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'Avoidable' Gujarat floods: Flood manual puts onus on Narmada dam operators, not NCA

By Our Representative

The Gujarat government’s Flood Manual (FM) does not appear to think that the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the powerful inter-state body with Central water resources secretary as its chairperson, has any role to play in the flood management and gate operation on a day-to-day basis of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) on Narmada river in Gujarat. 
Extensively citing from the state FM, well-known environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has asserted that that the “in the entire 437 page FM-2020 or 540 page FM-2018, there is handful of mention of NCA, but only in the context of some guidelines.”
Contesting the claim by a top Gujarat government insider (see Counterview) that it is NCA’s, and not SSD operators’, or the Gujarat government mammoth agency, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd’s (SSNNL’s), responsibility, to ensure flood control in the downstream of SSD, in Bharuch district of Gujarat, by properly operating the dam’s gates, Thakkar, said, “FM makes it clear that the entire responsibility and decision making about the SSD flood management and gate operation is decided at the SSNNL level.”
He underlined, FM "says categorically: ‘Focal officer – SE (Headworks, Kevadia Colony) fully responsible for gate operation and flood management irrespective of any supporting order done.’ (Para 2.3.1.3/ 2.11.6) There are several such instances that make it clear that in gate operation and flood management, SSNNL alone is responsible, even in its own eyes.”
According to Thakkar, this shows that the “diversionary balloon” that an anonymous person described as ‘a top Gujarat government insider’ was trying float through the Counterview article dated September 11 was “trying to mislead the people about the SSNNL’s responsibility for the SSD operation that led to the avoidable Bharuch flood disaster during Aug 29-Sept 2, 2020.”
Meanwhile, a senior IAS bureaucrat, who has worked in top positions of SSNNL, has told Counterview that while it is true it is the top inter-state body NCA alone is responsible for SSD operations, this is at best be a theoretical possibility.
Insisted this bureaucrat, “What is NCA? It consists of the four lateral states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan – and the Union water resources secretary as its chairperson. Surely, Rajasthan and Maharashtra wouldn’t be interested in how SSD operations.
“So, for all practical purposes, whatever Gujarat, MP and the Union government prevails. Even here, Gujarat would be having the full say”, he added.

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