Chief minister Nitish Kumar believes he has been able to convince the Nepalese leadership of the utility of a high dam in Sapt Kosi region to tame recurrent floods by generating hydroelectricity and ensuring control over the flood plains.
Bihar has been plagued by devastating floods in monsoon months largely because of the run off from its rivers that originate in Nepal. The most devastating of these floods was witnessed on August 8, 2008, when the Kosi jumped its embankments drowning six Bihar districts, displacing 33.30 lakh people and 9.97 lakh cattle heads in Kosi and Saharsa divisions.
The human loss via deaths was 527 even as 2.36 lakh homes were destroyed with loss of 19323 cattle heads.
“Nepal has great potential to chain water for its own use, meet power concerns and sell surplus power to India while improving quality of life of its own people,” Kumar said.
He said, “India’s power needs are burgeoning and Nepal can earn from feeding India as it has potential to generate 1 lakh MW of power as against Bhutan’s 30000 MW with which the latter has assured the best quality of life to its citizens.”
Kumar said, “Bihar will largely gain from hydel projects in Nepal, especially a high dam, which will help in flood plains planning and control strategies. Nepal is interested in developing such plans for the Sapt Kosi and Sun Kosi areas, which will help its economy stabilize too.”
He added, that there is also a meeting of minds on the way forward on the joint project committee of the two nations to work on containing floods in the Sapt and Sun Kosi area, which also affects the Himalayan country in a big way.
Kosi floods regularly affect a 10150 square km area in its basin in Bihar, which is flood prone. This is the highest area affected among all rivers. Bihar in totality has 68.88 lakh hectares prone to floods, which is 73.06% of entire flood plains and 17.02% of affected area in India.
However, there are dissenting voices in India, with experts saying that a high dam in an highly unstable seismic area could spell a huge risk to Indian districts should a big earthquake strike the zone.
“I had fruitful talks with the Nepalese leaders and assured them of India’s goodwill in their democratic process. India needs a strong, resurgent, democratic Nepal as partner. There is an emotional partnership between the two countries, which can only grow stronger,” he said.
To a question on the Madhesi agitation over Nepal’s new constitution, Kumar said, “Nepal’s leadership is a strong one and it is capable of solving its own problems, if any. It’s an internal matter,” he added.
Madhesis are people who populate the border districts of Nepal with India and are mostly of Bihar and UP origins. They are opposing the new Nepalese constitution claiming it to be discriminatory and encouraging a political asymmetry, which excludes them largely to the benefit of the hill people.
Their opposition had paralysed trade and commerce for close to three months when Madhesis groups blocked the borders with India, negating imports, leading to cost escalation in prices of essentials on the back of the devastating earthquake, which left the Nepalese economy in ruins.