SYLLABUS: GS MAINS PAPER 1, 2 AND 3
Over the years, many of Bihar’s districts have been facing serious challenges with recurrent and massive flooding. With the novel corona virus pandemic, this year also extra rainfall and floods have been a reckoning. It is the right time to look at some key aspects of India-Nepal flood management.
1. Bihar has been known to be India’s most flood-prone state.
2. 76% of the population in north Bihar faces the threat of flood devastation.
3. Some of Nepal’s biggest river systems originate in the Himalayan glaciers which then flow in to India through Bihar.
4. during the monsoons, these river system flood causing many problems in Bihar.
5. A large part of North Bihar, adjoining Nepal, is drained by a number of rivers (Kosi, Gandak, Burhigandak, Bagmati, Mahananda and Adhwara group of rivers).
6. Originating in Nepal, the high discharge and sediments load in the rivers wreak havoc in the plains of Nepal’s tarai and Bihar.
7. In the last 30 years, the plains of North Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods.
8. The chronic issue of floods is making people of the North Bihar and Tarai in Nepal so vulnerable.
PRESENT STATUS: FLOOD PROTECTION WORK
1. In the existing India-Nepal Agreement on water resources, the state government is authorised to execute flood protection works up to critical stretches inside Nepal territory along the India-Nepal border.
2. In recent years, all such flood protection works have had to be carried out in the face of increasing local resistance.
3. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Water Resources Development, Government of Bihar, was intensively engaged at two levels: with local Nepalese authorities and through appeals to the central government for carrying out flood protection work.
FLAWS IN THE FLOOD MANAGEMENT
●The Kosi floods in Bihar and also in Nepal highlight two issues relating to flood management.
i) Failure of the structural approach to flood control on the Kosi.
ii) Institutional dysfunction with respect to trans-boundary flood management.
● The Kosi treaty of 1954, under which the embankments in Nepal were established and maintained, did not make enough provisions for the maintenance of embankments and rivers changing their discourse.
● The deposition of sand, stones, silt and sediments has led to river beds rising, changing course and causing unimaginable losses.
● Between the mid 18th and mid 20th centuries, the Kosi is said to have shifted over 100 kilometres westward, resulting in large-scale human displacements.
● In recent years, the indifference shown by Nepal on matters of floods and water management has further complicated the situation.
As part of the long term measures to address the problem of massive and recurrent floods in Bihar, the Joint Project Office (JPO), Biratnagar, was established in Nepal in August 2004 to prepare a detailed project report to construct a high dam on the Nepal side (on the Kosi,Kamla and Bagmati rivers). But the task remains accomplished even after 17 years.
● Nepal and India should restart the water dialogue and come up with policies to safeguard the interests of all those who have been affected on both sides of the border.
● Optimisation of the infrastructure will be decisive in finding an alternative paradigm of flood management. Moreover, it is also linked to how the Himalayan glaciers and the green cover are managed.
● The matter should be looked into with a long-term strategy of water and management cooperation.
● India and Nepal need to be in dialogue to end the chronic flooding every year.
Water cooperation should drive the next big India-Nepal dialogue, and despite the challenges, wisdom should prevail to turn the crisis in to an opportunity, for the sake of development and environmental protection. By controlling the flooding and using the water resources for common developmental uses such as hydroelectricity, irrigation and waterways, India-Nepal relations can be strengthened even further