Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Unprecedented human migration and misery due to manmade floods

Unprecedented human migration and misery due to manmade floods

Preliminary findings of the Fact Finding Team on Bihar floods

Nearly 73.06 per cent of the area of Bihar is prone to flooding. It is
estimated that about half a million have migrated from the embanked Kosi
region alone. In the face of mass exodus from the state, the resumption of
flood control embankments aggravates the situation of countrywide
condemnation and humiliation that migrant Biharis face. These structures
have compelled them to migrate in search of livelihood.

A multidisciplinary 14 member Fact Finding Team has concluded its 8 daylong
travel of the flood affected regions of North Bihar wherein it traversed
along the embanked parts of Kosi, Kamala, Bhutahi Balan and Baghmati rivers.
The visit from March 1-8, 2008, entailed visiting Khagaria, Saharsa, Supaul,
Saptari, Kunauli, Kamalpur, Mahadeo Math, Nirmali, Ghoghardiha, Kosi
barrage, Runni Saidpur, Sitamarhi, Vaishali and other places.

The manner in which floods have been amazingly sustained in this region
despite over five decades of relentless efforts have been the core idea
behind this voluntary mission.

Backed by volume of secondary literature but limited primary exposure of
ground realities, this team is anguished to conclude that not only are these
floods manmade but that the worse is yet to come should the political
economy of flood control continue to pivot itself around `temporary
embankment' as the only solution to the scourge of floods. The state
pretends that it is afflicted by the colossal ignorance regarding the
primary function of floodwater--draining out excess water and the fact that
no embankment has yet been built or can be built in future that will not

The team is outraged to report that the government's investment of over Rs
1600 crores since the early 1950's has helped increase the flood prone area
from 25 lakh hectare during the pre-plan era to over 68.8 lakh hectare
today, an unprecedented three-fold increase. Proposed as temporary measure
to control floods in the 1950s and having had failed on all fronts, the team
is bewildered to note that the business of embankment construction has
resumed after a lapse of 17 years with a Rs 792 crores package to tame the
Bagmati. There is another proposal to embank the tributaries of Mahananda at
an estimated cost of Rs 850 crores. Clearly, the lessons in human misery
have not been learnt.

That over 2 million people are permanently trapped between the flood control
embankments and an equal number of people faced with acute water logging in
the so-called flood protected areas, only exposes the stark failure of the
state's democratic governance. The team observed the inevitability of
migration due to loss of livelihood that is a consequence of state's benign
intervention and its callousness. This exposes the migrant Bihari population
to the wrath of perverted political monsters in Assam, Maharasthra, Punjab,
and Delhi. Sporadic incidents across the country demonstrate state's
collusive inaction. The team is astounded to observe that the state remains
a mute spectator to the denial of basic rights of livelihood and instead it
accentuates their misery by pretending ignorance about the outdated, tried,
tested and failed technology of embankments as if it is caught in a time

The team observed state's arrogance and misplaced faith in engineering that
has stopped the natural process of `landbuilding' by these rivers, a process
that had ushered in necessary socio-cultural conditions for emergence of
`civilisation'. Need it be said that the marriage of natural capital and
social capital had made Bihar the apex knowledge center. The total collapse
of this knowledge culture within the state is a result of embankment of this

The team notes that 8.36 lakh hectare of land in North Bihar is permanently
waterlogged, which is nearly 16 per cent of the North Bihar's total area.
Some 8 million people have been directly hit by water logging, earning the
state the dubious distinction of being the leading claimant of this kind of
manmade submergence. Draining vast stretches of waterlogged land is
technologically and financially unfeasible. Can any welfare state afford to
keep its most fertile lands under water?

The team witnessed how the poor and the powerless are obviously the main
victims. It emerged from the narratives of the villagers that embankments
are for the benefit of the contractor politicians and the technocratic
development ideology to deal with flood suits them unmindful of the
environmental and social mess.

