Flood management that cannot be watered down 

Synopsis: Various issues regarding Indo-Nepal Flood management system and the way forward.

Introduction 

Many of Bihar’s districts faces serious challenges with recurrent and massive flooding. This year also, they faced double problem of flooding and the novel coronavirus pandemic.  

Some of Nepal’s biggest river systems originate in the Himalayan glaciers which then flow into India through Bihar. During the monsoons, these river systems flood causing many problems for Bihar. Hence, we need process-driven coordination between the Centre and the Government of Bihar to handle the flooding in Nepal’s Terai and North Bihar (mainly Mithilanchal region). 

What are the challenges/issues with Indo-Nepal flood management? 

Detailed project report not prepared: 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). The Government of Bihar has raised the matter at regular intervals. A group of officers formed by the CWC has to work on various aspects of the detailed project report and propose an action plan for its early completion. The Water Resources Department, Bihar has repeatedly requested the MoJS to expedite the progress of the detailed project report. Despite the best efforts made by the Government of Bihar, the task remains unaccomplished even after 17 years.

Local resistance in Nepal: As in the existing India-Nepal Agreement on water resources, the State government of Bihar is authorised to execute flood protection works up to critical stretches inside Nepal territory along the India-Nepal border. In recent years, all such flood protection works have had to be carried out in the face of increasing local resistance.

Issues with Nepali administration: During the strengthening work proposed on the right marginal bund on the Lalbekia river, the local Nepali administration claimed that the said bund area fell in no man’s land. This is notwithstanding the fact that the embankment was built by India 30 years ago and there has not been any dispute regarding its maintenance all these years. Breach closure/protective work of right guide bund of the Kamla weir remains incomplete due to the lack of permission. However, resolution of the impasse is awaited. This is another important matter to be looked at.

What is the way forward? 

First, 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. 

Second, two countries should come together and assess the factors that are causing unimaginable losses through flooding every year.  

Third, optimisation of the infrastructure is important for flood management.  

Fourth, management of green cover and water cooperation is needed. 

Fifth, 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. 

Bilateral cooperation is the essential part of water sharing and water management between the two countries. Nepal must play its part in ensuring a sustainable way forward. For the sake of development and environmental protection, we need to turn the crisis into an opportunity through wisdom. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Flood management that cannot be watered down” published in The Hindu on 27th September 2021. 

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