There has been an appalling deluge in Bihar over the past few days. I came across some 29 trending images of the 2019 Bihar floods and they are absolutely heartbreaking. It seemed to me as a combination of both natural and flash flooding, especially in the urban areas. More than 100 people have been reported dead in UP and Bihar. Being dubbed as a national disaster, this following video that I came across on Twitter compelled me to pen this piece down.
The video is of a poor Rickshawalla from Patna. You may cry by understanding his pain and cries.
How can we celebrate if poor people in our own country are crying? #BiharRains
Do we have a heart? pic.twitter.com/UafaMNViJZ
— RITURAJ SINGH (@ThinknThought) September 28, 2019
Floods are sometimes considered to be a boon as it leaves behind the silt and minerals that are required for cultivation of food crops. But floods are definitely a bane when they wash away everything compelling the government to shut down schools, colleges, offices and power supply. Some of the major rivers like Ganga and its tributaries are swelling up and making the situations worse. Patna, the capital city is under water. In this hour of grief, one can only pray and hope!
According to public alerts issued, there is a severe flood situation for the Ganga River at Kahalgaon in Bihar. The water level of Ganga River at Colgong/Kahalgaon was measured at 32.16 meters at 09:00. This exceeds the danger level of 31.09 meters, but is below the previous highest flood level of 32.87 meters recorded in 2003. It is expected to rise to 32.2 meters by 22:00 hours today. The flood forecasts have been extremely worrying.
Almost all of South Asia is now reeling under various natural calamities because of climate change and it is going to become worse in the coming years! Every such event should be a warning sign for all of us as we all have a stake when it comes to protecting the environment. In some of the pictures that I had come across, I saw a sea of plastic cups and cutlery which highlights the low awareness levels and an absolute apathy among the general public.
In my previous articles that I had written on floods, I have continuously focused on the upstream and downstream riparian rights. Be it in the case of the Transboundary River sharing between India and Bangladesh, India and Bhutan, Nepal and India, India and China or India and Pakistan, all these water rights holds true for all the countries.
Bihar faces extreme floods every year as it lies downstream of neighbouring Nepal. Recent climate change activities suggest that relations between the countries are not very good. India and Nepal share an open border that stretches for nearly 1,800 kilometres. More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets flow down to northern India from Nepal and they contribute around 70% of the flow of the Ganges River during the dry season.
Bihar is hit the hardest when major rivers such as the Kosi and Gandaki – which are tributaries of the Ganges – flood, and Nepal is often blamed for opening floodgates and jeopardising settlements downstream. But it’s actually the Indian government that operates the barrages on both the rivers even though they are located in Nepal.
The Kosi River is also known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’ and is known for wreaking havoc every year which affects millions of people in India and Nepal. One must not forget that these areas are seismically very active thereby making them even more vulnerable to disaster.
The Indian Media are more concentrating on what's going in Pakistan,they don't have nothing to do what's going in India,in Bihar.I don't have same in saying that day by day Indian Media is becoming Treacherous. 😑😑 #patnafloods #BiharRains #BiharFlood pic.twitter.com/46Q9Y6KjoG
— AnuBhav Kumar (@the_AnuBhavKr) September 30, 2019
The Mahakali Treaty was signed in the year 1996 between India and Nepal concerning the integrated development of the Mahakali river including Sarada Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheshwar Project. All of this in the sensitive Himalayan ecology. Many experts say that the signing of this treaty between the two countries was done in extreme haste.
The treaty provides 50 million units of electricity to Nepal from the Tanakpur powerhouse and barrage over and above the 20 million agreed between Girija Koirala and Narasimha Rao. It also provides more water for irrigation as well as environmental needs below Sarada barrage but wrests from Nepal the consent to build the Pancheshwar high dam which would generate nine billion units of electricity that would be consumed mostly by India. This very treaty needs to be renegotiated in the changing geopolitics of both India and Nepal.
Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project (PMP) was the center of attraction of the project, but up until now, not even the detail project report (DPR) has been finalized which was agreed to have been completed within six months of enforcement. Even after two decades of the implementation of the agreement, there is no progress in the agreed terms in the treaty; instead, it has created a deadlock situation in Nepal-India water relations.
PMP is proposed to have installed hydro-power capacity of 5040 MW, which is several times higher than installed capacity of any existing hydro-power project in India. The largest capacity existing hydro-power project in India is the Nathpa Jakhri Project with installed capacity of 1500 MW and largest capacity under construction hydro-power project in India is the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Project, which has remained stalled since December 2011 due to agitation in Assam. Among many reasons why Lower Subansiri project remains stalled is the shoddy Environment Impact Assessment, including non existing downstream impact assessment or disaster impact assessment and violations in public consultation process and shockingly poor environment appraisal.
In recent times, the areas near by the Himalayas are facing the wrath of nature be it in the forms of landslides, floods, Himalayan tsunami and earthquakes which measure at least 7 on the Richter scale. Just last week, PoK suffered from an earthquake and aftershocks killing scores of people. Along with that, massive reservoirs also have the capability of causing Reservoir Induced Seismicity (RIS).
The 1967 Koynanagar earthquake was a result of RIS. Are these dams really meant for development in the wake of climate change? These big dams seem to have the highest potential for wiping away human civilisations completely. A country like Bhutan which is tucked in the Himalayas between two gigantic countries is extremely worried by both the countries ambitious projects which have arisen mostly due to prevailing tensions between India and China.
We have altered our ecosystems so much that even the micro climate of a particular area is changing at a pace much faster than we can even imagine. Do we really need these mega structures?