Climate Change

Karnataka faces 2019-like situation with full dams and more rains in store

Mismanagement over the release of water from various dams had worsened the flood situation in Karnataka and Maharashtra last year

By Shagun
Published: Monday 27 July 2020

The administration in Karnataka will have to exercise extreme caution this week and the next, as dams in the state’s Krishna and Cauvery basins are close to their full reservoir levels and rainfall is forecast during this period.

Mismanagement over the release of water from various dams had worsened the flood situation in Karnataka and Maharashtra in 2019. 

Data of six major dams by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) showed that they are almost full. 

Almatti dam, located close to the Maharashtra border and key to managing the flood situation in both states, has water levels at 517.25 metres, against the full reservoir level (FRL) of 519.63 metres. It gets water from the Koyna dam in Satara district and some other small and medium dams in Maharashtra. 

The situation in Sangli and Satata districts, where large areas were flooded last year and which have three big dams in the upper Krishna basin, is under control for now. The dams were around 40-55 per cent of their capacity according to the data available with Maharashtra Water Resources Department.  

The current water level in Narayanpura reservoir in Karnataka is 491.70 metres, just 0.55 metres below the FRL of 492.25 metres. This reservoir gets inflow from the Almatti dam when the water level in Almatti reaches the FRL. But unless the outflow from the Narayanpura dam is increased, it will have no cushion to receive any extra water in case of a high or erratic rainfall event. 

Similarly, Belagavi district’s Ghataprabha reservoir, which had a major role in worsening the flood situation last year, as operators waited for the dam to be almost full, currently has water levels at 651.99 metres, against the FRL of 662.94 metres. 

The Malaprabha dam, also in Belagavi district, which was one of the worst-hit last year, has storage up to 628.14 metres, against the FRL of 633.83 metres. 

The release of water from these dams is much lower than the inflow these are getting. For instance, since June 1, when the monsoon started, till date, the Ghataprabha dam has received a total of 21 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) water, while the outflow has been four TMC. The total inflow in the Almatti dam was 120 TMC, while the release was 62 TMC. 

On July 27, 2020, while Ghataprabha and Malaprabha got 3,107 and 2,055 cusecs of water respectively, the release from these reservoirs was 120 and 164 cusecs. The Almatti dam got 17,070 cusecs of water while the release from the dam was 6,746 cusecs. 

This could be worrisome as there is a forecast of rainfall in the coming weeks according to the dam authorities. 

Storage in Almatti, Ghataprabha and Malaprabha, compared to last year in the corresponding period, was 71 per cent, 52 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. 

However, officials said that they were monitoring the situation and it was under control. 

“We are observing the forecast and are in touch with the administration manning the dams in the Krishna basin in Maharashtra. We can’t release water abruptly because what if rains don’t come, we won’t be left with water,” BS Patil, executive engineer, Almatti dam zone, Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigam Ltd, a Karnataka government undertaking, said. 

Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar dams, which cater to both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, on the Krishna basin, are also receiving heavy inflows. 

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