RTI Reveals Kolhapur Floods Caused by Tampering With Technically Established Flood Lines To Please Builders
The flood havoc in Kolhapur and Sangli districts has killed 54 people and thousands of cattle, besides causing colossal loss of property, farmlands and crops.
 
Was it the ferocity of nature that caused such a great calamity or did human interference aggravate the situation? Right to Information (RTI) documents reveal that tampering of the red and blue line demarcation of the Panchganga River in the Kolhapur Development Plan, due to the pressure of the builder lobby through the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI0), to which the chief minister’s office responded affirmatively, resulted in turning 1,250 acres of flood-line area, prohibited for any construction, into a concrete maze.
 
The story goes like this. In a petition related to building encroachments on the banks of the Mula-Mutha rivers of Pune, filed by RTI activist, Sarang Yadwadkar, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued directives in 2015 that the water conservation department must prepare a report on the flood lines of flood prone villages and cities. It also ordered that while the study is undertaken, the municipal corporations, municipal councils and gram panchayats should not give approval to any construction in at least 50 meter radius from the flood lines.
 
Accordingly, the water conservation department completed the work of fixing flood lines of Panchaganga and five other rivers using the scientific unit hydrology method in 2018 and sent it to IIT, Mumbai for verification. The IIT, Mumbai certified on 25 July 2018 that the work had been done satisfactorily. The blue and red flood lines were marked on the basis of the floods in 25 years ago wherein the discharge was 2,14,395 cusecs and the worst flood in 100 years wherein the discharge was 3,14,088 cusecs. 
 
This new demarcation meant that hundreds of existing structures and hundreds of residential and commercial building proposals were in jeopardy, sending shock waves amongst the members of the building fraternity. This is because a good 1,250 acres of land in this red flood-line zone became a no-development zone. 
 
As per the RTI documents procured from the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, the CREDAI, Kolhapur wrote a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on 9 October 2018 casting doubts about the water conservation department’s red flood line report of river Panchganga, whetted by IIT, Bombay on new flood-lines. 
 
 
The letter claimed that the new flood-lines may cause confusion and fear-mongering as most of the areas under the new flood-lines fall under the residential zone as a large number of structures have been constructed on it. They also claimed that there is public unrest over drawing the new flood-lines. Hence, the letter urged that the old flood lines which were existing (which had no scientific base but were marked haphazardly) in the development plan be maintained. 
 
 
States RTI activist Vijay Kumbar who is working closely with Mr Yadwadkar on this issue: “RTI reveals that the letter of the builders was received by the office of chief minister on 31 October 2018 and its cognizance was taken immediately. Promptly, on 2 November 2018, the chief minister issued directives to follow the suggestions given by the chairman, CREDAI, Kolhapur, which meant that approvals for constructions would be given on the basis of the flood levels marked in the development plan of 2005 instead of the flood lines drawn scientifically by the water conservation department in 2018.’’
 
 
States Mr Yadwadkar, “In the meanwhile, the water conservation department has written to the municipal commissioner of Kolhapur that the flood levels of 1984, 1989 and 2005 demarcated in the development plan in blue, red and green colours are merely flood levels based on surveys and inquiries and not on any technical and scientific study. In spite of this, they have been shown in the development plan.’’
 
After the chief minister gave his remark, the secretary, water conservation department wrote an urgent letter to the chief engineer of the irrigation department asking the latter to fix flood lines as per the suggestion made by the chief minister.
 
The water resources department submitted a technical note on 5 March 2019 to the Kolhapur municipal corporation. It stated that the flood level has risen above the present blue line (shown in the Kolhapur development plan, which the builders want to maintain) on 10 occasions and above the present red line on six occasions over the past 30 years. It warned that the Kolhapur municipal corporation and local administration would have to be on the alert during monsoons if the old flood lines are maintained as the legal ones. 
 
While the builders insisted in the letter to the CM that 1250 acres of land will be affected and thereby the development of Kolhapur would be hindered, the water resources department washed its hands off. It has been stated that now the maintaining of the old blue line as per the directives issued by the chief minister was a policy decision. At the same time, it issued a warning about the threat that it would be pose to the residents of Kolhapur in terms of more dangerous floods, in the near future.
 
 
The story does not end there. New flood lines of Panchaganga and five other rivers were drawn using the flood frequency analysis method and the proposal was sent again to IIT, Mumbai for verification. States Yadwadkar, “While the previous report showed blue and red flood lines as the estimated discharge of the largest flood in 25 years at 2,14,395 cusecs and one of the largest floods in 100 years at 3,14,088 cusecs, the new proposal assumed the discharge levels at 97,186 cusecs for the largest flood in 25 years and that at 1,22,400 cusecs for the largest flood in 100 years. It is another matter that these water levels are still higher than the levels indicated by the chief minister.
 
