Rains, spate in Ganga send Kumbh officials into a tizzy
By Mohit Dubey, Allahabad, Feb 18 : After incessant rains that turned the Kumbh mela site into a swamp, rising waters of the Ganga and Yaumna rivers here have added to the problems of the mela officials.
For the third consecutive day, the sprawling 58 square km Kumbh mela site reeled under the aftermath of last week's rain.
With the weatherman predicting more rainfall in Uttarakhand and in districts along the route of Ganga like Kanpur and Farrukhabad and the river waters touching 77 metre water level, officials admit "they have a serious problem at hand".
Officials told IANS that the rivers in spate were dangerous and could create trouble during the forthcoming bathings Feb 25 and March 10. "Strong currents of the rivers have always been of concern and now with rising water levels, we are worried," an official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
In the last two days, the water level of the Ganga has risen by 14 metres, which is unusually high for this reason. The rising water levels pose a threat to the ghats at Nagvasuki and at Salori along with low-lying areas.
Also at risk of flooding is the Kumbh mela area.
Officials are also worried that the 18 pontoon bridges on the two rivers may be damaged by the rising waters.
About 2,500 cusecs of water is also being released from Narora in Bulandshahr on instructions of the courts. With heavy and sustained rains between Haridwar and Kanpur late last week, irrigation department officials fear that the water level in the Ganga could rise by 25-28 metres by Tuesday.
J.P. Verma, executive engineer of the irrigation department said that while rains in the hills were a cause for concern, the department was "equipped to handle the emergency".
Some ghats, which were damaged due to increasing water levels, were repaired Sunday with extra sandbags.
The mela administration Monday restored power supply to 70 percent of the area, which was without electricity after heavy rains lashed Allahabad Saturday and brought down many electricity poles and tents in the mela area. Officials said full power supply would be restored in the mela premises by Tuesday morning.
Jal Nigam official Rajesh Khare said 109 pumps had been pressed into service to drain out the rain water from the mela area. "We are trying our best to drain out all the water from tents and common areas in sectors 7, 8 and 9," he added.
Principal secretary of the public works department Rajneesh Dubey admitted that several of the 98 km roads in the area had been damaged. These include roads at Akshayvat, Triveni Road, Kali Sadak, Sangam upper and Sangam lower, old G.T. Road and Mukti Marg.
Mela Adhikaari Mani Prasad Mishra told IANS that by Monday evening "things will be back to normal".
The media centre was also inundated on Lal Sadak, forcing all journalists to shift their equipment to the cultural show tent.
While the 55-day religious congregation that started Jan 14 and would continue till March 10 began on a good note, February has been particularly bad as a stampede killed 37 people at the Allahabad railway station.
Two people died at the Kumbh on Mauni Amavasya, a seer died in a fire last week and two other blazes were doused in time. A dozen devotees had a close shave with death as their boat capsized at Sangam Sunday.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)