Author : Hari Bansh Jha

Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Aug 17, 2020
Prioritising the issue of floods in Nepal–India dynamic Floodwater create havoc in Nepal and across its border in the northern part of India during the monsoon. Like in the past, this year too, the floods have caused heavy loss of life and property in the two countries. Transport services have been disrupted as the roads and bridges in several locations have been damaged. Crops have also been destroyed on a massive scale. In Nepal, about 150 people are killed by the floods every year. Till  24 July, 2020, 132 people died, 128 injured and 998 families were affected on account of rainfall, landslides and floods in this country. In Province 2 alone, 87,629 hectares of fertile land were damaged during that period due to incessant rains and floods in different rivers. On the other hand in Bihar state of India across the Nepalese border, 2.4 million people were affected by floods in 11 out of 38 districts as of  July 28, 2020. Of the different districts in Bihar, Darbhanga and Samastipur are hardest hit. In Uttar Pradesh, 582 villages in 19 districts were affected by floods, though the normal rainfall in the state was 15 per cent less during the present monsoon season. Because of the floods, 5,75 lakh people, apart from 76,623 animals and 38,248 hectares of farmland were affected till August 10, 2020. Additionally, 61 villages in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh were also inundated, which affected over 1.50 lakh people and damaged 171 houses. For the last several years, Nepal has been blaming India for the trouble caused by floods in this country. Different check-bunds, high roads and other development activities built across the border in India hinder the flow of floodwater from the rivers. As such, many parts of Nepal’s Terai regions get submerged with water causing loss of life, property and crops each year. Similarly, in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which share a border with Nepal, people complain that their livers have become more miserable due to the floodwater coming from Nepal. The Uttar Pradesh government even pointed out that the floods created havoc in this state because Nepal did not allow the implementation of eleven new flood prevention projects worth INR 53.64 crore in its geographical region. Also, some parts of this state were inundated because Nepal released water from certain barrages. Until a few decades back, the floodwater from the rivers was regarded more a boon rather than a bane in the Terai region of Nepal and across the border in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India, though the magnitude of precipitation was more that time. This was so because the rivers flowing from Nepal to India used to carry with them more of fertile soil rather than the silts, which used to add to the productivity of land through which they passed. As the river beds were deep and there were least of check-dams, roads and other development projects in the two countries, the floodwater passed easily from one country to the other almost hassle-free. Therefore, the waterlogging problem was unknown in many of those regions. However, for quite some time the floodwater in the rivers flowing from Nepal to India has become a matter of major concern. Several parts of Nepal’s Terai region get inundated as the flood water don’t pass that freely on account of the check-bunds, roads, railway tracks and other development projects across the border in India. There has been least of consideration in those projects as to how to facilitate the free flow of floodwaters from the rivers. At the same time, India’s concern about the growing menace of floodwater from Nepal is not altogether untenable. Earlier even severe floods in the rivers flowing from Nepal did not create that much of alarm in India, with even minor flash floods in the rivers causing havoc now. Because of the unprecedented level of deforestation in the Nepalese hills as well as in the Terai and Bhawar regions, there is no check to the floodwater passing through the rivers from Nepal to India. Besides, the Chure/Shivalik range, the lowermost of the Himalayas, has been heavily encroached on account of the illegal settlements. Most alarmingly, the roads are being constructed haphazardly, including in the mountain, hills and the Terai regions. All such activities have caused a landslide and soil erosion in different parts of Nepal, which ultimately cause the rivers to carry with them silts rather than fertile clay causing desertification in Nepal’s Terai region and also across the border in India. Also, climate change has raised the possibility of outbursts of a glacial lake in the Himalayas, which if happens, could wash away vast stretches of land in Nepal as well in India due to the sudden rise in river waters. This year in July, the local administration in Nepal had alerted the people in Sindhupalchawk district, near Kathmandu, for the chances of the outburst of Keyrung Tshyo Glacier Lake in Tibet region of China. A few years ago, the news of possible outbursts of Tsho Rolpa Glacier Lake in Dolakha District of Nepal on account of glacial melting in the Himalayas had scared many people in the country. However, flood-related issues are not arresting due attention of the authorities of Nepal and India, though the magnitude of the problem is growing each successive year. Certain vested interests have used the floods as a tool to create a thaw in relations between the two countries, which by tradition are very close with each other, led by the open border system. Time demands that the flood-related issues between Nepal and India should not be overlooked any longer. Because of the geographical features, neither Nepal nor India alone could bring any tangible solution to the problem. They need to develop an appropriate strategy to contain the menace of floods in the long-term interest of the people of the two countries.
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Hari Bansh Jha

Hari Bansh Jha

Hari Bansh Jha is a Visiting Fellow at ORF. Formerly a professor of economics at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, Hari Bansh’s areas of interest include, Nepal-China-India strategic ...

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