Rues Mr  Kumbhar, “In short, the chief minister gave priority to the interests of builders over the interests of the citizens while fixing flood lines of Kolhapur and the government machinery ignored the scientific and technical aspects. The million-dollar question is: Why should the politicians intervene in matters which are totally technical and scientific and which are related to the safety of people? Who is responsible for toying with the flood lines?’’
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.
 
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    COMMENTS

    Prasanna

    4 months ago

    Terrible state of affairs. This reveals that BJP and its CM are not immune to lobbying for real estate lobbies. Hence all of BJP's campaigning during elections is nothing but lip service. It is no different that any other political party. Its CM is also a political animal. Thus RTI and effective NGOs and upright Judiciary and Media which will print this state of affairs needs to be promoted.

    SHRIKANT SUNDARAM

    4 months ago

    all of us are making grand comments here/same will be silent when things fall on their hands/ tell me how many of you are willing to sacrifice your family time and take risk on yourself/CM is only there as a stooge who has no idea what he wants to do/propped up by forces which are 'elected' by 60% voters 50% of who will be those who were paid to vote to someone.
    so effectively you have less than 30% who vote wanting some change and these % live and comment via armchairs on social media/
    those who break rules are sitting offline and enjoying the money they make the behest of people like those educated pity %

    REPLY

    gcmbinty

    In Reply to SHRIKANT SUNDARAM 4 months ago

    An irrelevant comment. The issue is, why political interest of favouring a builder over weighed than the technical advice for flood management? The purpose of the public making comments is to give feedback which the government should pay heed to over and above the political interest.

    Murali Ratnam

    In Reply to gcmbinty 4 months ago

    Well said

    Murali Ratnam

    In Reply to Murali Ratnam 4 months ago

    We are indeed fence sitters & those in power voted to power by aam admi have no say in any matter .There is no accountability or value for human life
    Leave honesty & integrity
    The absolute power of ruling play mudslinging & blame game

    Kushal Patel

    4 months ago

    If anyone is responsible then it's CM office who intervened and ignored the advice of the people working on it for gaining there pockets.

    VASANT KULKARNI

    4 months ago

    CBI CUSTODY? TO WHOM?

    Murali Ratnam

    4 months ago

    मेरा भारत महान और क्या हो सकता है

    gcmbinty

    4 months ago

    This is the cost of bad politics, bad governance, pleasing the vote banks with the builders lobby who would be paying the political leadership of the day being paid by the uninformed consumers.

    REPLY

    Parvata Gouda

    In Reply to gcmbinty 3 months ago

    PG

    Freedom Still Eludes the Common Citizen on this 73rd Independence Day of India
    Early this year, a group of eminent citizens under the chairmanship of eminent legal luminary, Justice AP Shah, brought out a document titled “Reclaiming the Republic” which analyses and puts forth issues that are of deep concern to people and asks to protect and strengthen the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity. The issues addressed are relevant and every citizen can identify with them. Hence, capturing the essence of their work, on the eve of the Independence Day tomorrow is important.
     
    For chalking out the components required for effective public accountability and proactive public participation, the following issues have been identified:
     
    • A strong right to information (RTI) regime which citizens able to access relevant information;

     

     

    • Prevention of Corruption Act, which comprehensively defines corruption and provides an independent mechanism for investigation and prosecution in cases of corruption;

     

    • Independent and empowered anticorruption ombudsman - Lokpal and Lokayuktas; 

     

    • An effective whistleblower protection law;

     

    • A statutory mechanism which guarantees people the right to time-bound redress of grievances in a decentralised manner; 

     

    • A legal framework for pre-legislative consultation that gives citizens the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the process of making laws and policies that affect them;

     

    • A statutory framework to empower citizens to monitor and undertake social audits of government programmes. While, in some cases, enactment of appropriate laws is required, in others where relevant laws already exist, specific measures to ensure proper implementation are needed.
     
