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Bihar: Flood Control Measures Missing Ahead of Upcoming Monsoon

The monsoon is set to arrive in the state in the next three to four days.
Bihar flood.

Patna: As the much-awaited monsoon is set to arrive in Bihar in the next three to four days, people are worried and expecting devastation in flood-prone districts due to the government's failure to complete annual flood control measures, including embankment repair, maintenance and anti-erosion work.

The official line of flood control planning and monitoring of the water resources department (WRD) is that most of the projects of flood control measures have been completed, and others are near completion. However, the reality is different as it appears that flood control measures were completed only on paper.

For instance, people living in different villages in Kusheshwar Asthan Purbi, a block in Darbhanga district, fear that floods will hit them hard this time as no embankment repair and maintenance works have been done so far.

"This year, floods will either displace or kill us because of the dangerous condition of Kamala Balan western embankment. Officials have neglected and ignored the damage to the embankment at nearly ten places in the stretch of 4 kilometres. No embankment repair and maintenance works were done," said Hariom Paswan, a resident of Sisauna village near the embankment.

Kamlesh Choudhary, from Barniya village near the embankment, said people living in dozens of villages under six panchayats on the west of the embankment have to face floods due to failure to repair damages to embankments at several places.

Akhilesh Kumar, an official of the block office, admitted that there are reports of embankment damages, and information was sent to the concerned department for repair.

Both Paswan and Choudhary said they have started preparing to shift to safer places along with their cartels if floods threaten them.

Kusheshwar Asthan Purbi is one of the worst flood-prone areas in Darbhanga, surrounded by several rivers, including Kamala Balan, Bagmati, Kareh and Adhwara.

In another example, anti-erosion works were not done in dozens of villages facing the threat of erosion near rivers Ganga and Mahananda in the Katihar district. Hapless villagers have been forced to leave their native village and migrate to a safe place.

"With no anti-erosion work done, nearly 100 families, primarily poor, dismantled their thatched, bamboo, mud and brick homes, abandoned village and migrated to safety in the last ten days, given the threat of river erosion," said Neyaz Alam, a resident of erosion-prone Babla Banna village under Amdabad.

Alam, a victim of river erosion himself, said his four-acre farmland was washed away in the last three years, and there is no hope of anti-erosion work as monsoon will arrive soon. Water levels in the rivers are slowly rising after heavy rains in catchment areas in neighbouring Nepal.

This case has exposed the negligence on the part of the government and its seriousness in dealing with increasing river erosion year after year in the state. Flood experts have repeatedly raised the issue of increasing river erosion and its adverse impact. They have expressed serious concern over the fact that river erosion threatened the existence of hundreds of villages and the livelihood of thousands.

"People at several places where anti-erosion works were done questioned its quality and alleged irregularities. It is a severe issue of corruption in anti-erosion works. I will take the issue in the state Assembly during the upcoming session," said Congress MLA Shakeel Ahmad Khan, who represents the Kadwa Assembly seat in Katihar.

In flood-prone Katihar, erosion by four major rivers - Ganga, Mahananda, Koshi and Barandi displaced thousands during monsoon.

According to WRD officials, a huge amount of Rs 300 to 400 crore has been spent on different projects related to flood control measures annually in the state.

But there are reports of several places in flood-prone districts, including Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura, and West Champaran, where vulnerable points on long embankments on Koshi, Bagmati, Gandak and other rivers were not repaired.

Last month chief minister Nitish Kumar had directed officials to complete all remaining flood protection works ahead of the monsoon in the state.

IMD has predicted monsoon arrival between June 12 and 15 in Bihar. According to the WRD's website, Bihar is the most flood-affected state, accounting for close to 17.2% of the total flood-prone area in the country. Out of 94.16 lakh hectares, 68.80 lakh ha (76% of North Bihar and 73% of South Bihar) is flood-prone. At present, 28 out of 38 districts in the state are flood-prone.

Last year repeated floods affected lakes of people in the state during the monsoon.

The WRD says flood management works so far implemented comprise construction and maintenance of embankments, revetment in selected portions of river banks, land spurs and other necessary flood protection works. As a short-term protective measure, the construction of embankments along rivers has been taken up. By constructing about 3745.96 km of the embankment, around 36.46 lakh ha of the area has been brought under reasonable protection.

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