Rising Yamuna Water Levels Cause Concern Amid Heavy Rains in Delhi
Rising Yamuna Water Levels Cause Concern Amid Heavy Rains in Delhi

The Yamuna River in Delhi has once again surpassed the danger mark as heavy rains continue to lash the national capital and its surrounding areas. The water level surged past the threshold on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, morning, less than 12 hours after receding, posing potential risks to the affected regions.

At 8 am, the Central Water Commission's data indicated that the water level reached 205.48 meters. Experts predict that it may further rise to 205.72 meters by 6 pm.

The flow rate at the Hathnikund barrage witnessed a slight increase on Tuesday afternoon, fluctuating between 50,000 and 60,000 cusecs. However, it dropped to approximately 39,000 cusecs by 7 am on Wednesday. It is worth noting that one cusec equals 28.32 liters per second.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), heavy to very heavy rainfall is anticipated in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh until July 22, with moderate showers expected in Delhi on Wednesday, July 19. On Tuesday evening, the water level had subsided below the danger mark of 205.33 meters at 8 pm. Nonetheless, it rose again to 205.22 meters at 5 am on Wednesday. 

The rising water level poses challenges to the rehabilitation of affected families residing in low-lying areas of the capital. They might have to prolong their stay in relief camps until the situation improves.

Furthermore, the water supply may be affected once again. Recently, the water supply had just returned to normal on Tuesday after facing disruption for four to five days due to the flooding of a pump house at Wazirabad.

The pump house plays a crucial role in providing raw water to the Wazirabad, Chandrawal, and Okhla water treatment plants, which collectively cater to around 25 percent of the city's water demand. The Okhla water treatment plant recommenced operations on Friday, followed by Chandrawal on Sunday and Wazirabad on Tuesday.

Addressing the water shortage, a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) official mentioned, "Due to the flooding of some tube wells in the river floodplains at Palla, there is only a shortage of 10-12 million gallons of water per day (MGD)." The DJB currently extracts approximately 30 MGD from tube wells installed in the Palla floodplains.

After reaching a record high of 208.66 meters on Thursday, the river had gradually begun receding. However, it experienced a marginal increase on Monday before declining again.Parts of the city have been grappling with waterlogging and flooding for over a week. The intense downpour on July 8 and 9 resulted in significant waterlogging, with the city receiving 125 percent of its monthly rainfall quota in just two days.

Subsequently, heavy rainfall in the upper catchment areas, including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Haryana, led to the Yamuna River swelling to unprecedented levels. On Thursday, the water level soared to 208.66 meters, surpassing the previous record of 207.49 meters set in September 1978. This caused breaches in embankments and a deeper incursion into the city, unlike anything witnessed in the past four decades.

The situation took a turn for the worse on July 14 when the Yamuna overflowed, resulting in foul-smelling water from drains inundating prominent locations such as the Supreme Court, Raj Ghat, and the bustling intersection at ITO.

Prior to this, the river's water had already reached the rear ramparts of the Red Fort and flooded one of the city's major bus terminals at Kashmere Gate. The Ring Road, partially constructed over floodplains, remained closed near Kashmere Gate for three consecutive days last week.

The consequences of the floods have been devastating, with over 27,000 people evacuated from their homes. The losses incurred in terms of property, businesses, and livelihoods have amounted to crores. Experts attribute the unprecedented flooding in Delhi to encroachments on floodplains, intense rainfall occurring within shorter durations, and the accumulation of silt, which has raised the riverbed.

A study conducted by the Irrigation and Flood Control Department on "Urban Flooding and its Management" highlights east Delhi as a floodplain region highly vulnerable to floods.Despite this vulnerability, encroachments and developmental activities have rapidly encroached upon the ecologically sensitive region over the years. 

Correspondence between the Delhi Forest Department and the Delhi Development Authority, the primary land-owning agency in the city, reveals that approximately 2,480 hectares of land in the Yamuna floodplains have been encroached upon or developed since 2009.

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