A state which is considered to be the 13th largest state in India and a historical figure ever since divergent periods, known as a scholastic core and its every millennia witnessing the birth of great intellects, being supported by the most fertile Gangetic plains and blessed with the tributaries of Ganges is filled with agricultural diversities throughout its 38 districts.
The recent demographic studies indicate that Bihar has seen its glorious past and since 1976, the state is facing a plunge in several fronts such as socio economic development, industrial developments, employment and many others to count. However, the situation might change as the alteration of governance and implementations of several reforms will hopefully provide its districts with a chance to prove its mantel and become a sustainable place to live.
Reports say that up to 58% of its total population is below 25 years and due to lack of opportunities and productive educational centers the youth have been relocating beyond boundaries and sadly many choose to settle there. We have been suffering from natural calamities since a long time now. A report mentioned that in the year 2008 the flood nearly became the cause for casualties for more than 400 people excluding the livestocks and there are many claims from several sources that Bihar has witnessed grievous floods since 1984, consecutively claiming millions lives and migration of many families. So, why is it so consistent? A strange fact is that – “Bihar has faced droughts and in many occasions, monsoon hasn’t been the culprit behind this annual misgiving”. If we start looking up to the facts, all the data advocates a very clear picture about the whole concern. Almost 75% of the total population in the North Bihar is living under the recurring threat of floods every year and 17.8% of the total flood affected area in India is located in Bihar. The tributaries that are behind this sudden surge are mainly, Gandak, Kamla, Koshi, Baghmati and Mahandada. Out of these rivers Koshi and Baghmati course through the borders of eastern Nepal to the northern borders of Bihar and Nepal. Being in the foothills of Himalayan ranges, the rivers witness an annual rainfall which raises an alarming level of water in their river channels and whenever such conditions befall, the Nepalese river dams often have to release the excessive volume of water to avoid any collateral damage. This, most of the time becomes a leading cause of floods in Bihar as our river embankments also have limitations. It was eventually seen that in 2008 floods, the Koshi River had flown through an entirely new course which was taken as a surprise and the death toll was the highest that year. It almost claimed 434 human lives.
According to a report prepared by a civil society organization in concern for the 2008 floods, it was clearly suggested that in recent decades, there has been construction of over 3000 km of river embankments and the overflowing susceptibility has also increased accordingly almost by 2.5%, and these reports are accessible on various portals in more specific figures as well. A report recently released by the same society titled “Koshi deluge” has specifically mentioned that these embankments have tried to uniform the course of the river but due to major discrepancies between the foot hills and the planes into which the river courses down in the river bed the lower land traps down water and is mostly waterlogged throughout the year which is approximately 16 percent of the total land area of north Bihar where this condition is observed. In the year 1954, a special policy was introduced which was known as the Bihar flood policy, under which the construction of river embankments have increased from 160 kms to approx. 3,465 kms and is directly observed by the water resources department.
If the causes are enumerated behind the recurrence of the floods many data indicated that deforestation observed in the catchment areas of Koshi has increased the content of silt in the river. Out of the inclusive catchment areas of the river Koshi, India shares only 11,400 km sq. and geographically the rest falls in Nepal and Tibet and the average rain fall observed in upper catchment areas are more than that observed in the lower catchments and the reported annual silt load is approx. 92,000 acre feet. In initial times, the natural course of these mountains, river was drawn towards the south-eastern river courses of ganges which were along the Malda and Murshidabad belt but post the construction of the Farrakha barrage, the annual silt concentration in the river belt has accumulated and it also been causing other problems which have led to the increase in the width and length of the rivers and the magnitude and flood frequency has drastically increased.
Many action forces have done commendable jobs in their rescue operations, whenever such crisis has been seen. This year, also due to their hasty action, many lives were saved but we still grieved the loss of 418 people. The CM’s relief fund established in 1971 and many other funds being allotted by the center are mere figures which truthfully cannot bring back the losses observed by the families of the deceased. But where we are actually failing is to have a well-devised plan which can work as a sustainable solution for disaster management not only saving lives but also balancing the nature as well.
On many fronts, the rivers need to clean up so that natural accumulation of silt decreases as well the undue construction over the rivers should be reprocessed according to the laws of nature. No matter how many committee reports are prepared the problem will not end until we “understand” the problem!