More than a week after large parts of the Gangetic plains in North India began to flood due to heavy rain, the waters are finally beginning to recede.
Parts of Bihar have been inundated for more than a week now, following continuous rain in catchment areas of dams on the Ganga and its tributaries and then heavy rain in the state.
It is now suggested that the particularly devastating floods in the state between August 19 and 21 were not due to rain but because of the unprecedented release of water from the Bansagar dam on the Sone river, a southern tributary of the Ganga. Officials in Madhya Pradesh, it is alleged, had allowed the dam to fill up to 96% of its storage capacity before heavy rain forced it to open the dam’s gates and so flood downstream Bihar.
The present set of floods, which have led to at least 153 deaths so far in 12 districts, is attributed instead to actual heavy rain in Bihar itself. This time, even the northern tributaries of the Ganga are swollen above the danger mark. Floods in Bihar are ordinarily attributed to these Himalayan rivers.
It is not just Bihar that is affected. The National Disaster Response Force has rescued at least 53,000 people from floods so far. Four children drowned in Malda in West Bengal, where 45 villages have been inundated. In Madhya Pradesh, a pregnant woman in labour had to walk six kilometres in flood waters to reach a hospital. Parts of Uttar Pradesh through which the Ganga flows, including Varanasi, have been flooded. This water is now beginning to recede.
Predictably, English social media has been mostly silent on the floods, but even Hindi users of Twitter seem to be losing interest in sharing updates, as are Hindi newspapers. This is despite the fact that though waters are receding, more than a thousand villages remain flooded in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
Some people had specific requests for Narendra Modi, who mentioned the victims of floods on Sunday in his weekly radio address to the nation, Mann ki Baat.
The flooding of the Ganga this year stands in stark contrast to last year, when most parts of the country suffered from inadequate rainfall. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration released two satellite images of the Ganga at a location near Patna.
The first, from August 10, 2015, shows a narrow river. The second, taken a year later on August 21, 2016, shows a river in spate. Even the colour of the water has changed, NASA noted, indicating the presence of floating sediment in the water.