India's Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Sunday wound up an inspection of the Kosi river in Nepal, and suggested a high dam as a permanent solution to frequent floods of the river that hit both countries.
The minister, who was personally sent by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ensure that the mighty Kosi does not wreak the disaster it unleashed last monsoon, Sunday inspected the eastern embankment of the river that was breached by swirling waters, killing over 1,000 people in southern Nepal and India's Bihar state.
The Indian delegation included Vincent Pala, the central minister of state for water resources, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Bihar's water resources minister, and senior officials.
It was a joint inspection along with Nepal's Irrigation Minister Bal Krishna Khand.
At a joint press conference in Kathmandu after inspecting the repair undertaken on the damaged embankment and the condition of the flood-affected people, Bansal said a high dam was a permanent solution to the periodic ravages caused by the Kosi.
India is mooting a 269-metre high dam that would, as a bonus, also generate 3,000 MW of electricity.
The Indian team has invited the Nepali minister to visit India and inspect one of the country's high dam projects, including the resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced, for assurance.
Bansal said Khand could visit India next month. India is allocating Rs 852 million for automating the operation of the sluice gates of the Kosi barrage, repair of launching aprons and construction of downstream and upstream pilot channels.
Earlier, New Delhi funded the reconstruction of about 1,700 metres of the destroyed embankment as well as spurs to bolster it at a cost of Rs 1,430 million.
In addition, it has provided Rs 200 million for providing immediate relief to the people in southern Nepal's Sunsari district who lost their homes in the 2008 floods.
Bansal said while about 60,000 became homeless in Nepal last year, the devastation was higher in Bihar where 2.5 million were hit.
The two governments have also agreed on round-the-clock patrolling of the twin embankments of the river during monsoon so that repairs can be done as and when needed.
Bansal said Nepal has agreed to provide security to the patrols.
The visit indicated a thaw in the frostiness that had developed last year when the two sides blamed each other for the flood.
Khand said Bansal's visit indicated the "high importance that the government of India imparts to the Kosi barrage, (its) embankments and the people related with the system as a whole".
During his two-day visit, Bansal and his delegation also held talks with Nepal's new Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The Indian minister said though the Kosi was the primary reason for the visit, talks were also held on the "immense potential" of Indo-Nepal cooperation in the water resources sector, which would generate hydro power, control floods and provide water for irrigation.