Our flood data helps Dhaka prepare, yet NE India sinks under water

River flow and flood data from India helped Bangladesh forecast the flood before June 30, but India still appears clueless

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Ashlin Mathew

Parts of India are reeling under floods and the situation in North-East India is nothing but grim. As is known, during this season, the Brahmaputra floods and like every year, this year too India is grappling with flood management and monitoring. But Bangladesh, which depends on India and China for water flow data, has been able to manage it better.

“Under a bilateral agreement, India provides observed data and forecast of identified locations to Bangladesh twice a day during the monsoon. We get data from Nepal, China and Bhutan about river flow upstream,” said VD Roy, Director, flood forecasting management division of the Central Water Commission. India provides data from two points on the Ganga, five on the Brahmaputra, and one each on the Teesta, Feni and Barak rivers, while China provides river flow information from three points on the Brahmaputra river in Tibet.

Now that the country can learn about potential hazards a few days in advance, preparations can be made earlier. In an interview to thethirdpole.net, Sazzad Hossain, Executive Engineer at the Bangladesh Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), had said that they made a forecast for the ongoing flood in the Surma-Kushiyara basin (in the Ganges Delta) prior to June 30. They had also forecast that the water level at many points of the Brahmaputra and Ganga might cross the danger level soon.

According to Bangladesh’s Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), they have made preparations to provide fresh Aman paddy seeds to farmers, in case crops are damaged by the floods.

But, in India, even the CWC site has been under criticism for a while now. “The CWC flood forecasting site provides forecasts only for a given point of time, which is removed as soon as the time of forecasting gets over. The forecasting in table format is made only for those sites where the water level has crossed the warning level,” said Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People,

The CWC flood forecasting website does not provide three-day, or five-day or ten-day forecasts. The flood forecasting section on the CWC site has two options ‘list based’ and ‘map based’ but the latter wasn’t working when National Herald checked the site. The same section was down during Uttarakhand floods in 2013.

“This is in contrast with the flood forecasting done by Bangladesh because the website provides water level data for each site in the country in one place and it is fast, more responsive and user friendly. Besides, on the CWC site, there is no option of keeping a record of previous forecasts. All the forecasting data available in the CWC website is available in English and not even in Hindi,” added Thakkar.

“Even the Nepal Hydrology and meteorology website gives you much more data than our CWC website. It has a map which gives you the situation at any given point of time,” said Thakkar.

“Flood management consists of many measures and management of flood can only offer protection to a reasonable degree. The forecast is formulated and issued by CWC and given, in this case to the offices in Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Jalpaiguri. This year we forecast with a lead time of three days,” said Roy.

“We provide the flood forecast at least 72 hours before and along with the rainfall forecast from the Meteorological department, we issue flood warnings to the district magistrate, National Disaster Management Authority and SDMA,” says Pradip Kumar, Member, CWC.

It doesn’t help that the National Disaster Management Authority, whose Chairman is the Prime Minister, has remained without a Vice Chairman since 2014.

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