As the embankment lobby has gained momentum once again, the fact that such
interventions will raise river levels by several meters, making the land
between the embankments uninhabitable for millions of people displacing them
for good. The bitter experience of flood control embankments has given birth
to a strong sentiment against it.

The team shockingly wondered about the land use change that has adversely
affected the ecosystem of the region contributing to the rupture of its
carrying capacity. It makes a classic case requiring urgent measures to undo
the damages that appear beyond redemption.

The team examined the impact of flood control measures and the trends in
consequent losses in the region. The team has inferred that migration is an
indicator of the enormity of glaring state failure. Embankments remain the
main loss-determining factor. The team calls for a white paper on the impact
of existing embankments.

Those living today in the flood-affected region are promised other
ecologically disastrous projects like Barahkshethra Dam and Interlinking of
Rivers is like proposing one catastrophe to solve another a la devil and the
deep sea.

The observations made by the team are its preliminary findings. The final
and detailed report of the Fact Finding Team would be shared in due course.

How relevant is Kosi treaty of 1954

Note: How relevant is the agreement in the event of the breach in the east Kosi
embankment at Kusaha in Nepal on August 18?

According to Bihar government, flood has hit the state's 14 districts of Saharsa, Muzaffarpur, Katihar, West Champaran, Patna, Nalanda, Khagaria, Sheikhpura, Purnia, Saran, Begusarai, Supaul, Araria and Madhepura. The worst hit districts are Supaul, Araria and Madhepura where over 60 relief camps have been set up.

Kosi Agreement between India and Nepal

THIS Agreement made this twenty fifth day of April 1954, between the Government
of the Kingdom of Nepal (hereinafter referred to as the 'Government') and the
Government of India (herein after referred to as the 'Union')

WHEREAS the Union is desirous of constructing a barrage, head-works and other
appurtenant work [s] about 3 miles upstream of Hanuman Nagar town on the Kosi
River with afflux and flood banks, canals and protective works, on land lying
within the territories of Nepal, for the purpose of flood control, irrigation,
generation of hydroelectric power and prevention of erosion of Nepal areas on
the right side of the river, upstream of the barrage (hereinafter has referred
to as the 'Project');

AND WHEREAS the Government has agree to the construction of the said barrage,
head-works and other connected works by and a the cost of the Union, in
consideration of the benefits hereinafter appearing;

1. Now the parties agree as follows:

(i) The barrage will be located about 8 miles upstream of Hanuman Nagar town.

(ii) Details of the Project - The general layout of the barrage, the areas
within afflux bank, flood embankments and the lines of communications are shown
in the plan annexed to this agreement as Annexure A1.

(iii) For the purpose of clauses 3 and 8 of the agreement, the land under the
ponded areas and boundaries as indicated by the plan specified in sub-clauses
(ii) above, shall be deemed to be submerged.

2. Preliminary Investigations and Surveys

(i) The Government shall authorise and give necessary facilities to the canal
and other officers of the Union or other persons acting under the general or
special orders of such officers to enter upon such lands as necessary with such
men, animals, vehicles, equipment, plant, machinery and instruments as necessary
and undertake such surveys and investigations required in connection with the
said Project before, during and after the construction, as may be found
necessary from time to time by the Chief Engineer, Public Works Department (Kosi
Project ) in the Irrigation Branch of the Bihar Government. These surveys and
investigations will comprise aerial and ground surveys, hydraulic, hydrometric,
hydrological and geological surveys including construction of drillholes for
surface and sub-surface explorations; investigations for communications and for
materials of construction; and all other surveys and investigations necessary
for the proper design, construction and maintenance of the barrage and all its
connected works mentioned under the Project.

(ii) The Government will also authorise and give necessary facilities for
investigations of storage or detention dams on the Kosi or its tributaries, soil
conservation measures such as check dams, afforestation, etc., required for a
complete solution of the Kosi problem in the future.

