The 16th meeting of Ganga Flood Control Board was held today under the chairmanship of Union Minister of Water Resources Shri Harish Rawat here in New Delhi. Speaking on the occasion Shri Rawat elaborated the purpose of constitution of GFCB by saying that the Ganga Flood Control Board was constituted by the Government of India, for laying down broad policies, and directing concerted efforts, towards the management of floods in the Ganga basin, through preparation of integrated plans, for tackling the problems of flood, erosion and improper drainage. The National Water Policy, recommends that, there should be a master plan, for flood control, and management for each flood prone basin.
The minister informed that Ganga Flood Control Commission has prepared, circulated, and as and when required, updated Comprehensive Flood Management Plans, for all 23 river systems in the Ganga basin. GFCC has also undertaken, assessment study of adequacy of waterways, under road and rail bridges, techno-economic appraisal, and monitoring of centrally assisted flood management schemes,besides monitoring of flood events, and preparation of flood reports.
Shri Rawat said the decision of the last GFCB meeting, wherein all States were requested to send follow up action taken report, on the recommendations made in the comprehensive plans prepared by GFCC. Only Bihar and Himachal Pradesh have responded, but the same is still awaited from other basin States. He urged the remaining States to expedite the same.
He said majority of river basins in India, including Ganga Basin, are inter-state in nature and, therefore, mutual cooperation, and acceptance of all concerned agencies, and particularly the co-basin States is essentially required. This view has been strengthened by a Committee, headed by Justice T.S. Doabia, former Judge, M.P., and J&K High Courts, set up by the Ministry of Water Resources, to study the activities required for optimal development of a river basin, and changes required in existing River Boards Act, 1956. He also expressed happiness that the Committee has laid the focus on the integrated development of water resources on basin perspective, through a comprehensive, consultative, and collaborative approach.
In order to assist the State Governments, in better and effective flood management, the Union Government has taken a number of initiatives, through various national and State Level Committees, and Task Forces, constituted from time to time, which had made valuable recommendations, for management of floods. The latest being the Task Force on Flood Management and Erosion Control, set up by the Ministry of Water Resources in 2004, under the direction of Hon’ble Prime Minister, to look into the problems of recurring floods in Bihar, West Bengal, and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, besides Assam and its neighboring States. Based on the recommendations of this Task Force, the Union Government has been providing central assistance, to the concerned States, since the X Plan. During XI Plan, the Union Government launched a scheme on Flood Management Programme (FMP) and, the central assistances were provided, for river management, flood control and drainage development projects. In view of the demand of the State Governments, the State Sector Scheme, for FMP is proposed to be continued in the XII Plan, with an outlay of Rs. 10 thousand crore. The success of the FMP, during XII Plan, would depend on well programmed execution of the related projects, and timely completion of all formalities. The process of approval of projects is also proposed to be streamlined.
Shri Rawat informed that schemes, under the Flood Management Programme, in the Ganga basin States, are being monitored by GFCC. During the monitoring of the scheme, it has been observed that, desired progress of work is not being achieved by the implementing States, in spite of adequate funding, provided by the Government of India. This has been brought to the notice, to all concerned States, from time to time. Hence all the State Governments were requested to take necessary remedial measures, so that the schemes are completed at the earliest, and the benefits reach to the affected people.
As we are aware, floods in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are generally caused by the rivers, originating from Nepal. Long term solution, to the problems of flood, lies in the watershed management, and construction of multi-purpose reservoirs, with flood cushion in the upper reaches, to achieve flood moderation. Since suitable sites of reservoirs, to control the floods, are mostly located in Nepal, their construction is subject to agreement with the Government of Nepal, Shri Rawat added.
He said Government of India is having continuous dialogue, with the Government of Nepal, for the creation of storages in the Nepal territory. The first meeting of India-Nepal Joint Ministerial Commission on Water Resources, was held on 15th February, 2012 at New Delhi, wherein various bilateral issues were discussed. Subsequently, I had a meeting with Hon’ble Minister of Irrigation, Government of Nepal on 27th December, 2012, at New Delhi, wherein matters of mutual interests, came up for discussion, Shri Rawat further added.
The minister told that Flood affected area in the Ganga Basin States is estimated as 204 lakh hectares and out of this, , an area of about 94 lakh hectares has been provided reasonable degree of protection. Even though, physical flood protection works, like embankments and dykes etc. are essential, increased emphasis should be laid on non-structural measures, such as flood forecasting, and warning, flood plain zoning, and flood proofing, for the minimization of losses, and to reduce the recurring expenditure on flood relief.
The flood forecasts help greatly in mobilizing relief, timely evacuation of people, and cattle, and removal of movable properties from low lying areas. Flood forecasting network is operated by the Central Water, on all major rivers of the Ganga Basin. During XI Plan, CWC has further planned expansion, and further modernization of its flood forecasting network, in order to have automatic data collection, Satellite based transmission, expeditious forecast formulation, and early flood warning, forecast dissemination etc.
Another mechanism, for containing flood damages, is flood plain zoning. A model Flood Plain Zoning Bill was circulated, to the States in 1975. So far, only the Government of Rajasthan has enacted suitable legislation in this regard. However, the present model draft Bill, for flood plain zoning is quite old, and Union Government is considering, to review the same, and re-circulate the Revised Model Flood Plain Zoning Bill, for enactment and further action. I would request you to send your valuable suggestions in this regard, within a month or so.
The Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission addresses the issues related to common/border rivers, between the two countries. Bank protection works are required, to arrest erosion at vulnerable points, on most of the common/ border rivers, between India and Bangladesh. Based on agreement with Bangladesh, bank protection works, at various locations, have been taken up on a number of common/ border rivers in West Bengal. Similarly, the scheme for desilting of Ichhamati river, to relieve its catchments, from drainage congestion in West Bengal, is another example of the bilateral cooperation, Shri Rawat quoted.
He said in addition to above, our Government is also exploring alternatives of inter-basin water transfer, for finding techno-economic solutions, to the flood and drought problems. However, we must keep in mind that inter-basin transfers, are not merely for increasing water and food security, but also for meeting basic human need, and achieving equity and social justice. Inter-basin transfer of water, should be considered, on the basis of merits of each case, after evaluating the environmental, economic and social impacts of such transfers.
Shri Rawat also stressed the need for capacity building to control flood/its management by various basin states. He said Basin states should have a separate Divisions for flood management and approach to control floods/its management should be basin wise. The country is also gearing up, to meet the challenges, due to climate change, therefore, planning and management of water resources structures, like dams, flood embankments, tidal embankments, etc. should incorporate coping strategies, to address the climate changes impact, he added..
Todays meeting was attended by Irrigation ministers from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and West Bengal while representatives from the state Government of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh & Delhi were present in the meeting. More or less all the states pressed for timely sanctioning of proposals furnished by them and also the sufficient as well as timely release of Central Grants in this connection.
A Presentation was also made on the status of activities undertaken by the Ganga Flood Control Board.