As Bihar reels, mega project to check floods hangs in balance

September 8th, 2008 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Even as India struggles to tackle one of the worst-ever calamities to hit Bihar, poor communication with Nepal has stalled a Rs.750-billion ($17 billion) project to save the state from such floods.The ambitious project aims at building three river barrages in Nepal, including one on the river Kosi, which changed course this year, leaving over three million people uprooted.

The other barrages are to be built across the rivers Bagmati and Gandak; the three rivers cause the maximum damage in north Bihar.

“The three barrages are to be constructed in the territory of Nepal. Effective diplomatic efforts are required to see through the project. There is no scope for leniency at all,” said a Planning Commission official who did not wish to be identified.

The mega project had been devised after a series of meetings between the state and central governments but did not kickstart along expected lines.

The proposed barrages would also have to boost hydro power generation for both India and Nepal.

The project was to be funded through loans from institutions including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which last month announced a $1-million (about Rs.40 million) as financial assistance to the state for improving living conditions in urban areas.

“Active co-operation of Nepal is a must to tame the Kosi, Bagmati and Gandak rivers. We need to intensify parleys with Nepal, and convince it that the projects will benefit both two nations,” the official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity involved in the project.

Every year, the Bagmati and Gandak wreck the districts of Darbhanga, Samastipur, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Chhapra, Siwan, Gopalganj in Bihar, and Gorakhpur and Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh.

Kosi floods a major chunk of north Bihar, right from Begusarai to Katihar, Purnea, Madhepura, Saharsa and other adjoining districts.

This year, the floods have been caused by a two-kilometre long breach in the embankment of Kosi, forcing the river to change course by almost 100 km and leaving behind a trail of devastation.

The official said the inter-linking of the river is a major component of the proposed ADB aided scheme of the state, which envisages upgrading urban infrastructure in Patna, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Gaya, Munger, Motihari, Begusarai and Darbhanga.

“The state government intends to fund the entire project with financial assistance of $1.5 billion as loans from institutions like the ADB,” said the official.

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