The flood is a memory five years later but Kosi-inundated five districts of Bihar will have to wait two more years to see the first phase of reconstruction finish. Lakhs of hectares of cultivable land continue to be filled with silt and debris, the infrastructure reconstruction is well behind the deadline set and the long-term plan to flood-proof vulnerable areas is only a blueprint.
Bihar’s River of Sorrow swelled and suddenly changed course after a breach in Kusaha embankment in Nepal that August day. The scale of devastation meant a gargantuan exercise of relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
After the initial relief was provided, the Bihar government set up Kosi Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Society to coordinate with 18 departments and execute five priorities: owner-driven house reconstruction, roads and bridges rebuilding, strengthening flood management capacities, restoration/enhancement of livelihoods, and improving emergency response capacity.
Most people from the relief camps now have a roof over their heads - 50,000 houses were rebuilt using the bamboo-cement mix on a raised platform and an equal number are being built – but most other projects are behind schedule.
“Flood protection work and habitation were our focus areas; now it’s on long term planning,” said Vipin Kumar, officer on special duty (OSD) in Disaster Management department.
As many as 1150 self-help groups and 750 village level organisations were set up to provide credit to affected families for work in dairy, handicraft and agriculture. “In the second phase of reconstruction, we will focus on alternative agriculture, replace power transformers and set up feeder stations,” said Vijay Prakash, principal secretary, planning department.
An estimated 5,000 masons were given training to construct the houses by treating bamboos and mixing them with cement for raising the structures, the design customised to prevent kalazar rampant in the areas. “This training opened work avenues for villages in remote corners,” he said.
However, the progress of reconstruction of bridges and roads, including 16 kms of road along the embankments, has been tardy. The tendering process started almost after three years, officials said.
“We carried out a survey to assess the flow of water from Kosi upstream so that the new bridges could withstand the pressure in case of high discharge of water from Nepal side,” he said.
(Inputs by Ruchir Kumar & Aditya N Jha in Purnia)