Flood management that cannot be watered down
NEWS For a lasting solution to the India-Nepal floods, an intergovernmental panel must be formed with local representation.
- Over the years, many of Bihar’s districts have been facing serious challenges with recurrent and massive flooding.
- This year too, it has been a double whammy — of flooding and the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- It is the right time to look at some of the key aspects of India-Nepal flood management under the existing arrangements of India’s federal system that offers enough room for better coordination between the Centre and State governments.
- Some of Nepal’s biggest river systems originate in the Himalayan glaciers which then flow into India through Bihar.
- During the monsoons, these river systems flood, causing many problems for Bihar, mainly in the Mithilanchal region of the state.
- Hence, it is a necessity that there is process-driven coordination between the Centre and the Government of Bihar to handle the flooding in Nepal’s Terai and North Bihar.
STEPS TAKEN TO MANAGE FLOODING IN THE REGION
- The Government of Bihar has raised the matter at regular intervals.
- As a result the Central Water Commission (CWC), Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), had convened a special meeting of the joint team of experts, at New Delhi to ascertain the status of the detailed project report.
- But despite the repeated request by the Water Resources Department, Bihar to MoJS to expedite the progress of the detailed project report, the task remains unaccomplished even after 17 years.
LACK OF NEPAL’S PROMPT RECIPROCATION
- The Minister of Water Resources Department, Bihar, met the Minister of External Affairs, in September 2020 to highlight long-standing water sharing issues with Nepal.
- The crucial matter of water sharing with Nepal has been flagged by India officially as well but, it is evident that Nepal lacks prompt reciprocation.
- It is essential that Nepal shows the required will to find a long-term solution with India in ending a perennial disaster.
Nepal’s unwillingness to cooperate:
- As in the existing India-Nepal Agreement on water resources, the State government is authorised to execute flood protection works up to critical stretches inside Nepal territory along the India-Nepal border.
- In recent years, all such flood protection works have had to be carried out in the face of increasing local resistance.
- Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Water Resources Department, Government of Bihar, was intensively engaged at two levels:
- with local Nepalese authorities
- and through appeals to the Central government for carrying out flood protection works in 2020.
- After sustained coordination between the Centre and the State (Bihar) and expedited interventions by India with Nepal, Kathmandu gave its conditional permission for manpower and machinery operation in the Nepal area of Kosi basin.
- Accordingly, 21 out of the 22 works could be completed. Also, some progress was made to facilitate the smooth movement of manpower, machinery and flood control materials across the Gandak and Kamla rivers situated on the Nepal side.
- But despite the requisite permission for movement on the Kosi barrage and associated embankments, the movement of departmental vehicles and work activities did not draw the attention of the Kosi Project Authority, Biratnagar (Nepal) for various reasons.
- Thus, it is evident that Nepal’s attitude towards mutual issues (water sharing, flood control, etc.) has been short of collaboration, unlike in the past.
- Since bilateral cooperation remains the fulcrum of water sharing and water management between the two countries, Nepal must play its part in ensuring a sustainable way forward.
- In the best spirit of friendship, Nepal and India should restart the water dialogue and come up with policies to safeguard the interests of all those who have been affected on both sides of the border.
- It is time the two friendly countries come together and assess the factors that are causing unimaginable losses through flooding every year.
- Optimisation of the infrastructure will be decisive in finding an alternative paradigm of flood management.
- Since the flow of the water in the rivers is also linked to the Himalayan glaciers, there is a need to manage the green cover of the region.
- Water resources are priceless assets. By controlling the flooding and using the water resources for common developmental uses such as hydroelectricity, irrigation and waterways, India-Nepal relations can be strengthened even further.
- Water cooperation should drive the next big India-Nepal dialogue, and despite the challenges, wisdom should prevail to turn the crisis into an opportunity, for the sake of development and environmental protection.
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