Patna: Nearly 1,000 villages across more than a dozen districts in Bihar have been hit by floods with thousands of people being displaced, marooned and stranded but officially the government agencies are yet to release data related to the number of villages and people affected. There is virtually no official daily update on the flood situation and victims in the state except for the rising water level of rivers and the forecast of rainfall.
“Thousands of people in hundreds of villages are struggling to survive after being affected by floods in north Bihar districts for days but the government is behaving differently as if there is no flood there. The government agencies are not releasing daily data of real flood situation on the ground by explaining the numbers of affected population, villages, damage of property including crops and loss of lives,” Ranjeev, a flood expert in Parna, told Newsclick. “It appears that the government is not ready to accept early floods that hit people in last week of June itself, it will officially start floods update only after the situation worsens in the coming days,” he said.
Ranjeev said that neither the official websites of the Bihar Water Resources Department (WRD) nor the Bihar Disaster Management Department were giving details of the flood situation in the state. “Both the departments are silent on the misery of thousands of flood victims. It surprises me and others,” he added.
Senior BJP leader Renu Devi, who is also the deputy chief minister, is the minister in charge of disaster management while Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sanjay Jha is the state minister of water resources. Jha is considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Interestingly, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday and Wednesday conducted aerial surveys of the flood-affected districts and directed concerned officials to carry out a realistic assessment of submerged areas. Three days after Kumar’s survey, the government agencies have still not made any official announcement on the number of flood-affected villages, people, and relief camps along with the loss of lives.
According to reports reaching Patna,144 villages in 61 panchayats under nine blocks of East Champaran district have been badly affected by floods. The rising water level of river Gandak and its tributaries have wreaked havoc on people’s lives, who have either fled or are still fleeing for safety. Nearly 7 lakh people have been hit by floods there.
The floodwater even entered urban localities under the Nagar Nigam in Motihari town, district headquarters of East Champaran.
Meanwhile, in West Champaran district, nearly 100 villages in 50 panchayats under seven blocks have been affected by floods. The rising water level in Gandak and its tributary Masan river has spread to new areas and submerged a large tract of land. The flood fighting measures are claimed to have been completed by the government agencies but the ground situation is proving the claim to be far from reality.
More than 80 villages under six blocks are affected by floods in Darbhanga district where more than 60,000 people are impacted. With Bagmati, Gehumi, and Kamla rivers having increased water levels, more villages would be affected by floods.
Similarly, 66 villages under six blocks in Gopalganj district were affected by the floods following the Gandak river being in spate. It resulted in around 2,000 families of flood victims being displaced and taking shelter on the nearby high-rise embankments and roads.
In Kishanganj district, nearly 50 villages have been affected flooded after water from the Kankai river spread there. While Burhi Gandak and Gandak rivers are overflowing in Muzaffarpur district affecting more than 100 villages there.
Nearly 100 villages under five blocks in the Khagaria district were affected by floods as well.
The flood situation is more or less similar in Sitamarhi, Samastipur, Madhubani, Katihar, Saharsa, Supaul, Saran and Sheohar districts in the state. With water levels above the danger mark in major rivers including Bagmati, Koshi, Lakhandei, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Adhwara and Kamla Balan, flood water has threatened hundreds of villages in these districts.
According to officials from the Water Resources Department, the pressure on embankments increased after barrage discharges of a huge amount of water into the rivers following heavy rains in the catchment areas in the last week. The water levels of the rivers have been a matter of concern as they are flowing near their danger levels at several places and threatening embankments.
However, the WRD has officially claimed that all flood protection embankments are safe.
After the monsoon arrived in Bihar this year, the state has received surplus rainfall so far (more than 430 mm, which is 100mm more than normal) in the catchment areas of major rivers in the state and neighbouring Nepal. This has resulted in floods in the low-lying areas.
As the India Meteorological Department's Patna division has forecast medium to heavy rainfall across the state over the next three to four days, the state government has alerted 28 of 38 flood-prone districts.
Unexpected surplus rainfall in the state has also created problems for farmers as their paddy seedlings were fully damaged at many places because of waterlogging in the fields. It was reported that the standing summer maize crop was also damaged due to heavy rainfall in the last month.
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.