    The range of reforms that have been proposed include:
     
    • Doing away with several antiquated and draconian laws which have been widely misused to curtail personal liberties and intimidate political activists;
     
    • Reforms to repair the damage done to anti-corruption institutions and putting in place a functional law and institutions to deal with public grievances;
     
    • Judicial reforms aimed at making the judiciary more independent, accessible, efficient and accountable. Because: The judiciary today is not accessible to a majority of the people who cannot afford lawyers. It is virtually dysfunctional as cases take decades to be decided. There are serious concerns about the quality of judgements and corruption in the judiciary. It, therefore, needs comprehensive reforms. To begin with, informal courts envisaged as Gram Nyayalayas are needed, which can function without lawyers and where normal disputes of common people can be decided quickly. The procedures of the courts need to be simplified and made much less formal. The number of judges needs to be increased and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods, particularly conciliation, need to be used in a more professional manner.
     
    • Reforming the implementation of law through a set of police reforms in accordance with the Supreme Court’s judgement;
     
    • Electoral reforms aimed at reducing the influence of money power in elections and making the electoral system more democratic. Because: A system of free and fair elections, in a minimum sense of the term, has been a noteworthy achievement of Indian democracy. Yet, the mechanism of political representation does not encourage or provide meaningful and substantive choices to the citizens. Asymmetry of information and money ensures that there is no level playing field for political competition. Wide ranging electoral reforms, along with reform of political institutions, are needed.
     
    • Media reforms aimed at making the media freer, more diverse and accountable through an independent regulator; Because: Certain draconian legislations such as sedition, blasphemy and censorship laws are often invoked by State agencies in a bid to curb media freedom and free speech. Further, in the past two to three years, there has been an increasing use of strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) by corporates to intimidate and silence media initiatives, especially investigative journalism, by burdening them with the cost of protracted legal battles and threat of huge payouts.
     
    There is no institutional framework for accountability of the media and licensing powers vest exclusively with the government, thereby allowing it to wield influence over the media. The public broadcaster is also under the control of the government, thereby thwarting any meaningful, independent reportage.
     
    • Health reforms to ensure that the public health delivery system is put in place across the country and healthcare is affordable and accessible to all;
     
    • Educational reforms to ensure properly staffed and funded government schools and better endowed, oriented and regulated higher educational institutions;
     
    • Agricultural reforms to ensure that farmers receive remunerative prices for their produce, are freed from indebtedness and that we move towards more healthy and sustainable farm practices;
     
    • Environmental reforms to ensure that environmental costs and benefits of every developmental project is examined by proper, independent regulatory bodies, especially if it involves the destruction of forests, coasts and other eco sensitive zones. Because: Articles 48A and 51A of the Indian Constitution require the State and the citizens, respectively to protect the environment. The States and Union governments have neither shown the requisite political will nor have they empowered citizens and communities to fulfil their Constitutional duty to protect the environment.
     
    • Policies and programmes to ensure health, education, employment and social security to especially disadvantaged groups such as the disabled, SC/STs, women, Muslims, etc. Because: The implementation of criminal law by a police controlled by the executive has led to widespread misuse by the government in power. This was sought to be remedied by the Supreme Court in the police reforms judgement, which unfortunately remain unimplemented. The Parliament and States must pass Police Acts in accordance with that judgement and also provide for a 33% reservation for women in the police force.
     
    • Extension and expansion of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) to guarantee to every adult at least 150 days of work a year at minimum wages; and
     
    • Universal basic services for all citizens, including universal pension for the aged and special provisions for specially disadvantaged groups.
     
    • Enactment of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and establishing independent commissions for looking into systemic injustice meted out to vulnerable groups.
     
    States RTI Activist Anjali Bharadwaj, a member of this eminent citizen panel, "These proposed policies and programmes are neither optional, nor unaffordable for an economy of our size. We have examined the financial costs involved in providing for such welfare measures and are of the opinion that additional costs involved can be mobilised with the help of a small turnover tax, wealth tax and inheritance tax, besides doing away with many irrational corporate subsidies. A substantial part of this additional spending is likely to come back to the government as indirect tax revenue.’’
     
    List of members of `Reclaiming the Republic’ initiative include Justice AP Shah (chairperson) Prashant Bhushan (convenor), Anjali Bhardwaj (convenor), Aakar Patel, Aruna Roy, Bezwada Wilson, Deepak Nayyar, EAS Sarma, Gopal Guru, Gopal Gandhi, Harsh Mander, Jayati Ghosh, Kavitha Kuruganti, Krishna Kumar, Nikhil Dey, Paul Divakar, Prabhat Patnaik, P Sainath, Ravi Chopra, SP Shukla, Srinath Reddy, Sujatha Rao, Sakthi Selvaraj, Syeda Hameed, Vipul Mudgal, Wajahat Habibullah and Yogendra Yadav.
     
