Government officials claim that dams contained floods in many areas in Uttarkhand during the recent cloudburst and extreme rain events, and that the devastation would have been much more severe if it were not for these structures. But this was hardly true in the case of Banbasa barrage in Champawat district, bordering Nepal. The sluice gates of the barrage were opened after water upstream of it swelled to unprecedented levels. The flooding caused by sudden release of such large quantity of water submerged villages in Nepal and in Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh where 41 people reportedly died.
Residents of Banwasa say the river Sarda or Kali and Mahakali, as it is known in Uttarakhand and Nepal, started swelling from June 19. Water behind the dam increased to 544,000 cusecs on June 20, which was more than the previous high of 522,000 cusecs in 1934, said Devendra Singh assistant engineer with National Hydroelectrioc Power Corporation (NHPC). The sluice gates were opened because there was a lot of debris which would have damaged the dam. Singh informed that a column of the dam in Bhujela village on no man’s land on the border had collapsed in the floods.
An estimated 500,000 people in Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Amroha and seven other districts in Uttar Pradesh were displaced or affected by the flood in the Sarada river. The areas affected in Nepal are Amargarhi, Chandani, Dodhara, Dharchula Bazaar, Dasarathganj and Mahendranagar.
The Kali originates in the upper reaches of Pithoragarh at 3,600 metre and meets the Goriganga river near Jualjibi in Pithoragarh and the two join Sarayu river at Pancheshwar in Uttarakhand and then the Ghaghra river, a tributary of the Ganga. The Kali flows through Nepal in a stretch of 223 kilometre.
Flood woes of people living in the Gangentic plains in Uttar Pradesh were further compounded by the release of 600,000 cusecs water from the Narora barrage on the Ganga in Buladshahr on June 21. It caused floods in downstream areas of Farukkabad, Allahabad and Varanasi.