Maharashtra floods: The tribal families living on a highway with animals

This blog shows the Maharashtra floods: The tribal families living on a highway with animals



2 years ago | 2 min read

"It's been over a month of living with nothing," Neelakka Modem, a tribal woman from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, says gloomily as rain trickles down her rickety plastic tent.

She and her family, along with 700 others, were forced to abandon their homes in Somanpalli village in Gadchiroli district after heavy rains in July triggered massive floods. They have been camping along a national highway ever since.

"The authorities came in the middle of the night and asked us to move to safety. We left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing," Ms Modem, 70, recalled.

The state government has provided food and water, but living by the highway carries risks - speeding vehicles, wild animals, including deadly snakes, are common in this region which is home to dense tropical forests.

Back in the village, Ms Modem's son Madhukar, a farm labourer, is trying to salvage whatever he can from their destroyed house. But Ms Modem wonders if they will ever go back.

"We can't live there anymore - the place is inhabitable. The government should rehabilitate us elsewhere," she said.

Image caption, Residents of Somanpalli village in Gadchiroli have been living in camps along a highway

Heavy rainfall is common during the monsoon in Gadchiroli district, which is surrounded by forests. Here, the Godavari river, the second longest in India, along with its tributaries, forms a flood-prone zone between June and September. During those months, if often overflows and enters the villages.

But residents say the flooding has become worse in recent years.

Torrential rains this year between 11 July and 19 July left a trail of devastation- at least 34 of the 52 towns and villages along the riverbank in Gadchiroli were submerged for days, while three of them, including Somanpalli, were almost wiped out as water levels rose to their highest point in 35 years.

The rains have stopped now, but people are yet to return home or start rebuilding their lives.

"I've never seen a flood like this. This time, it has taken everything," Ms Modem said.

Image source, ANIImage caption, The lush region of Gadchiroli receives heavy rainfall every year

Villagers and environmental experts say the heavy floods are caused by the discharge of water from a nearby dam in Medigadda - a village in the neighbouring state of Telangana. But authorities have denied the claim.

"The dam has no effect on the flood situation in Gadchiroli and its neighbouring areas. In fact, because of the construction of flood banks, heavy damages could be avoided during the recent floods," said Dr Rajat Kumar, a senior official in Telangana's irrigation department.

Mr Kumar added that irrigation officials in his state were "continuously coordinating" with their counterparts in Maharashtra over the situation.

The dam, known as Lakshmi Barrage, is located on the border between Maharashtra and Telangana. It was constructed in 2016 after the two states signed a water-sharing agreement.

Since its inception, the project has been embroiled in controversies over the alleged violation of environment laws - a claim denied by both state governments.

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