    The entire booklet can be accessed here:
     
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    COMMENTS

    raj lee

    4 months ago

    If this happens then 10 or 20 trillion possible. Now india is 200% currupt and they are busy with hindi language, religion, lowering intrest rates. Helping corporates to play with indians poor.

    shadi katyal

    4 months ago

    It is nice to read such report and recommendations but to whom is it addressed, Not to present Govt which quietly and with sleigh of hand had destroyed the word Secular and now Democracy. RTI has been amended and though SC order to be open to public,no such facility is available.
    The word corruption is equaled with money and bribery but look around and tell us where is any accountability or even transparency.
    Voters are not empowered as they are led like sheep to slaughter house to vote for even criminals with record or cases pending for murder,kidnap,rape etc as such goons are given the tickets by the party.Look at number of such MP increase in this election. Judiciary was weak but never sold its conscious to ruling party. Almost all the cases are either withdrawn or accused let free.
    I doubt if Constitution,if it is still there in next few years, will empower voters to elect their own representatives as we don't have democracy but partycracy and which party will give up such power
    The Election Commission is another useless agency and sold out to the ruling party as we saw in this election. Why has EC allowed people with criminal records and cases pending to run for election.
    Democracy as we know now in India is a joke .

    As UT, J&K Now Falls under Central RTI Act 2005, but Problems Remain 
    The (Central) RTI Act, 2005 applies to the Union Government of India and all of its states and Union Territories. The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), having been accorded special status under Article 370, had the option of voting through its own Legislative Assembly to adopt the Act or simply to ignore it altogether. J&K chose to finally implement the RTI Act 2009, which is close on the lines of the Central RTI Act 2009, after immense citizen campaign. Until then, the J&K state RTI Act 2004 and J&K RTI (Amendment) Act, 2008, were in use. Now that both Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are legally Union Territories (UTs), they would have to come under the Central RTI Act 2005.
     
    To reorganise the state of J&K and Ladakh, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the J&K Reorganisation Bill 2019 last week. Its Section 95 states that all Central laws in Table -1 of the Fifth Schedule to this Act, on and from the appointed day, shall apply to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and also the Union Territory of Ladakh. The Schedule lists 106 Central laws and the RTI Act is one of them.
     
    So, what would be the repercussions?  A Union Territory has no right to appoint information commissioners, so the J&K state information commission will be automatically abolished.  RTI applicants of J&K will soon have to file their second appeals to one of the Central information commissioners in Delhi. Hence, there could be longer pendencies of second appeals. The J&K state RTI Act 2009 had specific deadlines for information commissioners to dispose of second appeals, which is absent from the Centre’s RTI Act 2005.
     
    States Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar of RTI and programme coordinator of The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), “Now people in J&K and Ladakh will have to wait for a long time for their appeals to be decided as the Central law does not fix a time limit for the CIC. Under the state law, the state information commission was required to decide appeals within 60-120 days. The caseload at CIC will also increase manifold, thanks to these changes. Unless concrete steps are taken to address these challenges, the waiting period for appeals and complaints in the CIC may increase beyond the minimum of one year that is currently being experienced by appellants and complainants.’’
     
    Mr Nayak further states, “Further, the Central Act, unlike the state Act does not contain any provision for the first appellate authority to make a reference against an errant PIO to the information commission to impose a penalty. This is another negative impact of the changes being contemplated. Departmental control over PIOs will be reduced further. In fact, the Central RTI Act must include such a positive provision.’’
     
    On the other side, so far, only the residents of Jammu & Kashmir could file RTI applications; now any citizen from any part of the country can file an RTI application to any public authority of Jammu & Kashmir Union Territories.
     
    In the past three years, the J&K state information commission has not filed its annual report; hence there is no clarity on the number of pending second appeals. It is estimated at 400 pendencies, but what will happen to these in terms of time for their disposals and which Central information commissioner would be looking into them?
     
    Since RTI activists in J&K are uncontactable, it was not possible to get their views.
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
     
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    COMMENTS

    P M Ravindran

    4 months ago

    Glad to know that the JK RTI Act had these two good provisions-for 1st appellate authorities to make reference to the information commissioners to penalise the defaulting PIOs and also specifying time limits for information commissioners to dispose of the cases. The first appellate authorities are practically redundant as far as the central act is concerned. Because they do not have powers to punish the PIOs they are normally seen taking the short cut by supporting the PIOs. And the information commissioners are also indifferent to recommend administrative action against defaulting first appellate authorities. Anyhow the whole process of handling complaints and appeals by the information commissions have to be revised to make then transparent, fair and effective. For details please go through my blog at https://www.scribd.com/document/344242826/Rti-rules-2017-Redrafted-by-Rti-Activist

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