“Ael Balan to bandhalon Dalan , gail Balan to tutlai Dalan( The year floods come we have a good crop and house, in a year without flood , we loose whatever we possessed)”.
This age old saying was once the reality of this region now became a distant dream for Maithili folk as the flood turned into a perennial problem throughout the Mithila region. The flooding rivers in this region were not felt as a problem until the drive of unplanned embankments were getting momentum, earlier the floods lasted in merely two days besides depositing the valuable silt. The past fifty-four years of fortifying efforts of Kosi and other rivers of this region instead of decreasing the calamities have actually increased state’s flood-prone area 2.5 times.
Previously Kosi frequently changed courses through numerous channels but with feeble force of its stream, in post embankments period floods last after the two months apart from severely degrading the soil and forming conditions for exodus in this area.
Losses of unplanned development are being lucidly visible; in 1952 Bihar had 160 KM of embankments and a flood prone area of 25lakhs hectare, today Bihar has 3,440 KM of embankments and a flood prone area of 68.8lakh hectare (1994 figures), an increase of more than 2.5 times. These outcomes refers towards empowerment of rivers through the web of embankments because restriction on its natural flow fueled its velocity, consequently it impacts severely in catchments areas.
What we are witnessing today in Kosi and other rivers that complete escapement from basic embankment technology like planning over water levels during the infrastructure building. Consequently magnitude of loss grew deeper yearly; census 2001 suggests that almost 9.88lakh peoples in 380 villages are living between the river kosi and its embankments.
In such grim circumstances they gave there emaciated life a chances to survive by migrating to safer places, these unfortunate compulsions badly altering the age-old socio-cultural fabrics of entire Mithila region. A practical observation can easily revealed the tragical floods of this region that largely aggravate by the failure of integrated management system of state machinery because all efforts are being enforced to lessen the effects instead of finding a permanent solution, indeed the floods of this region is equally influenced through short sighted human actions including the insensitive leadership.
Ofcourse situation was something different in initial years when this region was voiced through relentless leader like Late Lalit Nr Mishra, who contributed immensely but his premature death had weaken the plight of this region at center. By records it would not be exaggeration to say that he was the last leader of Mithila region who did stand to combat all maladies in the way of its development.
After his sudden demise some aspirations were partially sustained during the stint of his younger brother Dr Jagganath Mishra as chief minister of Bihar; but non successive governments shown any genuine considerations towards these calamity prone areas in later period.It has been equally unfortunate to face partiality and moderation of central government with the grief ridden Mithila region, even though its policy in general on natural disaster remained similar on other cases also.
This could be appropriately acknowledged through the fact that India is alone accounting for one fifth of global flooding deaths besides it’s ranked 36th in vulnerability to natural hazards, apart from this 50% of its GDP accrues from areas at high risk and a third of the districts are hazard prone.
Even the reality is we are lagging behind to neighboring Bangladesh in disaster managements as the precautionary measures taken by the Bangladeshi government in 1970’s through the early warning system has considerably reduced the losses of cyclones in this country. Similar policies including indigenous propositions are need of the hour to tackle the ferocity of rivers in India.
According to an expert Rajiv Sinha (IIT Kanpur)-“ Embankments don’t offer a permanent solution also jacketing of the river can be dangerous since Kosi carries around 80 million tones of silt every year “. Silt yield of the river Kosi is about 19-cusec meter/hectare/year; it’s one of the highest in the world. This is a major reason behind this year’s disastrous flood (2008). In 1968 Kosi carried a maximum of 9,13,000 cusecs when the western embankments broke at five places in Darbhanga district; the embankments were designed for accommodating the flow of 9,50,000 cusecs water, this year Kosi was carrying only 1,44,000 cusec water when it breached the embankments because being highly silted up.
Since the inception of Kosi Project (1955), it’s risen five inches annually climbing as high as the original embankments (18 feet). The river Kosi is an unpredictable creature which requires extremely cautious tackling during the infrastructural planning; Kosi shifted exceeding 120 KM in the last 250 years through the channels in more than twelve districts. Once the river used to flow near Purnea district in the 18th century now flows west of Saharsa district. Entire Mithila region has been witnessing the series of devastating floods of 1954,1974,1987,2004,2007,2008 which broken the spine of socio-economic structure of this region.
In the old folk songs of Mithila, some sort of curse on Kosi being symbolized to lessen its devastation, according to local beliefs the river Kosi is an unmarried entity so peoples tried to lure through praying, offering vermilion etc. These were the indicatives of their symbiotic relationships that damaged in course of time.
An IIT educated civil engineer turned an environment activist Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra doing fine work in this area with intensive research and great patience that is extremely condemnable. He have penned a very comprehensive book over the flood problem ‘Dui Patan ke Beech Mein (Trapped Between Devil and Deep Waters, 2006,Peoples science institute, Dehradun) which suggested some alluring solution to check the perennial devastation of floods like-
1.Improvement of drainage
2. Check the silt load by spreading it
3.Skill and wisdom based on the concrete intimacy with the river
4. Freshlook on the Indo-Nepalese treaties including the agreements of the 1950’s which was not a regional co-operation etc.
In 1961-64 the treaty were amended to take care of Nepalese concerns, but that didn’t materialized, further the Tanakpur episode/ Mahakali treaty (Feb 1996) worsened the situation of co-operation between the India and Nepal.
It’s an absolute truth that the flood problem of this region couldn’t be solved without the co-operation of Nepal, so it would be quite imperative to take some practical measures by the Indian government like to withdraw of their present plan on Karanali, Pancheswar and Sapta Kosi and put some pragmatic efforts to construct the appropriate flood controlling infrastructure with an active co-operation of Nepali government.
Prime minister Prachanda had shown positive response in this regard during his first official Indian trip, although recent political developments in Nepal may create some fresh challenges in this regard. Despite this time is ripe to draw a comprehensive plan by both the government to short out the practical hurdles of long-term solution of water management.
Any positive outcome from the further action would have capacity to relieve the pain of around three thirty Million population on both side of the border. We must admit the fact our rivers are auspicious even today as they were hundred year back, any violation of these relationships are caused by our own humane vision… so we need to save first our ecology to save our life.
Atul Kumar Thakur
Tuesday, 5th May 2009