Flood, agony and tears in Delhi

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Tenzing Dawa is vexed. His septuagenarian father, who has a heart disease, needs a sterile environment and oxygen to survive. But due to the swollen Yamuna, his neighbourhood is partly submerged in water with no electricity or drinking water and is threatening his father’s life.

“We can’t give him oxygen, there is no supply of fresh water and no electricity since yesterday (Wednesday). Portions of houses, shops and streets have been damaged,” Dawa, a resident of Majnu ka Tila in north Delhi, told IANS.

“Thankfully, the water has not entered our homes as of now, but half our neighbourhood is under water,” said Dawa, who works as a security guard and is part of the 5,000-strong Tibetan community whose settlement abuts the river that is the capital’s lifeline and bane.

Many low-lying areas in east and northern Delhi are inundated due to the rise in the levels of the Yamuna river, which touched the 207.25 metre mark late Wednesday, the highest since 1978 when it reached 207.49 metres. The flood water has spilled over to the major arterial roads that run along the river.

Over 900,000 cusecs of water has been released into the Yamuna from Hathinikund Barrage in Haryana in the last four days, resulting in the river’s water level rising. A man drowned in the swollen river while bathing near Majnu ka Tila Wednesday, an official said.

The 145-year-old double decker rail-cum-road bridge over the Yamuna was shut down for traffic for two days due to fears of damage by the river’s strong current. The bridge was re-opened Thursday.

Nearly 5,000 people have been evacuated so far from low-lying areas like Usmanpur, Yamuna Bazar, Bhajanpura, Shastri Park and Tibetan Market, and shifted to about 900 relief camps set up by the city government.

On Thursday, officials said the water is receding in the Yamuna, but continues to flow over the danger mark as hundreds of vicarious onlookers thronged the various bridges across it to watch the river in spate.

One of the worst affected is the Tibetan Market near Majnu ka Tila, where knee-deep water has forced the residents to move out to other safer areas.

According to 25-year-old Nawa, Tenzing’s daughter, several residents in the area have lost their cattle, while some have lost their pets.

“Some of them drowned while others were bitten by snakes in the water. My cousin lost her cat and she has been crying ever since,” a pensive looking Nawa told IANS.

“It was a ghastly sight to see the animals floating in the water,” she added.

Though the residents admit that flooding is nothing new for them, they are resigned to their fate, accusing the government of not being willing to help them as they are poor.

For 38-year-old Karma Lhawang, a grocery store owner in Tibetan Market, the authorities had failed to come up with a well thoughtout plan to tackle the crisis when they are aware that low lying areas get flooded each monsoon season. Lhawang also said that they refused to shift to the relief camps set up on the roadside as they were not safe for women and children.

“The relief camps are very far away. We refused to shift there keeping in mind the safety and security of our women and children. We are staying with our neighbours, whose homes have not been inundated yet,” Lhawang told IANS.

The story was similar in other flooded areas of the capital.

Dharampal, 27, residing in a relief camp in Usmanpur said: “We know this happens every year and so does the government. Why can’t they swing into action on time? This will keep on happening every year with us.”

Ramnek Singh, an auto-rickshaw driver, who has shifted to a relief camp near Mayur Vihar, faulted the government for not issuing flood warnings in advance.

“The government should have been more proactive in giving out flood warnings to us. We don’t matter because we are poor,” Ramnek Singh told IANS.

Most of the people are living in tents, provided by the authorities, on the sidewalks. Women prepared meals on the makeshift clay ovens as the children played games, unaware of the disaster around them.

“When the water recedes, it will leave behind bacteria and germs which will cause diseases,” said Ramnek Singh, whose elderly mother watched in abject misery.

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