The death toll has risen up to 127 people in recent floods, affecting almost 12 districts in Bihar. One of the major reasons for such an event is the presence of embankments on the riverbeds.
Why is the river Kosi often referred to as “Sorrow of Bihar”?
Himalayan rivers such as Kosi, Teesta and their tributaries emerge from high peaks and are considered to be in their youth stage. Most of these rivers carry huge amount of sediments with them and form meanders. Hence, if you build embankments around the riverbeds, the area around the river tends to become a low land and contributes to flooding in the nearby areas.
Nepal is a mountainous region and whenever monsoon brings heavy rainfall in the country, excess water gets discharged in these rivers leading to flooding in Bihar. Existing embankments aggravate the situation and have been the reason for consistent flooding over the years in the state.
One of the biggest reason for flooding is the deforestation of Terai region in Nepal. As per the 1950 Indo- Nepal friendship treaty, one can cross border, live and work without any permits. This causes excessive population migration towards the plains of Nepal, leading to cutting down of forests which are meant to sequester excessive water flow during monsoons.
Key Solutions to mitigate the effects of flooding:
At present, one of the key solutions to prevent or mitigate the effects of monsoonal flooding in Bihar is afforestation and termination of any upcoming projects of embankments. It may not get an overnight result but will certainly help the local populace and the government in the region. For instant results there should be a discussion with the Nepal government for a possible construction of a hydropower dam in the region to channelize the water flow.
Now where one region is experiencing the flooding, the other has been declared as drought- hit. The opposite weather conditions in Bihar have left it in a state of despair.
The spectre of drought:
What is the cause for such a variation in Bihar? One such reason is the existence of perennial rivers in the north part of Bihar, whereas southern region of Bihar has non perennial rivers, which are dependent on monsoons. This year the El- Nino effect has been a curse in delaying the South west monsoons, leading to a delay in the rainfall in India. Besides Bihar states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, etc. have also been experiencing the effects of drought.
One of the major reasons is human induced. Water is treated as a free commodity in several states of India. Excessive pumping of groundwater in agricultural sector leads to a decline in the water table. There is no cap on water usage, thus people affiliated in agriculture and industrial sector use it without giving it any thought. There has not been enough awareness about suitable water practices.
How to sustain the effects of climatic change in future?
One thing that must be understood is that nothing comes at a free cost and thus there should be a limitation in the usage of water. The most advocated solution of the recent times has been switching over to the old practices in agricultural sector. Less water- intensive crops such as Bajra, Ragi and Millets could be the solution.
Another solution lies in connecting the perennial rivers with non- perennial rivers and lakes. We have successful examples such as Indira Gandhi Canal (IG) and Ken- Betwa project channelizing excessive water from the Himalayan Rivers to areas with limited or no rainfall. Introduction of IG canal has led to a good agro practice in drought prone districts of Rajasthan like Jaisalmer, Sriganganagar and Bikaner.
Apart from this, there should be a mandatory rain water harvesting system in the upcoming buildings to store the water and recharge the ground water table. If we start moving in these directions, we can certainly safeguard the nation from both water scarcity and excessive flooding.