Lakhs hit as Tehri waters rise, Yamuna and Gandak in spate

Unusually heavy rainfall this year has seen large swathes of India bracing for floods and many thousands living in low lying areas being shifted to camps.

New Delhi faced fresh flood threats with nearly seven lakh cusecs of water being discharged into the Yamuna river from the Hathini Kund barrage in neighbouring Haryana.

The Yamuna recording a level of 205.70 Monday evening, 0.87 metres above the danger mark. This is further expected to increase by 0.7 metres by Tuesday 5 p.m.

Delhi Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Shri Raj Kumar Chauhan, who convened a high-level meeting to review the situation, said it was for the first time in 100 years that so much water had been released in the river.

The situation was alarming in neighbouring Haryana too, where the Yamuna had been in spate for 36 hours, causing widespread flooding in Yamunanagar district.

Officials said the record of the last 32 years had been broken with the Yamuna seeing the maximum discharge of 744,507 cusecs of water from the Hathni Kund barrage.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was on alert too following reports that the Tehri dam waters had reached the danger mark, raising the spectre of floods in nearby areas.

"Water in the Tehri has reached 230 metres," Flood Forecast Monitoring Directorate officer B.D. Roy told IANS.

An official of the Tehri Dam Development Corporation said: "If the water level reaches 235 metres, the situation will be threatening."

"Response teams are always there. We have alerted all our manpower. If there is a threat at Tehri, we will rush there," R.K. Sinha, joint advisor in the NDMA, told IANS.

Any further rise in water levels in Tehri will put at risk nearby villages and towns like Haridwar, Rishikesh and adjoining areas.

An alert has been sounded in 72 villages in the Tehri lake periphery. The administration said it was prepared to face any eventuality. Many government buildings have been prepared for evacuation if the need arises.

About 50 people in Uttarakhand were reported to have died in the landslides and flash floods. The army was called out in parts of of Almora and Haridwar districts, described the "worst affected" by officials.

With nearly 80,000 people impacted, including 50,000 over Sunday-Monday, the one silver lining was that it did not rain Monday.

Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar refuted reports about threats to the Tehri dam "even though the water level was close to the danger mark".

However, green activists sounded warning bells. Environmentalist Anil Joshi said bigger disasters were in store if the government did not check the construction of such dams in the Himalayas.

"It is high time the government reviewed the viability of the dams. In the end, local communities are paying the price because the water cannot be released, so it is submerging the adjoining villages," said Joshi, the founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation.

Despite largescale protests, the Tehri dam was completed in 2006. It is a rockfill dam on the Bhagirathi, the source stream of the Ganga, which completely submerged the historic Tehri town in Uttarakhand. 

The situation also continued to be grim in Bihar, with more than 500,000 people in Gopalganj, Siwan and Saran districts impacted by the swelling waters of the Gandak river.

"The overflowing water of the Gandak has entered dozens of villages and is flowing at some places on National Highway 28," an official of the water resource department said.

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