Flood forecasting full of lapses, says CAG report

In a scathing report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed major problems in the execution of flood management programmes in India. The report titled Schemes for flood control and flood forecasting submitted in July 2017 highlights that flood management was not taken up in an integrated manner, i.e., covering the entire river or a tributary or a major segment of it and detailed project reports were not prepared in eight states. This delay led to technical designs becoming irrelevant at the time of actual funding of the project. The CAG has come up with this report based on a performance audit of flood management projects, and river management activities, including dams in 17 states and union territories from 2007-08 to 2015-16.

On the financial management of flood management programmes, the CAG observed that there were delays in release of first instalment of central assistance to state governments in 48 projects. The central government was unable to recover a loan of Rs 600 crore, with an interest of Rs 18 crore from state governments.

In view of this, the CAG report recommended that “funds should be released by the Ministry of Water Resources in a timely manner as per the programme guidelines. The Ministry should also ensure that state governments release funds to implementing agencies in a time bound manner. Proper utilisation of funds should be ensured through strict vigilance. In addition, funds should be released by the Ministry only after receiving receipts of audited statements of expenditure, utilization certificates and other requisite documents.”

In a major revelation, the CAG audit report said, “59 percent of the existing telemetry stations were non-functional, resulting in non-availability of real time data for the corresponding periods. The report says “flood forecasting data was used in formulation of flood forecast only after comparing the telemetry data with manually observed data; and in the case of mismatch between the two sets of data, manual data was adopted. Thus, Central Water Commission did not depend on telemetry data and relied on manual data even after investing in modernisation of telemetry station network for nearly 20 years. This defeated the purpose of establishment of telemetry equipment for meeting the requirement of real time data collection, its transmission and flood forecast formulation.”

The report recommends that that the Central Water Commission should devise a time bound action plan to forecast floods on real time data by making all telemetry stations operational, and installing the targeted number of telemetry stations.

To offset the problems in execution of flood management programmes the CAG recommended that the “Ministry of Water Resources should ensure that all projects approved by it are formulated in an integrated manner. The benefit-cost ratio for such projects should be correctly worked out as per the scheme guidelines.”

Not just that, the review and oversight mechanisms weren’t too effective, as per the CAG report. The CAG recommended that the “Ministry of Water Resources should conduct performance evaluation of all flood management programmes. Additionally, the Central Water Commission should conduct quality tests to ensure quality construction materials are used.”

The Central Water Commission should also ensure that the warning and danger levels are fixed at the appropriate level. This will help to ensure that forecasting for floods is undertaken in a correct and timely manner.

The CAG report also noted discrepancies in execution of projects, like irregular award of work, splitting of tenders, and payment at higher rates in border areas projects of Assam, North-Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Disaster management plans for only 7 percent of states have been prepared. Only two out of the seventeen states have carried out a pre and post monsoon inspection of dams. The report recommends that projects to facilitate long term solution to the flood problem of Assam, North-Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh from annual floods should be accelerated. “The Ministry should devise a time bound action plan for preparation and implementation of disaster management plans for all the large dams,” it noted.

The full report can be downloaded here

Image courtesy: Pradeep Nemane, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-4.0



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