The landslides and flooding in the city have been attributed primarily to the illegal construction of buildings that has occurred over the last decade.

We sat on our rooftop for two days in the rain Belagavi flood victims recount ordeal
news Floods Wednesday, August 07, 2019 - 16:34

Waterlogged roads, flooded homes, residents huddled in relief camps – incessant rain has marooned Karnataka’s Belagavi. For the last 10 days, the rampant rains have crippled the daily life of residents in the city.

Shanthavva Uppari, a 65-year-old weaver and resident of Belagavi’s Sai Nagar, was asleep on Saturday night when the rains began lashing with force. Shanthavva shut all the doors and windows in her home and hoped that the rain would stop soon. Within an hour, rain water began seeping into her living room and in a few hours, the entire ground floor was flooded.

“My son Anand, daughter Renuka and daughter-in-law Roopa went up to the first floor and waited there but the water level kept rising. From our window on the first floor bedroom, we could see the neighbouring houses getting completely submerged. We were just praying that someone would come and help us,” Shanthavva tells TNM.

By Sunday morning, Shanthavva and her family members were waiting on their rooftop for rescue. She says that the heavy rains began 10 days ago and several of her neighbours had left their homes to go stay with their relatives in other places. By Saturday, only 100 members of Sai Nagar remained.

“Our neighbours asked us to pack up and leave but we did not have anywhere to go. When our house was flooded, our weaving machine was destroyed. It was our only source of livelihood,” Shanthavva recounts.

By Sunday afternoon, Shanthavva’s neighbours waded through the water with the help of a few journalists and made it up to her roof. Around 50 residents were stranded on the rooftop. When news of their condition reached the Deputy Commissioner, rescue personnel rushed to the spot and shifted them to a relief camp.

Similarly, in Chikodi’s Kallol, Bheemappa Sontakki, a 40-year-old autorickshaw driver, was stranded at his home along with his wife Gayatri for two days before rescue personnel arrived. Bheemappa and Gayatri sat on their terracotta rooftop for a night and two days in the pouring rain before the Fire and Emergency Service personnel arrived to rescue them.

“Our farm is located near the Krishna river. We were not really worried that the rain would flood the entire village when it started pouring heavily 10 days ago. The nalas (storm water drains) were washing away the rain water. But on Sunday morning, the whole village flooded. We were not able to move away as quickly as our neighbours and other people in the village because we decided to pack a few belongings. But soon, the water gushed into our house. We waited on the roof for two days until help came. We were moved to a relief camp in Ankali,” Bheemappa says.

On Wednesday, 2,95,890 cusecs of water was released from the Rajapur barrage, 50,677 cusecs from the Dudhganga and the Vedhganga barrages, 3,46,567 cusecs from the Kallol barrage, 27,000 cusecs from the Markandeya barrage, 21,000 cusecs from Ballari Nala, 38000 cusecs from Hiranyakeshi and 86,000 cusecs from the Hidkal Dam.

“Totally, 5,18,567 cusecs of water was released on Wednesday alone. Almost all of Belagavi district is flooded. The last time we witnessed such floods was in 2005. But that time the city areas were not affected as much as the villages closer to the Krishna river and its tributaries,” an official with the Flood Forecast Monitoring Centre said.

According to the Central Water Commission, 25,151 residents were evacuated to 53 relief camps set up in north Karnataka’s Belagavi, Uttara Kannada, Bagalakote and Raichur. Officials say that Uttara Kannada and Belagavi are the worst hit, while rainfall in the remaining districts in the northern part of the state had mellowed down by Wednesday morning.

What led to waterlogging in Belagavi

According to Deepak Goni, Disaster Management Case Worker, landslides and flooding in the city were primarily due to the illegal construction of buildings that has occurred over the last decade.

“If you see the areas that were flooded in Belagavi City, it was the illegally constructed layouts that caused so much troubles for the rest of the city. The city corporation (Belagavi City Corporation) has not taken any measures to rectify the mistakes,” he said.

According to data obtained by the Belagavi City Corporation, Old and New Gandhi Nagar located near the Belagavi Airport, the layout near Suvarna Soudha, Ujwal Nagar, Samarth Nagar, Sai Nagar, Nekaar Nagar, Kunti Nagar, Gayatri Nagar, Kanakadas Nagar, Bangarappa Colony, Shambaji Nagar, Anand Nagar and Mangayi Nagar are all illegally constructed.

“The land in these areas is listed as agricultural land in the corporation’s land records. Farmers sold their lands to relators who illegally constructed affordable homes. These areas have no nalas and no sewage connection. The sewage flows into the Ballari Nala directly. Earlier, this nala was an irrigation canal. Now it has become a sewage dump. With no place for rain water to run, the city flooded,” a senior official with the Belagavi City Corporation told TNM.

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