3. Authority for Execution of Works and Occupation of Land and other Property.
(i) The Government will authorise the Union to proceed with the execution of the
said Project as and when the Project or a part of the Project receives sanction
of the said Union and notice has been given by the Union to the Government of
its intention to commence work on the Project and shall permit access by the
engineer(s) and all other officers, servants and nominees of the Union with such
men, animals, vehicles, plants, machinery, equipment and instruments as may be
necessary for the direction ad execution of the project to all such lands and
places and shall permit the occupation, for such period as may be necessary of
all such lands and places as may be required for the proper execution of the

(ii) The land required for the purposes mentioned in the clause 3(i) above shall
be acquired by the Government and compensation thereof shall be paid by the
Union in accordance with provisions of clause 8 hereof.

(iii) The Government will authorise officers of the Union to enter on land
outside the limits or boundaries of the barrage and its connected works in case
of any accident happening or being apprehended to any of the said works and to
execute all works which may be necessary for the purpose of repairing of
preventing such accident: compensation, in every case, shall be tendered by the
Union to the proprietors or the occupiers of the said land for all damages done
to the some through the Government in order that compensation may be awarded in
accordance with clause 8 hereof.

(iv) The Government will permit the Union to quarry the construction materials
required for the Project from the various deposits as Chatra, Dharan Bazar or
other places in Nepal.

4. Use of water and power

(i). Without prejudice to the right of Government to withdraw for irrigation or
any other purpose in Nepal such supplies of water, as may be required from time
to time, the Union will have the right to regulate all the supplies in the Kosi
River power at the Barrage site in to generate power at the same site for the
purpose of the Project.

(iii) The Government shall be entitled to use up to 50 percent of the
hydro-electric power generated at the Barrage site Power House on payment of
such tariff rates as may be fixed for the sale of power by the Union in
consultation with the Government.

5. Sovereignty and Jurisdiction

The Union shall be the owner of all lands acquired by the Government under the
provisions of clauses 3 hereof which shall be transferred by them to the Union
and of all water rights secured to it under clause 4 (i)

Provided that the sovereignty rights and territorial jurisdiction of the
Government in respect of such lands shall continue unimpaired by such transfer.

6. Royalties

(i)The Government will receive royalty in respect of power generated and
utilized in the Indian Union at rates to be settled by agreement hereafter.
Provided that on royalty will be paid on the power sold to Nepal.

(ii) The Government shall be entitled to receive payment of royalties from the
Union in respect of stone, gravel and ballast obtained from the Nepal territory
and used in the construction and future maintenance of the barrage and other
connected works at rated to be settled by agreement hereafter.

(iii) The Union shall be at liberty to use and remove clay, sand and soil
without let or hindrance from lands acquired by the Government and transferred
to the Union.

(iv) Use the timber from Nepal forests, required for the construction shall be
permitted on payment of compensation.

Provided to compensation will be payable to the Government for such quantities
of timber as may be decided upon by the Government and the Union to be necessary
for use on the spurs or other training works required for the prevention of
caving and erosion of the right bank in Nepal.

Provided likewise that no compensation will be payable by the Union for any
timber obtained from the forest lands acquired by the Government and transferred
to the Union.

7. Customs Duties

The Government shall charge no customs duty or duty of any kind during
construction and subsequent maintenance, on any articles or materials required
for the purpose of the project and the work connected therewith or for the bona
fide use of the Union.

8. Compensation for Land and Property

(i) For assessing the compensation to be awarded by the Union to the Government
in cash (a) lands required for the execution of the various works as mentioned
in clause 3(ii) and (b) submerged lands, will be divided into the following

1. Cultivated lands

2. Forest lands

3. Village lands and houses and other immovable property standing on them.

4. Waste lands (i) All lands recorded in the register of lands in the territory
of Nepal as actually cultivated shall be deemed to be cultivated lands for the
purposes of this clause.

