Monday, December 29, 2014

Nationwide hydrology data soon

With flood damage in the country pegged in the range of Rs. 6,000 crore a year, according to official estimates, India is poised to adopt a World Bank-funded hydrology project. Such a project has already made a difference in 13 States which opted for it in the earlier two phases.
Under the proposed expansion of the project, States will be able to generate and digitise their own data without waiting for central help. The project for the whole country is estimated to cost Rs. 3,000 crore.
The project, the first phase of which began some 20 years back, has digitised real time data in 13 States, according to Anju Gaur, senior water specialist, World Bank. Some of the main reasons for floods are poor reservoir management systems as was witnessed some years ago in Western Maharashtra. Farmers sometimes face problems as they plant crops without knowing if there is assured water from reservoirs.
There is no reliable hydrological data and some of the figures are as old as 1993. The project, in partnership with the Union Water Resources Ministry and other agencies, was aimed at developing monitoring systems in the States. The use of such data on water storage and availability is unlimited, Ms. Gaur pointed out and can be used in decision support system (DSS). The project has completed two phases and established the basis for a Hydrological Information System (HIS) for reliable records.
Data collection was near primitive till as recent as 2009 when in Karnataka, gauge readers from drought-affected areas would send in figures on post cards. Karnataka first asked for mobile phones so that data could be sent speedily and later moved to setting up systems for real-time data since gauge readers often did not venture into the field.
The major handicap was the unwillingness to share data across States citing confidentiality issues. There is a culture of not sharing data and the project resulted in a major breakthrough by the government which introduced a data policy, she said.
The Bhakra Beas Management Board and the Krishna Bhima Basin in Maharashtra are two examples where real time water data has helped to take many decisions and to prevent floods. Maharashtra is one of the best managed States in terms of water, Ms. Gaur said and one of the earliest to go in for the hydro meteorological system.
The project gives data which can help release of water from reservoirs and prevent untimely floods. The operating costs have gone down by half due to advance knowledge of water availability, rainfall and even water quality, Ms. Gaur said.
Though the initial investment is high, over the years the States have found that it is worthwhile. “The project made information travel faster than flood waters,” remarked Ms. Gaur. The data also uses satellite to help figure the amount of snow melt, and make projections on the flows into the reservoir. This is particularly useful in the case of the Bhakra basin.
Apart from flood prevention, the data and real time monitoring of water flows also helps in analysing and testing proposed projects. She said a tunnel project to divert water in Pune was dropped as a result.

As part of the project, water quality stations have been set up in the Ganga river at 10 locations from Hrishikesh to Kolkata. The Rs. 550-crore project in two phases which is complete, is a loan to the government of India and aimed at a complete standardised centralised water data system.


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