Sunday, June 7, 2009

After border, Kosi rears up its head between Nepal, India

After border, Kosi rears up its head between Nepal, India

7 Jun 2009, 2256 hrs IST, Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN

KATHMANDU: After a sudden avalanche of anti-Indian reports in Nepal, accusing India’s Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) of raping and attacking villagers 
in Nepal’s border areas and causing widespread displacement, now the Kosi, known as Bihar’s sorrow, is threatening to affect Indo-Nepal ties once more. 

The river, which last August devastated northern Bihar, killing over 1,000 and rendering nearly 3 million homeless, could be readying to breach its embankment once more this monsoon and strike again, a team led by Nepal’s parliamentarians has cautioned. 

A 13-member delegation led by lawmaker Shanta Chaudhari, who belongs to the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, went to Bhimnagar town in southern Nepal’s Sunsari district Friday, where the embankment was breached after incessant rains last year, to inspect the repair by Indian company Bashishtha and Bashishtha. 

Under a treaty signed between India and Nepal in 1954, India assumed responsibility for designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the Koshi project for the benefits of controlling floods in monsoon and receiving water for irrigation during winter. However, the Bihar government has been repeatedly drawing flak in Nepal over shoddy maintenance while India claims Nepal’s government failed to provide security to its inspection teams. 

Fresh controversies were raised last week after the Indian contractor called a press conference in Sunsari, which was also attended by Bihar’s water resources minister Bijendra Kumar Yadav, claiming to have completed all necessary repairs. 

“We went to the spot after Sunsari residents complained that the work had actually not been completed,” said Kalanidhi Poudel, undersecretary in the interim parliament who was part of the parliamentary delegation. 

The team, that has called a discussion on the Kosi Monday, says while the Indian contractor has repaired the 1700m in the Kusaha area, where the first breaching occurred, there are still three more fragile places in the embankment covering nearly 32 km where only elementary flood control measures have been taken. The Unesco identified the three weak spots that are likely to give way under torrential rains. 

Besides the vulnerability of the embankment, hundreds of people who lost their homes last year have been staging protests in the area, demanding land, rehabilitation and compensation from India, saying the 1954 treaty binds India to address their demands. 
Yet another danger looms in the form of continued heavy siltation on the Kosi bed. Villagers in Sunsari have drawn Nepal’s attention to the danger of flooding due to it and asked Kathamndu to intercede with India. 

Poudel says that the contractor was given till June 15 to complete its work in entirety. “There’s still time for it to reinforce the elementary flood control measures in Prakashpur and its surrounding areas,” Poudel said.


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