Narmada floods were man-made: BWRC

The devastating floods that recently struck Bharuch district have raised numerous questions about the readiness and vigilance of the Sardar Sarovar Dam authorities.


Surat : The Surat-based Brackish Water Research Centre (BWRC) has pointed fingers at the authorities of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) for the catastrophic floods that wreaked havoc in Bharuch district, alleging blatant negligence that endangered lives and resulted in significant loss of life and property. The BWRC has labeled the flood as a man-made disaster, raising serious concerns about the management of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The devastating floods that recently struck Bharuch district have raised numerous questions about the readiness and vigilance of the Sardar Sarovar Dam authorities. The BWRC, a non-governmental organization dedicated to marine environmental protection and water conservation since 2003, has sent a scathing letter to Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, outlining allegations of gross negligence on the part of the SSNNL.

The letter underscores that even though Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel was scheduled to attend an event at the Sardar Dam on September 17, the SSNNL authorities remained silent and failed to open the dam gates, jeopardizing both public safety and the Chief Minister’s well-being.

The BWRC’s accusations center around the alleged disregard for critical data and early warnings from the Central Water Commission (CWC). According to the BWRC’s letter, the CWC had provided forecasts indicating an inflow of 11 lakh cusecs (33000 cumex) of water into the dam. However, the actual peak inflow far exceeded these predictions, reaching a staggering 22.58 lakh cusecs (63950 cumex).

Perhaps the most concerning revelation in the BWRC’s letter is the claim that the SSNNL remained inactive for a period of approximately 48 to 72 hours before taking any action. During this crucial window, around 18.76 lakh cusecs (706 cumex) of water were simultaneously released, exacerbating the flooding situation in Bharuch district.

The BWRC emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the State Government to ensure that officers comply with the Rule Curve without any political interference. The organization contends that all directors of the SSNNL share responsibility for this disaster, which it insists was entirely preventable. They further argue that if the SSNNL had initiated water release from the dam starting on September 14, the floods in the Narmada River could have been averted.

The BWRC alleges that the SSNNL failed to continuously monitor essential data, including weather forecasts, rainfall figures, and upstream flow rates, which could have informed preventive measures. They stress that the gates of upstream dams, including Bargi Dam on the Narmada, were already open on September 14, yet the Sardar Sarovar Dam authorities delayed releasing water despite the rising levels.

BWRC stated that the SSNNL authorities  may have filled the dam till it reached 138.68 meters FRL for getting promotions or on political instructions. After the water level reached the FRL, the inflow of water into the dam increase to such an extent that  there were no options left, but to release the excess water in the Narmada river and wreak havoc.

“This incident underscores the critical importance of transparent and responsible dam management, adherence to safety protocols, and the need for swift action in the face of natural disasters” said MHS Shaikh, president of BWRC. “We have demanded a comprehensive inquiry into the tragic events surrounding the Bharuch district floods and a call for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions”.