The Bihar government has flagged flood threat as barricades put up by Nepal on its border with India is hindering embankment repair work on Gandak Barrage essential for flood control. The move could escalate tensions between India and its neighbour.
The state has written letters to different departments of the central government, including the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), for immediate intervention in the matter. The development comes in the backdrop of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issuing a flood alert in the state.
"The water resources ministry has been doing repair work of embankments on Gandak, Lalbakeya and Kamla (rivers) for several years on both the sides. The decision of Nepal to stop repair work of embankments has delayed the work for flood control," said Sanjay Jha, water resource minister of the Bihar government and a senior leader of Janata Dal (United), on Twitter.
Jha also said problems for the state increased after the Nepal government stopped work at some of the sensitive areas along the border. "We have written a letter to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and ministry of external affairs to intervene. The Gandak Barrage has altogether 36 gates, half of which fall on our side. Repair of these has been completed by our engineers and their helpers," said Jha.
The minister said when officials of the Bihar government tried to cross over to the Nepal side for repair and maintenance work on 18 gates, they found barricades. Bihar is a high flood-prone state.
The NDMA has released an orange bulletin saying that river Gandak and Bagmati continued to flow in severe situation.
The developments in Bihar are also significant on a diplomatic level. Ties between India and Nepal have frayed in the past few weeks over the issue of the latter's new map, which shows areas of India’s Uttarakhand state as its territory. This has been rejected by India, which controls the area and says the land belongs to it.
Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had earlier said he has sought talks with India to seek resolution of the dispute over the small stretch of land, which includes the areas of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani.
Elizabeth Roche & PTI contributed to story.