CWC Flood Forecast for Assam: Issues Started Arriving before Floods

The season of flood havoc has just started in Assam. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority in its daily report published on 28th June 2013, stated that in the last 24 hours 55 villages in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Tinsukia district have been affected by flood. All three of these districts are located in upper Assam and three of them shares borders with Arunachal Pradesh. Dhemaji till now is the worst affected among these three. In this district, 13 villages in Dhemaji revenue circle, 28 villages in Sissiborgaon revenue circle and 7 villages in Gogamukh revenue circle has been affected. In Lakhimpur 1 village in Subansiri revenue circle and 6 villages of Doomdooma revenue circle in Tinisukia district has been affected by floods. The report also said that the cumulative number of villages affected till 28th was 70 in four districts which include Golaghat, Kamrup, Jorhat and Karimganj.

Even though Dhemaji has faced severe floods, there is no forecasting about these floods in the Central Water Commission’s (CWC hereafter) flood forecasting website http://www.india-water.com/ffs/index.htm. SANDRP had prepared a map of CWC’s flood forecasting sites in Assam. If we look at this map, we find that there is no flood forecasting site in Dhemaji district even though that is one of the worst flood affected districts in the state. This is a serious lacuna on the part of CWC.

Map of Flood Forecasting Sites in Assam prepared by SANDRP

Map of Flood Forecasting Sites in Assam prepared by SANDRP

Dhemaji has a long drawn history of devastating floods. The district website lists 20 rivers in Dhemaji Embankment & Drainage division along with other smaller tributaries. The 20 relatively bigger rivers of the district include Brahmaputra, Silley, Sibia, Leko, Jonai Korong, Dikhari, Narod, Somkhong, Tongani,  Burisuti,  Simen, Dimow,  Gainadi, Moridhal, Jiadhal/Kumotia, Korha/Sila,  Charikaria, Nonoi, Sampara Suti and Subansiri.

Several rivers and areas in Dhemaji district are known for catastrophic floods. One such river is Jiadhal River in Gogamukh revenue circle. Jiadhal emerges in the Lower Himalayan ranges of West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh and flows through Dhemaji district to meet the Subansiri River. This river has a catchment area of 1205.41sq km and majority of its catchment lies in the plains of Assam ( 835sq km) where it creates devastation every year. Samrajan is the area which majorly faces the brunt of floods of Jiadhal. This river is known for frequent changing of its course which had brought disasters to this area. The ongoing floods in the Gogamukh revenue circle are mainly created by Jidhal, Kumatiya and Na-Nodi. Jiadhal is one of the rivers where CWC must put up a flood forecasting site.

The CWC should also consider putting up a flood forecasting site in the Brahmaputra in Jonai subdivision of Dhemaji district. This subdivision is in the immediate downstream of the confluence point of the three rivers Dihang, Dibang and Lohit, creating a larger Brahmaputra. In a report published in a regional newspaper on 28th June 2013, it was stated that in the Jonai subdivision had faced severe inundation done by the Brahmputra and its tributaries. But CWC website has no information about this as the flood forecasting is available on for Dibrugarh.

Besides, in Lakhimpur district CWC has only one flood forecasting which is in the SubansiriRiver. But Ranganadi is another major river which inundates a substantial area of the district every year. In fact there was a catastrophic flood on 28th July 2008 in the river due to the release of water from the Ranganadi hydroelectric project located in the upper reaches of the river. In such a situation it is very important that the river should come under the flood forecasting map of CWC.

Questions over Accuracy of the Existing Flood Forecasting 

The existing flood forecasting done by CWC is also not very accurate. We can take the case of Jiabharali River here. Even though the CWC had been forecasting ‘falling’ in water levels, in reality it is crossing the previous day levels.

Date Actual Level (meter) Forecast (meter) Trend indicated Flood Category
25-06-13 76.08 76.20 Falling Low Flood
26-06-13 76.33 76.55 Rising Low Flood
27-06-13 77.20 77.15 Falling Moderate Flood
28-06-13 77.55 77.50 Falling Moderate Flood
29-06-13 77.75 77.60 Falling Moderate Flood

On June 11 2013, CWC had done another major blunder when its flood forecast site reported that water level of BrahmaputraRiver at Neamatighat site in Jorhat district had reached 94.21 meter at 0900 hrs on that day, which was 6.84 m above the highest flood level of the site at 87.37 m. The flood forecast site also forecasted that the level will be 94.15 m at 0900 am on June 12, 2013. Both the recording and forecast were clearly wrong, rather way off the mark. The site or the area in question or upstream and downstream levels did not match with what the CWC site had mentioned. The water level at the site mentioned on CWC site the previous and following day also did not match this observation and forecast. Needless to add that there was no floods in Brahmaputra in spite of such forecast by India’s highest technical body on water! SANDRP had already written to CWC regarding this on June 12, 2013, but CWC has not replied to our mail.

Assam faces one of the severest brunt of floods every year in the country and the flood season in the state has just set in. The performance of CWC flood forecasting during the recent Uttarakhand floods was also very poor (please see https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/central-water-commissions-flood-forecasting-pathetic-performance-in-uttarkhand-disaster/). In such a situation, it is expected that CWC’s flood forecasting for the floods this season will be done more cautiously and actively and right information will be disseminated in timely manner so that the public expenses on CWC are justifiable. CWC needs to be responsive to such messages and also accountable for the wrong forecasts. The focus of CWC should be on identifying and making correct forecasts for actual flood hit areas.

Parag Jyoti Saikia

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (www.sandrp.in)

Email: meandering1800@gmail.com

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