Nepal flays India as floods ravage border areas

August 19th, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 19 (IANS) Officials and endangered families in Nepal’s border villages are blaming India after heavy rains damaged a barrage and triggered floods that have destroyed thousands of homes and are feared to have killed at least five people.Downpours Sunday night made the Saptakoshi river on the Indo-Nepal border swell ominously and lash the barrage over it, causing two supporting spurs to crumble.

The escaping flood water began creating havoc in Sunsari district in Nepal as well as parts of Bihar state in India across the border.

Over 30,000 people became homeless overnight in Nepal due to the floods, taking refuge on the highway and in schools and government offices.

Police officer K. Rai, who was overseeing the rescue operations, said five people, missing since Monday, were feared to have been swept away by the swirling waters.

Hundreds of villagers were seen piling their salvageable possessions on tractors, cycles and rickshaws and fleeing to neighbouring villages as well as Indian border towns.

Nepal’s famed Koshi Wildlife Reserve is also said to be under threat from the rapidly advancing waters.

The east-west highway that connects Nepal with India was flooded in parts and vehicular movement had come to a standstill.

Distraught victims who had become separated at night from their families in the frenzy to reach a safe place were Tuesday desperately searching for other members.

Thousands spent the night under plastic sheets at night while the rain still continued.

As sufferings increased, charges began to be levelled against India for the disaster.

A Nepali local development officer was reported as saying that the Kushaha barrage, built with the assistance of the Indian government, had used inferior construction material, causing the quick erosion of the spurs.

Recently, Nepal’s official media had reported that a school, also built with Indian assistance under the small economic cooperation scheme, had collapsed due to inferior construction materials.

According to the Koshi river project pact, the Bihar government has to build, repair and maintain all spurs as well as embankments, Nepal’s official media said Tuesday.

Besides neglecting to repair the critical barrage, Indian officials were also accused of turning a deaf ear to pleas to open the sluice gates when the water level started rising.

“Nepal has lost millions due to the delay by the Indian side in opening the sluice gates,” Maoist mouthpiece Janadisha daily said Tuesday.

Every monsoon, when floods create havoc in the border areas, the two neighbours blame each other without taking any steps to resolve the crisis permanently.

Last year, during the government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the Maoists as well as the communists had flayed India and the government’s failure to take up the issue decisively with the Indian authorities.

With Maoist chief Prachanda being sworn in as Nepal’s new premier Monday and a Maoist-led cabinet expected to be formed soon, the sharing of water resources is likely to be a contentious issue between the two governments.

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