Nepal on vigil as rains lash ‘Bihar’s sorrow’ Kosi

June 30th, 2011 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 30 (IANS) As torrential monsoon rains swelled Saptakosi, the river known as neighbouring Indian state Bihar’s sorrow, Nepal’s government rushed a high-level team to the southern plains adjoining the Indian border to assess the situation.

Home Secretary Lila Mani Poudel, the chief of Nepal Armed Police Force Sanat Basnet, and newly-appointed Nepal Police head Rabindra Pratap Shah Thursday went to Sunsari district in southern Nepal to monitor the situation as water flow in the swollen river reached 130,000 cusec in the afternoon.

Just 15 days into monsoon, Nepal has been experiencing heavy rains this year, raising fears that the Kosi, which breached its embankment in 2008 and caused devastation in Sunsari as well as Bihar, could cause a deluge once again.

Though the barrage built on the Kosi is designed to withstand a flow of 900,000 cusec, in 2008 weakened spurs collapsed when the water flow was only 160,000 cusec, triggering the disaster.

The swollen river featured in the security talks Wednesday held in Nepal’s south-eastern Biratnagar city.

There were reports that the river had begun eroding its embankment in two villages and four spurs had weakened. Out of the 56 gates of the barrage, 16 were opened Thursday to lessen the water pressure.

Nepal’s irrigation department however said that there was no cause for panic.

“We are watching the situation closely,” said Shiv Kumar Sharma, deputy director-general, irrigation department.

With the advent of monsoon, water woes have begun rearing their heads between Nepal and India once again.

Earlier this month, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav went to Banke district in the plains to inspect the inundation caused in several villages.

Nepal says the barrage built by India on the Rapti river in Laxmanpur village in India’s Uttar Pradesh state is causing the inundation and is seeking India’s assistance to build two embankments in Nepal.

The 2008 Kosi flood was one of the worst in the history of Bihar, affecting over two million people in the state after a breach in the embankment at Kusahawa village in Nepal.

As per a treaty between India and Nepal, the government of Bihar has the responsibility of maintaining and repairing the Kosi embankments in Nepal and the barrage.

While Nepal says the floods were due to Bihar’s negligence, Bihar says its maintenance team was hampered by locals.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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