Kathmandu: Nepal says the Kosi river may change its course further eastward and breach its embankments again, but India says it has no information on such a situation, which could result in massive floods once again in flood-battered Bihar.
“There can be further breaches on the barrage as the river bed is on a rise and is higher than the country-side ground level. These breaches can happen more upstream...,” Khoma Raj Dahal, deputy director general at the department of water-induced disaster prevention, in Nepal’s ministry of water resources, told Mint. “The river can go further east, up to the Mahananda river and cover more areas,” he said.
India, however, said it is unaware of any such possibility. “We have got no such information...,” said an official at India’s ministry of water resources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Kosi river, which breached its embankments in Nepal in early August, later caused large-scale destruction in various parts of Bihar and Nepal, leaving scores killed and thousands marooned.
Death trail: A 12 September photo of the collapsed Baluaha bridge on the Kosi river in Bihar’s Madhepura district. Nepal fears the 32km long aflux bund on the eastern side of the barrage may breach anywhere. PTI
Due to the geographical topography of Nepal, its rivers have large catchment areas—of which the maximum is in India. This is the reason why floods are more of a problem for India than Nepal, Dahal observed.
“The aflux bund on the eastern side of the barrage is 32km long. This can breach anywhere. We have raised the issue with the technical team from India...the river can go up to Viratnagar in Nepal. There have been historical instances,” Dahal said.
“Going by the river’s oscillation, we think it can go more east by another 150km and cover more area. It is a very dangerous situation,” he added.
Aflux bunds are built to contain the rise in water level. There are two such bunds on the eastern side and the western side of the Kosi river.
Spurs are created to soften the river’s effect on its embankment.
According to the original design, the spur length on the Kosi was to be of 200-300m each. Over a period of time, the length of the spurs has come down to some 50m due to lack of maintenance and negligence, Dahal noted. There are around 100 spurs on both sides of the river.
“There has been negligence on the side of the Indian contractors. Kosi has been underestimated. Our fault is that we did not escalate the issue enough. We only raised it with our Indian counterparts. We should have taken it to the Prime Minister’s level for a government-to-government intervention,” said Anup Upadhyay, joint secretary (hydropower), ministry of water resources, Nepal.
The cost of plugging the existing breach will be around Nepali Rs300 crore.
“Repair and maintenance is Indian government’s responsibility... There may be issues of corruption as well in maintaining the barrage but I would not like to talk about it because we do not have information on it. India and Nepal need to exploit the river jointly, but I think the problem is more political in nature,” said Dahal.
The government in Bihar, which bore the brunt of the floods, is cautious now.
N.K. Singh, deputy chairman of Bihar’s planning commission and a Rajya Sabha member representing the state’s main ruling Janata Dal (United) party, said, “We can’t say, we hope the worst (flood in Bihar) is over, but we have to remain vigilant. Perhaps till the first week of October we cannot lower our vigil.”
The state government fears that the floods, which caused death and widespread devastation, may adversely affect the political fortunes of chief minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) government.
Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu from New Delhi contributed to this story.