gates in 1988 too, when Punjab was deep down in militancy. Falsely accused of aggravating the crisis, the then board chairman, Maj Gen BN Kumar, was gunned down by terrorists.

Punjab must understand that having its “own man” in charge of the BBMB is not a long term solution to the flood linked issues.  The state will have to think out of the box. Canalising all rivers within the state is an option that may have long term ramifications has to be explored by the state. If Punjab has to preserve its water sources, a complete crackdown on illegal sand mining from the river beds, river banks has to be enforced. As such the water level and area under natural green cover has gone down considerably, and conservation of rainwater and permanent harvesting policy is now a must.


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