Siltation of rivers, unplanned drainage behind spate of floods in Bihar

A natural calamity always causes pain to humans but it becomes more painful in Bihar thanks to the seasonal approach of the state government in tackling the flood situation.

Bihar is located in the low lying area of the Himalayan range. As a result, a large number of rivers like the Kosi, Kamla Balan, Gandak, Parman originate in the Himalayas and criss-cross various North Bihar districts to finally merge with the Ganga river.

The biggest challenge for the state government is the silt carried by these rivers and its accumulation in the low lying areas of North Bihar, disturbing the natural drains. It became worse after the drainage systems of various districts were developed in an unplanned manner. The water comes from the Himalayan range but does not return or exit to other sides due the bad drainage system.

The Kushaha tragedy was one such example which had taken more than 500 lives in Bihar’s Supaul district in 2008. The Kosi river originates from Tibet and crosses all the way to Nepal before entering Bihar and finally falling into the Ganga. It had broken the Kushaha embankment in 2008 and its water inundated thousands of acres of land in Supaul.

The villagers of Supaul district face the consequences even after several years as the sand carried by the Kosi waters spread over thousands of acres and made the land infertile.

The villagers claimed that the water accumulated in their districts for several months and damaged fruit yielding trees.

This was one such incident where the farmers feel the pain every time they remember that tragedy. Though, a Kushaha like incident did not happen again but floods are a regular affair in North Bihar.

Around 21 districts including West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Supaul, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Khagaria, Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria, Purnea, Madhubani, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Vaishali, Patna and many others are affected by floods during the monsoon season.

“The actual reason for flood water accumulating in these districts is the siltation followed by the bad drainage system. The state government has failed to construct a drainage system in a well planned manner,” said Ajay Kumar, editor of Bihar Times web portal.

“We cannot stop water from coming from Nepal but we can make a strong drainage system to allow water to flow on the other side. Here, the drainage system was not developed according to the slope to allow water to go smoothly and fall into the rivers. The state government approach to address this issue is less effective. They want to solve the flood challenges on a contract basis in the season. We cannot deal with flooding on a seasonal basis. It needs planning and execution to address the issue,” Kumar said.

The flood water remains for 4 to 6 months every year.

Dinesh Kumar Mishra, an expert on the Bihar flood situation, pointed out that the functioning of the state government is responsible for the problem.

“Everyone in the government knows and engineers of the water resource department know that siltation and drainage are the key issues to solve the problem but the government looks only at temporary solutions. When the Kushaha tragedy happened in 2008, the Nitish Kumar government had given compensation to the affected family members and they stayed silent. No one spoke about permanent solutions.

“The state government opens a control room in Patna to monitor the flood situation every year from May 15 to October 15. Every year, floods occur in July. Why can the control room not work for 12 months? They knew the problem but have failed to address it,” Mishra told IANS.

“As per the government data, 25 lakh hectares of land was affected by floods in 1955. At that time, the total length of the embankment was 160 km. Now, the length of the embankment is 3800 km but the flood affected area increased almost three-fold to 73 lakh hectares. How did it happen. No official or minister has given any answer in the public domain or in the Vidhan Sabha. Have they had any meetings on it?

“The rivers are carrying silt along with water. They accumulate after reaching the embankments leading to enhancement of the ground level. The Bihar government is not increasing the height of the embankments. Hence, it is sometimes broken by the rivers which overflow the embankments.”

“In 1955, the farmers of North Bihar claimed that flood water remained for two and a half days in their villages. Now, it stays for 4 to 6 months in some of the districts like Supaul and Sheohar. Why did it happen? The natural drainage systems were disturbed hugely. Hence the water does not flow towards the nearby rivers,” he added.

The Bihar government has made a plan to connect the rivers. Recently, the Nitish Kumar government brought Ganga water to districts like Nalanda, Gaya and Nawada. Experts believe that such efforts are needed in North Bihar as well to connect various rivers and drainage systems with rivers through channels to address these issues.

The flood situation in North Bihar also forced massive migration to other states. Since agriculture is affected due to the floods, a large number of youths migrate to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and many other states in search of jobs.

When contacted, not a single official of the water resource development ministry was ready to talk on this issue.

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