The blame game over fixing responsibility for Bihar's devastating flood has begun in earnest.
Piqued at suggestions that the state's water resources department did not try to plug the breach in the Kosi river's embankment that led to the flood, despite having received letters and telegrams from the engineer at the spot, warning that the embankment was giving away, Debi Razak, engineer-in-chief of the department pointed fingers at both the Ganga Flood Water Commission and local Nepalese in the area where the breach occurred.
The breach occurred at Kusaha, 12 km inside Nepalese territory.
Razak maintained that the department had noticed signs of weakening of the Kosi embankment far back in April this year. "But we were not allowed to buttress it the way we wanted to," he said.
Bihar's chief engineer stationed at Birpur in Nepal, close to where the breach occurred, had suggested putting up a 12 metre high 'apron' of boulders to strengthen the embankment and prevent the river from breaking through.
But the centrally run Ganga Flood Water Commission allowed only a three metre apron, which just did not prove strong enough.
Even three days before the breach on August 5, a full contingent of the state's engineers had reached Kusaha to try and plug the breach. But they were prevented from doing so by the locals.
"There was no protection and the locals would not allow us to work", said Razak. "Our team was assaulted and physically pushed back from the site by both locals and Nepalese officials. Had they allowed us to plug the breach, this disaster could have been fully avoided."
Why was the reaction so hostile? The labourers wanted to be paid better. "They were agitating over the scheduled rates and refused to work until their demands were met," said Razak.
"We did take action on the letter received from the engineer at Birpur," said Asram Rai, chief of the Flood Monitoring Cell, Bihar. "We have kept records which can be checked."
State officials claimed that even the matter of higher remuneration for the labourers was taken up with the centre on August 6, but no decision was reached.
Official records at the Flood Control cell of the Water Resources Department reveal that E Satyanarain, Chief Engineer at Birpur barrage on the Bihar side of the border had warned the state government on August 9, that he was unable to carry out the repairs due to local resistance.
He had repeated his message to the Kosi liasoning officer in Kathmandu and senior officials of the Bihar Water Resources Department.