Hirakud issue:Bhandare pitches for expert panel

Bhubaneswar: Governor M C Bhandare today said that an independent expert panel should study whether the recent flood in Mahanadi river was an accident or a mistake. "I do not say who is at fault. It may be an accident or a mistake. We must see it through an independent body in a transparent manner so that one can go to root cause of the floods," Bhandare told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting at the Raj Bhavan here.

Stating that one learnt from experience, Bhandre said knowing the cause of the floods would help in taking precautions in the future. "As the floods have caused massive damage to human lives and properties, its cause needs to ascertained," he said.

Earlier, Bhandare had suggested to the state government to set up an expert panel comprising members of the Central Water Commission (CWC) to verify the allegation of water mismanagement at Hirakud reservoir which led to a devastating flood downstream which claimed 41 lives.

Sources said that Bhandare during a meeting with Chief Secretary B K Patnaik on Thursday expressed displeasure and wanted to know why the government was reluctant in accepting his suggestion for setting up an expert panel to study the causes behind the flood in the Mahanadi which affected 19 districts. Bhandare also questioned how the technical committee headed by the engineer-in-chief of the water resources department could probe alleged mistakes committed by his own department, they said.

Two days ago, the state government in its report had informed the governor that there was no need to set up an expert committee as a technical committee existed since 2009 to inquire into the allegation of Rule Curve violation by the Hirakud reservoir management. The state government had also claimed that there had been no violation of Rule Curve at Hirakud dam. Instead, the flood in the Mahanadi was due to excess rainfall in Chhattisgarh, which was located in its upper catchment area, water resources secretary Suresh Mohanatra said in his report to the governor.

Meanwhile, Bhandare, who toured flood-hit districts, expressed displeasure at the provision of Rs 35,000 house damage assistance. "The house damage assistance should be at least Rs 45,000 so that people can construct pucca houses," he said. Earlier, opposition parties had dubbed the flood in the Mahanadi as `man-made` alleging that the state government failed to manage water in Hirakud reservoir.