(ii) The Union shall pay compensation (a) to the Government for the loss of land
revenue as at the time of acquisition in respect of the area acquired and (b) to
whomsoever it may be due for the Project and transferred to the Union.

(iii) The assessment of such compensation, and the manner of payment shall be
determined hereafter by mutual agreement between the Government and the Union.

(iv) All lands required for the purposes of the project shall be jointly
measured by the duly authorised officers of the Government and the Union

9. Communications

(i) The Government agrees that the Union may construct and maintain roads,
tramways, ropeways etc. required for the Project in Nepal and shall provide land
for these purposes on payment of compensation as provided in clause 8.

(ii) Subject to the territorial jurisdiction of the Government the ownership and
the control of the metalled roads, tramways, and railway shall vest in the
Union. The roads will be essentially departmental roads of the irrigation
Department of the Union and any concession in regard to their use by commercial
and non-commercial vehicles of Nepal shall not be deemed to confer any right of

(iii) The Government agreed to permit, on the same terms as for other users, the
use of all roads, waterways and other avenues of transport and communication in
Nepal for bona fide purposes of the construction and maintenance of the barrage
and other connected works.

(iv) The bridge over Hanuman Nagar Barrage will be open to public traffic but
the Union shall have the right to close the traffic over the bridge for repairs,

(v) The Government agrees to permit the use of telephone and telegraph in the
project area to authorised servants of the Government for business in
emergencies provided such use does not in any way interfere with the
construction and operation of Projects.

10. Use of River Craft

All navigation rights in the KosiRiver in Nepal will rest with the Government.
The use of water-craft like boat launches and timbe rafts within two mils of the
Barrage and headworks shall not be allowed except by special licence under
special permits to be issued by the Executive Engineer, Barrage. Any
unauthorised watercraft found within this limit shall be liable to prosecution.

11. Fishing Rights

All the fishing rights in the KosiRiver in Nepal except within two miles of the
Barrage shall vest in the Government of Nepal. No fishing will be permitted
within two miles of the Barrage and Headworks.

12. Use of Nepali labour

The union shall give preference to Nepali labour, personnel and contractors to
the extent available and in its opinion suitable for the construction of the
Project but shall be at liberty to import labour of all classes to the extent

13. Administration of the Project Areas in Nepal

The Union shall carry out inside the Project areas in the territory of Nepal
functions such as the establishment and administration of schools, hospitals,
provision of water-supply and electricity, drainage, tramway lines and other
civic amenities.

14. The Government shall be responsible for the maintenance of laws and order in
the Project areas within the territory of Nepal. The Government and Union shall,
from time to time consider and make suitable arrangements calculated to achieve
the above object.

15. If so desired by the Union, the Government agrees to establish special court
or courts in the Project area to ensure expeditions disposal of cases arising
within the Project area. The Union shall bear the cost involved in the
establishment of such courts, if the Government so desires.

16. Future Kosi Control Works

If further investigations indicate the necessity of storage or detention dams
and other soil conservation measures on the Kosi and its tributaries, the
Government agree to grant their consent to them on conditions similar to those
mentioned herein.

17. Arbitration

If any question, differences or objections whatever shall arise in any way,
connected with or arising out of this agreement or the meaning or operation of
any part thereof or the rights, duties or liabilities of either party, except as
to decisions of any such matter as therein before otherwise provided for, every
such matter shall be referred for arbitration to two persons-one to be appointed
by the Government and the other by the Union-whose decision shall be final and
binding, provided that in the event of disagreement between the two arbitrators,
they shall refer the matter under dispute for decision to an umpire to be
jointly appointed by the two arbitrators before entering on the reference.

18. This agreement shall be deemed to come into force with effect from the date
of signatures of the authorised representatives of the Government and the Union.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned being duly authorised thereto by their
respective Governments have signed the present agreement.
DONE at Kathmandu, in duplicate, this twentyfifth day of April 1954.



For the Government of India.


For the Government of Nepal.2008-08-21 07:32:09