A threat of floods was looming over villages along the Sutlej in several districts – including Ropar, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana and others – on Monday, thanks to the swelling of local streams following two days of incessant rain across Punjab.
Before this monsoon fury, the release of water (in cusecs) in Sutlej River was in thousands, but in the past two days it has gone into lakhs. The river is still receiving a moderate amount of water from the Bhakra Dam, but approximately 3 lakh cusecs of water is flowing towards the river, posing a threat of floods to several villages located on the banks of the river in these districts. This significant amount of water is contributed by overflowing small local streams.
According to information obtained from the Ropar headworks, on Monday morning, the river was carrying a record 3.05 lakh cusecs of water which was recorded near Phillaur Railway Bridge in Jalandhar. Phillaur is 80 km downstream from Ropar headworks.
This surge in water level is a result of heavy rainfall since Saturday in the eastern Malwa region of the state where numerous seasonal streams flow into the Sutlej River. Ropar headworks is located approximately 74 km downstream from the Bhakra Dam, and all these streams contribute water to the Sutlej before reaching the headworks.
On Monday, around 19,000 cusecs of water was released from the Bhakra Dam, while the remaining water in the river came from six local rivers. This led to a substantial release of water downstream from the Ropar headworks. According to the drainage department, the Sirsa, Swan, Budhki, Siswan, Sagrao streams and a local nullah in Ropar district have added lakhs of cusecs of water into the Sutlej.
Currently, the Bhakra Dam still has a large capacity due to which the release of water from the dam is not extensive. On Monday, the dam water level was 1,614.89 feet, with an inflow of 1.34 lakh cusecs of water. In comparison, last year on July 10, the dam water level was 1,567.79 feet, with an inflow of 49,427 cusecs of water and an outflow of 26,865 cusecs of water. The dam has a maximum capacityof 1,680 feet, but with over two months’ of the rainy season remaining, the dam officials need to keep ample space to accommodate potential heavy rain, according to officials at the drainage department.
As per the guidelines, the Bhakra Dam needs to maintain its level at 1,650 feet by July 31 and around 1,680 feet by the end of the dam-filling season on September 20. Under normal conditions, 20,000 to 40,000 cusecs of water is released from the dam.
When dam water caused havoc in Punjab
According to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) sources, in 1988, at the end of the monsoon season, there was incessant rain from September 23 to September 26 in the catchment areas of the Bhakra Dam and Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh. In those four days, approximately 640 mm of rain was recorded, which is equivalent to Punjab’s annual rainfall at present. As a result of this heavy rain, Bhakra Dam released over 4 lakh cusecs of water in four days, from September 25 to September 28, reaching its maximum capacity. In the same year, the dam had released only 2.5 lakh cusecs of water throughout the entire month of August. Similarly, Pong Dam released 7 lakh cusecs of water into the Beas River during those four days, compared to just 1.5 lakh cusecs of water during the entire month of August 1988. These substantial releases of water had led to severe floods in Punjab and Haryana, with the overflowing rivers breaching all Dhussi bunds and causing a loss of approximately 400 lives in Punjab.