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Merciless monsoon

- Delay in construction of sluice gates make low-lying Mango vulnerable to flash floods

Jamshedpur’s important entry and exit point Mango stares at a curious irony — dry taps in summer and flash floods in monsoon.

More than 50,000 residents of Mango’s low-lying areas are tersely watching the Subernarekha inch up and dreading the tipping point.

Since 2008, flash floods every monsoon has been the norm at localities like Zakirnagar, Kapali, Kunwar Basti, Daiguttu, Hargodam, Gour Basti, Subhash Colony and Sankosai. The culprit: incomplete sluice gates even after three years of construction work.

“Till Sunday, whenever it rained, we rushed out to check the river’s water level. But sparse or no rain on Monday and Tuesday gave us some respite. Normal monsoon makes our lives abnormally hellish, thanks to flash floods damaging our homes and property,” said Kunwar Basti resident Amardeep Singh.

During heavy rains, the Subernarekha swells and the Chandil dam is opened. The water rushes to the nearest low-lying areas.

It was this recurring problem that led the then MLA Sarayu Roy of the BJP raise the issue on the floors of the state Assembly in 2008, upon which the government promptly asked the water resources department to prepare a plan to check flash floods in Mango.

The water resources department handed over the task of constructing sluice gates to Subernarekha Multipurpose Project (SMP) officials a year later.

In 2009, construction of the sluice gates began at three places — Daiguttu (near Kunwar Basti) at Rs 51 lakh, Subhash Colony (near Gour Basti) at Rs 82 lakh and Kapali at Rs 125 lakh. The deadline was one year.

After three years, about 40 per cent work — sand filling, boulder pitching, among others — remains to be done in the three locations.

Junior engineer with the SMP (Gangudih unit) Rajdiv Singh admitted the delay, but blamed issues beyond their control.

“In Kapali, the project started late and was stalled midway due to land acquisition issues as villagers were reluctant to part with plots for the sand embankment (sand filling). Now, only boulder pitching near the downstream is left. At Daiguttu and Subhash Colony, crusher owners who supply boulders went on strike and our deadline went haywire,” he said.

The engineer, however, said that they would complete the construction of sluice gates “anyhow this year”.

Assuming that the sluice gates are complete this year, it will be after this monsoon. Residents such as Mohan Gaur of Gaur Basti will again be left at the mercy of the rain god.

“After flash floods, when our household goods have been swept away, homes are dank and damp and many walls have caved in, district administration officials will arrive with bleaching powder, chana (chick peas) and gur (jaggery),” fumed Gaur.