India-Nepal talks on flood control start

August 26th, 2008 - 7:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 26 (IANS) Nearly eight days after the flooded Saptakoshi river began inundating huge tracts of land in southern Nepal and India’s districts in Bihar across the border after a breach in the barrage, a team of Indian technicians began talks with the Nepali authorities Tuesday to assess and control the damage.Nepal’s state television said newly appointed Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar and Physical Planning and Works Minister Vijay Gachhedar went to Sunsari district on an inspection visit even as Indian technicians and Sunsari district officials began talks in Inaruwa town.

While Nepal blames the government of Bihar for not maintaining the barrage, whose spurs collapsed due to incessant rain, India says its team could not reach the affected area due to lack of security.

On Thursday, Nepal’s new Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav is heading for New Delhi on a four-day visit to attend the meeting of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) foreign ministers, when he said he would take up the flood issue with the Indian authorities.

Yadav said Nepal would form a high-level commission to investigate the barrage collapse that has played havoc in both Sunsari district and India’s Bihar state.

Over 75,000 people have been displaced in Nepal, and a million have been affected in Bihar.

Yadav said he would ask the Indian authorities for a perennial solution to the floods caused by the river that is described as Nepal’s and Bihar’s sorrow.

The highway connecting south Nepal with India has been closed in parts due to the inundation and the Nepali foreign minister said he had asked India to facilitate transport.

Nepal’s transport entrepreneurs Tuesday urged the minister to ask India to waive restrictions on using Indian roads since their vehicles are now forced to make a detour through Indian soil due to the Nepali road being out of use.

Some of Nepal’s lawyers and political parties are asking the government to demand compensation from India, citing instances like the Union Carbide disaster in India’s Madhya Pradesh state that became an international issue.

Meanwhile, bad weather began plaguing the Himalayan republic once again, raising fears of greater devastation.

With rains lashing the areas upstream of Saptakoshi since Monday, the water level in the river was rising alarmingly and more inundation was feared.

Also, the swollen river has begun to change its course, flowing eastwards, which was putting more areas in Bihar in jeopardy.

The mitigation work will first focus on building additional spurs and reinforcing the existing ones. Only after that is over can efforts start to coerce the river into returning to its old course, officials said.

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