India-Nepal Flood Management Needs Course Correction

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: Importance of Indo-Nepal cooperation towards solving the flood problems in Bihar

Synopsis: Despite both structural and nonstructural efforts to improve disaster management during the past, people continue to suffer with perennial flooding in North Bihar, which is already facing humanitarian crisis following Coronavirus pandemic. The solution lies in India and Nepal working together to solve the problem.

Flood problem in Bihar
  • The Flood Management improvement Support Centre (FMISC), Department of Water Resources, Government of Bihar estimates that 76% of population in North Bihar faces recurring threat of flood devastation.
  • 73.06% of the land area in the region get affected due to the floods.
  • Plains of North Bihar have recorded the highest number of floods during last 30 years. the years 1978,1987,1998,2004 and 2007 witnessed high magnitude of floods.
Measures taken

Past Measures

  • Structural changes: Renewed approaches in infrastructure augmentation for dams and reservoirs, detention basins, embankments and channel improvement.
  • Non-structural measures: Such as floodplain management,flood forecasting and warning, flood insurance and financial compensation.

Present Measures

Bihar’s Disaster Management Department released two documents titled: “Pre-Flood Preparedness” and “Flood Control Order 2021” to help the local administration in terms of preparedness and having in place a relief support system.

However, a solution to the issue of chronic flooding lies in revisiting the old plans and arrangements between India and Nepal to address the root cause of flooding in the region.

Indo-Nepal coop is essential

A large part of north Bihar, adjoining Nepal, is drained by a number of rivers that have their catchments in the steep and geologically nascent Himalayas.

  1. Most rivers originate in Nepal: Most of the rivers such as the Kosi, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Bagmati, Kamla Balan, Mahananda and Adhwara group originate in Nepal. These rivers have a high discharge along with an equally high sediment load.
  2. Past cooperation: The history of cooperation between India and Nepal go back to the 1950’s when the work on Kosi embankment started by the Volunteers on both side, however this spirit short-lived. Such a progressive government-citizen interface could not sustain itself, and water cooperation between the two countries for a common cause waned.
Issues involved
  1. Negative impact of interventions: Infrastructural interventions such as building embankments and re-routing streams have disturbed the conventional pattern of slow water flow, affecting farming in the region causing displacement of people
  2. Inefficient Kosi Treaty: The Kosi Treaty of 1954, under which the embankments in Nepal were established and maintained, was not futuristic and did not make enough provisions for maintenance of the embankments and rivers changing their course.
  3. Rising river bed: The deposition of stones, sand, silt and sediment has led to river beds rising
Suggestions
  • Increased transborder cooperation on flood management
  • Sensitization on climatic imbalances and sustainable development
  • Reestablish water cooperation as a common cause and draw inspiration for joint action from the 1950s.
Way forward

Greater attention needs to be given to this annual calamity and its devastating effects on lives and livelihoods. India and Nepal need to be in dialogue to end the crisis of flooding every year.

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