Bihar pins hope on foreign minister Jaishankar’s Nepal visit for relief from flood woes
Devastated by recurring floods every year, Bihar has pinned hopes on external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Nepal for a lasting solution to the problem.
Every time it rains heavily in Nepal, the rivers in Bihar overflow submerging hundreds of villages and rendering lakhs of people homeless in the state. This year, at least 130 people have been killed in Bihar as 13 of the state’s 30 districts were flooded by six rivers in spate, displacing nearly nine million residents.
Jaishankar is on a two-day visit to Nepal to participate in the fifth Nepal-India joint commission meeting, which will involve detailed discussions on key issues, including flood management and forecasting on both sides.
Bihar water resources minister Sanjay Jha, who is New Delhi, said Union minister for jal shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat assured him during a meeting on Wednesday evening that the need for high dams on the Nepal side to regulate rivers Kosi, Kamla and Bagmati was also an important part of the foreign ministry’s agenda.
“The solution to Bihar’s flood woes lies in Nepal and everyone knows it since Independence. In1954, the Indo-Nepal treaty was signed for a high dam in Nepal to save Kosi inundation. In 1991, both the government signed a treaty for the study of the high dam proposal and a committee was also formed. Since 1980, Kamla and Bagmati rivers were also included in the scheme of things,” said Jha.
He said an office Viratnagar was set up in 2004, but the detailed project report (DPR) is yet to be readied even though the Indian government has given the funds.
“The Union minister has said that the issue would be discussed during MEA’s visit and some concrete solutions will emerge,” he added.
In 2015, former Union water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation minister Uma Bharti had said the construction of Saptkosi high dam in Nepal would provide a huge reprieve to Bihar and that there had been fruitful talks with the government of Nepal on it. However, things did not change.
Jha said the inclusion of the old proposal of a high dam in the MEA’s agenda was a big step forward.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed. I have also urged the Union minister to give Bihar some short-term relief, as the construction of the high dams will be a long-term measure. Even for recent floods, Bihar could little due to the heavy surge from Nepal. If this requires building a barrage near Jainagar or providing other support, it should be done,” he added.
Jha said Shekhawat also assured him that the Centre would take a policy decision on declaring big river-interlinking projects as national projects.
Bihar had earlier submitted nine intra-state link proposals. The National Water Development Agency (NWDA) had completed a detailed project report of two intra-state links of Burhi Gandak-Noon-Baya-Ganga and Kosi-Mechi link. While one has been cleared, Jha said the other one could also get the Centre’s nod soon.
Jha said that the water discharge from Farakka barrage was also discussed with the minister to address Bihar concerns over the state of River Ganga in its stretch.
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