In Maharashtra, the government loves calamities
A audit of the Maharashtra government's post-flood disaster relief
expenditure of the last two years has thrown up plenty of instances
of misuse of funds. The audit has also gone into the causes of floods
turning out to be disasters.
10 July 2007 -
The Comptroller and Auditors General's (CAG) audit report for Maharashtra tabled on
the floor of the state legislature on 18 April has scrutinised the post-flood
disaster relief expenditure in the year 2005 and 2006. Performance audit of the
expenditure on preparedness for flood and relief and rehabilitation to the flood
victims indicated that the level of preparedness of flood was not adequate;
relief assistance was extended without proper identification of affected
persons, financial management was deficient and monitoring of relief and
rehabilitation activities was unsatisfactory.
But this audit has also gone a step beyond just reporting the financial
irregularities, by training a lens on the causes of floods turning out to be
disasters. It shows how multi purpose projects where one purpose is flood
control will fail to insure people against flood disasters unless our
planners integrate thinking on drainage and upstream-downstream linkages.
No lessons were learnt from flood disaster of 2005, and the VHF system in Nanded and Sangli district and
three talukas of Kolhapur district - was found non functional during the subsequent flood disaster of 2006.
In urban residential areas, rain water doesn't run off easily s it does creating rivulets in the countryside.
Stormwater drains provide the way out to water that would otherwise clog the tarred
streets and concreted floors.
Pre-monsoon drainage cleaning exercises
need to be carried out to ensure that stormwater drains would discharge
drainwater upto their designed capacity.
Willful breaking of Narmada promises
Drains that dewater exchequer
Although the model action plan prepared by Union Government in 1981 had laid
down the importance of cleaning of drainage passing through residential areas
regularly well before the onset of monsoon, the CAG's audit scrutiny found that in
none of the ten Maharashtra districts - where audit review was carried out - instructions for
drainage cleaning were issued from the administrative departments to the
district authorities and local bodies.
Even after the flood disaster of July-August 2005, long-term
plans aimed at desiltation of rivers, improvement of drainage system were not
done in any districts except Mumbai. In the case of Mumbai, on recommendations
of the government's fact-finding Madhavrao Chitale committee, desiltation and
widening of Mumbai's Mithi river was carried out. But even here, CAG could
not ascertain the claim by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority,
of having excavated
12.96 lakh cubic metres of silt/debris/rock from the river.
There were no records available on measurement of stack at
dumping sites or on the
transportation of silt.
Furthermore, the state level Disaster Management Plan had assigned the
responsibility jointly to district authorities and Reservoir Engineers of Water
Resources Dept for keeping a vigil on the water levels in reservoirs and
monitoring outflows (downstream releases) effectively with enough warning to the
people downstream. But the audit found out that the water levels in all dams
Karnataka's Almatti dam were not monitored during the 2005 monsoon.
In 2000, the Supreme Court allowed the full reservoir level (FRL)
of the Almatti Dam to go upto 519.60 metres while expecting the issue of
submergence due to be adjudicated by a competent tribunal.
Clearance for raising storage level was accordingly given by the Central
Water Commission and Planning Commission subject to the condition that
the Government of Karnataka regulate the water storage level by discharging
sufficient water, that
there would not be any submergence in the territory
But in monsoon-2005, the Karnataka government did not care to pre-deplete the
reservoir for avoiding submergence in Maharashtra till 31 July 2005. Water
storage due to heavy rainfall had reached the FRL of 519.60 metres on
26 July 2005 itself. Yet, Maharashtra authorities wrote the first letter to their
Karnataka counterparts for releasing water from Almatti Dam only on 3 August 2005, after
Sangli got flooded fully.
From 31 July 2005, Karnataka had started releasing water and the reservoir
level went down to 517.20 metres on 4 August 2005. During this time, Sangli
under prolonged submergence for seven to eight days, mainly due
to the backwater effect of the Almatti dam. This had affected many families
to whom the Maharashtra government had granted relief assistance of
58.78 crores. This could have been avoided, had the conditions of clearance
for the Almatti dam been followed by keeping close vigil on water levels.
(Additional submergence in the upstream areas over and above the reservoir
area at FRL is called the backwater effect.)
Separate from the CAG audit of Maharashtra, there are also questions on whether backwater
submergence effect is estimated and shown along with the displacement from dam projects.
In the case of Narmada Sagar Dam, the backwater effect and resultant submergence was only estimated
after the Jabalpur High Court issued directives for the same.
Similar concerns have existed in the case of Sardar Sarovar Project. The Narmada Valley
Development Authority in Madhya Pradesh did not know the submergence due to backwater
effects, according to a report in the publication Dams, Rivers and People.
Willful breaking of Narmada promises
Drains that dewater exchequer
According to recent reports in Afternoon Maharashtra
, state legislators led
by Legislative Council chairman, Shivajirao Deshmukh met on 11 June
to discuss action to the prevent Almatti debacle this year, by talking
to Karnataka. It remains to be seen whether that will actually happen.
Continuing with the audit report, the improprieties in Maharashtra are
endless. Very High
Frequency sets (VHF sets) for use in warning systems were not in
place in Mumbai, Parbhani and Raigad districts and were found out of order in
places where they were available during the flood of 2005. It was observed that
53 out of 69 VHF sets installed in four districts 1998-'99, were not functioning
since 2003-'04 for want of maintenance and repairs. No lessons were learnt from
flood disaster of 2005, and the VHF system in Nanded and Sangli district and
three talukas of Kolhapr district - was found non functional during the
subsequent flood disaster of 2006.
While scrutinising the relief expenditure, the CAG examined cases involving Rs.
500 crore - out of total Rs.780 crores spent on relief in the year 2005 and
found that nearly 43 percent of the amount was spent without proper documents on
records. Relief expenditure next year has noticed a better performance with just
19 percent of amount being wrongfully spent.
The final irony is that the audit also has shown an instance on how everyone
seems to love a
good calamity. In Kadegaon taluka of Sangli district, farmers
had received Rs.5.80 crores as compensation for crop loss due to heavy rains.
According to norms decided by the meteorological department, a rain of above 125
mm in a single day is classified as a heavy rain, whereas Kadegaon town had
reported only 75 mm rainfall and neighbouring villages only 65 mm.