A record water discharge into the Kosi river from Nepal has revived fears of a repeat of last year's devastating floods in Bihar. The state government has sounded a high alert as the increasing water levels pose a threat to the river's embankment, officials said on Tuesday.
The state government has alerted top officials, including engineers, to keep a close watch on the newly repaired structures on the river banks, an official of the water resources department said.
"The government has sounded a high alert in the Kosi region following a record water discharge into the Kosi river from Nepal," he said.
Rajeshwar Dayal, engineer-in-chief of the water resources department, has been camping at the Kosi barrage site at Birpur to monitor the situation. Officials of the newly set-up flood fighting force have also been deployed at the site.
The disaster management department has directed district officials to alert people living between the two embankments of the Kosi and help them to move to safer places, official sources said. After heavy rains in Nepal in the last two days, the discharge of water into the Kosi river was recorded at 312,000 cusecs till Tuesday morning. It is said to be the maximum discharge into the river in the last five years.
The eastern Kosi embankment had breached Aug 18 last year following discharge of 165,842 cusecs of water into the river, flooding five districts of northern Bihar. Official sources said that a discharge of 398,000 cusecs of water into river was recorded in 2004.
Bihar Water Resources Development Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav, however, said the Kosi embankment was safe and there was no need to panic. "Till now there is no threat from the heavy discharge into the Kosi river," Yadav told IANS here.
A day after the water level suddenly increased in the river, the fear of floods is haunting thousands of people in Supaul, Madhepura, Purnea, Saharsa and Araria districts.
"It has created panic among the people who witnessed last year's floods," said Kamdeo Mandal, a farmer in Saharsa.
"The fear of floods like last year is giving us sleepless nights," said Munna Singh, a resident of Madhepura town, one of the worst hit by floods last year.
But Yadav stressed that the eastern Kosi embankment, which had breached Aug 18 last year, was totally safe.
"The embankment was strengthened and breach repair work was completed," he said.
But reports reaching here said that hundreds of people, fearing a repeat of last year's floods, are fleeing from villages likely to be threatened by floods.
Last year, more than three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course Aug 18. Large tracts of land were flooded, forcing people to flee their homes.
Hundreds and thousands of people were affected in the floods that were said to be the worst in Bihar in the last 50 years. People were forced to live along roads under the open sky without food and drinking water or in relief camps.