Calcutta, Oct. 15: Mamata Banerjee today wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to take steps as vast swathes of Bengal have been inundated because of a large volume of water being “suddenly” released from three dams in Jharkhand, two of them belonging to the Damodar Valley Corporation.
The chief minister decided to write to the Prime Minister after holding an emergency meeting at her home with disaster management minister Javed Khan, irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee, public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee.
“The chief minister decided to write to the Prime Minister, telling him that because of the sudden release of water from the three dams, thousands of people in Bengal had been marooned,” a source said.
Sources close to the chief minister said she left for flood-affected areas in West Midnapore this evening.
The sources said the chief minister called up Union water resources secretary Alok Rawat yesterday and expressed her displeasure over “irresponsible release of water” from the three dams, the third maintained by the Jharkhand government on the Kangshabati river at Galudih, in the past 48 hours.
Because of the water release, more than 20,000 people have been affected in West and East Midnapore, Hooghly and Howrah.
“The chief minister made her point clear to Delhi (during the conversation with Rawat) that water should not be released irresponsibly without informing the state,” an official said. According to him, Mamata said the state government was forced to register its protest as such release-linked inundation had become a “regular affair”.
Sources in the state irrigation department said the DVC was supposed to release around one lakh cusecs of water this morning.
“But at 7am today, we found that about 1.63 lakh cusecs had been released by the DVC. The additional release of water has inundated a large part of Hooghly’s Pursura and Khanakul blocks, and Howrah’s Udaynarayanpur,” an official said.
A source said that at today’s meeting, Mamata instructed the disaster management department to properly co-ordinate relief operations and pulled up the irrigation department for lack of maintenance of embankments,” a source said.
Irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee alleged that additional release of water from the Jharkhand dams had resulted in floods in four Bengal districts. “We had several discussions with the DVC authorities. They were supposed to release around 1 lakh cusecs today. But they released 1.63 lakh cusecs. This was not expected,” he said.
“It has been raining in the districts for the past few days because of Cyclone Phailin and then this sudden release of water from the neighbouring state has compounded the problems in Bengal. The worst part is we were not informed prior to the release of additional water,” Rajib Banerjee said.
The Jharkhand government said it was “compelled” to release the water.
The engineer-in-chief of the Jharkhand water resources department, Arun Kumar Singh, said: “We were compelled to release water from Chandil, Galudih and Tenughat. Since October 12 afternoon, the state has received heavy rainfall. The water levels were crossing the danger level and we had no other option.”
A DVC official said: “Because of excessive rainfall, which is not in our hand, we released 35,000 cusecs from Maithan and 80,000 cusec from Panchet yesterday. Today, we released 27,000 cusecs from Maithan and 70,000 from Panchet. The releases were made on the advice of the Central Water Commission, which is the practice,” a DVC official said.
Another DVC official said the corporation had informed the Burdwan administration before releasing water from its two reservoirs in Maithan and Panchet.
“We sent a written communication to the Burdwan district administration on October 11 informing it about releasing water from our two reservoirs in phases from October 13,” a DVC official in Maithan said.
East Midnapore’s Panskura was flooded for the second time in three months today with a temporarily repaired embankment on the Kangshabati giving way.
Residents confined six policemen to a room in the Ranihati gram panchayat office. A police force rescued the cops around 6pm.
At least 10 blocks — six in West Midnapore, one in East Midnapore, two in Hooghly and one in Howarh — have been affected because of the floods, the irrigation minister said.
According to him, the Bengal government has opened at least 62 relief camps in these districts and 12,000 people had taken shelter there. Initial estimates suggest that more than 10,000 houses have been decimated and another 22,000 partially damaged.
Areas in Asansol and Durgapur close to the Damodar river were water-logged today after the DVC discharged water from its Maithan and Panchet reservoirs.
Accusing the DVC of not informing the government before the discharge of water, Trinamul workers demonstrated at the DVC’s Maithan office and thermal power station in Durgapur.
At least five persons, including a woman and a child, have died since Navami after a three-storey house and a Puja pandal collapsed in Asansol and Jamuria because of incessant rain.
In Bankura, at least 10 villages close to the Damodar have been affected by the release of water by the DVC.
Four youths — two from Madhyamgram and two more from Calcutta’s Garfa — are missing after they went to bathe in the sea in Tajpur and Bakkhali, flouting orders of the administration. The body of one of them have been found.