Is UP heading for a flood crisis?

Lucknow, June 19 (IANS) With monsoon rains lashing Uttar Pradesh and river banks breached in several districts, the state may be headed for one of its worst flooding.

As many as 32 districts in the sprawling state are prone to flooding. Last year, 398 people lost their lives during monsoon. Some officials feel that no lesson seems to have been learnt.

Official sources reveal that despite fixing a deadline of June 15 for flood relief and prevention related work to be completed, after revising it thrice, even a small portion of the total outlay of Rs.725 crore earmarked for strengthening and rebuilding of river embankments in the state has not been spent.

A paltry sum of Rs.29.35 crore has been spent by the irrigation department so far, said an official, adding that breaches have taken place in many areas of western and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

"The situation after the first monsoon showers is grave. Only god will know what will happen when the monsoon is fully active," said one official who did not wish to be named.

He pointed out that Rs.183.57 crore was given to the irrigation department in advance, of which over Rs.150 crore lies unutilised, even as rains are causing havoc in many districts.

A survey by the irrigation department showed that repair work in most embankments including in Shrinagar and Ballia was either done hurriedly or not taken up at all.

This could have serious implications and may jeopardise thousands of lives.

"If the rains of the past few days is a prelude to the monsoon, I am afraid we are in for major trouble," another irrigation department official told IANS.

Every year, districts like Siddharthanagar, Shrawasti, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Lakhimpur Kheri, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Banda and Hamirpur are badly affected.

Major rivers such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Betwa, Ghaghara and Saryu wreck havoc in the state during the season.

Alarmed by the situation, Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani pulled up officials recently for the slow pace of work.

Instructions have also been issued to stock up medicines and ensure prior deployment of divers of the Provincial Armed Constabulary at vulnerable places.

The government Tuesday formed a Flood Management Group under the chairmanship of the chief secretary.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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