Kosi’s Barahkshetra Dam hanging in proposal stage since 1937

Though the issue is pending for decades but people feel it will be taken up next year!

Representative Photo (PTI)
Representative Photo (PTI)

Dinesh Mishra

This dam on the Kosi was first proposed in 1937 but continues to be in the proposal stage. A team of Indian and Nepali engineers is preparing the Detailed Project report (DPR) since 2004 but the report is still not ready. Every time there is flood in Bihar, the government announces that negotiations are on with Nepal and the dam would solve the problem once and for all.

This year was no exception. The Minister in charge of the department of Disaster Management declared the dam to be the final and lasting solution. He also said it was the duty of the Centre to take the necessary steps.

People have been led to believe that after the construction of this dam all the flood problem of North Bihar will be solved.

People do not ask what would happen to floods in river basins other than the Kosi or how the dam on Kosi would solve the problem of flood throughout the state. Nobody questions whether the issue of earthquakes that were hinted by Anugrah Narayan Singh in 1954 have been adequately addressed. Nor do people ask whether 60,000 Nepali people will agree to be displaced because of the dam, which they believe would benefit mostly India. What would happen to the rights of the indigenous people who are living in the reservoir area?

Though the issue is pending for decades but people feel it will be taken up next year!

Elderly people recall that in good old days, floodwater would recede quickly enough. But in 2007, it had stayed for more than two and a half months at many places in the districts of Khagaria, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Saharsa and Supaul. The water remained there because it did not find an outlet to move further.

Common sense suggests that floodwater was looking for openings to pass through those places. But the government plugged all the breaches and strengthened most embankments. That programme continues unabated.

Even if that was the immediate need, it was never followed up by a drainage programme. Raising and strengthening of embankments cannot solve problems of rainfall, river discharge, sediments in the river water, rise of the river-bed and water logging. This is an old story and is going to get repeated this year too. We have had several Flood Commissions in the past at the national level as well as at the state level. Can’t we think of a Drainage Commission that will look into the problem of drainage of rainwater in the country?

The word ‘flood’ at one time conjured visions of rural areas with villagers moving to safer places along with their belongings and cattle. But of late urban areas are also getting affected by floods.

Relief work is not flood control. Relief merely makes flood victims dependent on the establishment and lose all the initiatives that the flood victims can take to protect themselves. Also, the flood policy of the State and the Centre needs to be reviewed.

Why should the flood prone area of the country get doubled during the plan period at the national level and in case of Bihar, it has increased nearly three folds? Is the investment in flood control sector causing more harm than good?

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