Monday, February 27, 2023

Drainage Crisis in Kosi River Basin

Drainage crisis in the Kosi river basin has become an annual ritual of aerial surveys, flood relief, dubious assurances, and constitution of committees, judicial probe and the like. Kosi is a major tributary of the Ganga river.

Nothing can illustrate the fate of various committees, commissions and Task Forces constituted to study flood and drainage problem since 1950s to 2008 better than what R Rangachari, Chairman, Expert Committee on the Implementation of the recommendations of Rashtriya Barh Ayog said on August 19, 2008. He said, `I am not aware as to what follow up actions were all taken on this Report. It is my impression that really not much has been done to implement the suggestions made by the committee's report. Rangachari was on Prime Ministers Task Force on Flood Control constituted in 2004. 

Justice Rajesh Balia judicial inquiry commission constituted in the aftermath of breach in an embankment was given nine extensions to undertake a comprehensive probe on six terms of reference related to the flood-drainage crisis in Kosi river Basin. It submitted its report in March 2014 with recommendations for remedial measures. So far there has been no remedial action. 

It is noteworthy that National Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the Government of India announced in 2004 made a solemn pledge to the people of the country to undertake Long-pending schemes in specific states that have national significance, like flood control and drainage in North Bihar (that requires cooperation with Nepal as well). Despite acknowledging the problem, it is shocking to observe that neither central nor Bihar government `conducts any survey to assess the effect of flood control measures on socio-economic condition of the society. This hold true for Nepal as well. Given the fact that the coalition government in Bihar comprises of parties that had adopted the CMP, there is a compelling logic for them to reiterate their pledge and act on it. 

A look at the statements of the Indian Prime Ministers, the Nepalese Prime Ministers and the Bihar Chief Ministers reveal how they remain enveloped in the technocentric approaches that caused the calamity in the first place. 

After the breach in the embankment at Kusaha in the Kosi region, Bihar Chief Minister requested India's External Affairs Minister on 19 August, 2008 to approach Nepal Government to ensure law and order as per Kosi Agreement in order to repair the breach that took place in Nepal. 
On 20 August, 2008, Nepali Prime Minister took stock of the post-calamity situation in the Kosi region and said "Koshi agreement was a historic blunder" and "People are suffering due to this agreement". The agreement led to the construction of embankments and proposals for a high dam.   

All this clearly demonstrates how although the more things change on the ground, the more they remain the same. A Fact Finding Mission on Kosi that visited the flood affected parts of North Bihar and Nepal demanded a White Paper on the current deluge and drainage in the Kosi basin in general and North Bihar in particular in order to address the drainage congestion crisis that has resulted from the so-called solutions. A White Paper on South Asia's biggest environmental crisis in Kosi river basin is long due. 

Following the eighth breach in th embankments in August 2008, besides four panchayats in Nepal, four North Bihar districts- Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura and Araria- got worst affected by floods. In addition to these twelve districts -- Purnia, Katihar, Khagaria, Muzaffarpur, West Champaran, Saran, Sheikhpura, Vaishali, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Patna and Nalanda were affected by the floods as well. An estimated 35 lakh people suffered due to the flood crisis. As per Bihar government own reports, 48 lakh people in 22 districts were in need of assistance due to flood. Despite the institutional memory of crisis in Kosi river basin, it ends up creating a situation where "contractors love drainage crisis". The primary function of floodwater is to drain out excess water. It has not been allowed to perform its functions due to unthinking engineering interventions.

Any judicial or executive probe that does not fix criminal liability is suspect because the fate of such commissions and committees are a foregone conclusion. It is a routine exercise of no consequence. However, since the terms of reference of Justice Balia Commission was focused on Kosi High-Level Committee, a multilateral body, it merited attention. But the biggest limitation of the Commission was that it did not and could not question the institutional status quo that is guilty of perpetuating the crisis. Dozens of such reports prepared by Commissions of all ilk gather dust and are moth eaten. At most they become campaign tools during elections.

The Inquiry Commission should have recommended fixing charges of criminal neglect against the members of the Kosi High-Level Committee, who waited for the calamity to happen despite having sufficient information that could have at least led to evacuation of the people on time prior to the man-made crisis. However, it is quite sad that the Terms of Reference of the Commission was so devised as to create a rationale for Kosi High Dam in Nepal. The Commission has underlined in its report that relevant departments of the state government did not provide the information it sought. The report of Justice Balia Commission met the fate of the reports of the Rangachari Committee and Rashtriya Barh Aayog. 

Drainage problem in Kosi has failed to alter the policy regime of the State that favours structural solutions regardless of the natural drainage it may impede. Proposals like High Dam on Kosi is as good as jumping from the frying pan into the fire if the experience with embankments is anything to go by.

Even when one chooses to ignore changing morphology of the river, the estimated lifespan of a dam and embankment is 25 years and 37 years respectively underlines the transitory nature of technocentric interventions.

For several decades, each and every proponent of embankments, Multi-purpose Kosi High Dam, and diversion of rivers for Interlinking of Rivers project have merely been shouting I have all the facts about the dynamic and unstable geology and violence of Kosi to scare people in order to make people surrender their judgement. People seem to have unquestioning and unsuspecting respect for facts. Governments in India and Nepal relied on these very facts to sign Kosi agreement. Now the Nepal Prime Minister has regretted the suicidal agreement on Kosi, signed in 1954, as the main cause behind the flooding of the Nepali territory every year. Nepals sense of grievance regarding Kosi may be justified because the treaty reveals itself as outdated and unfair to both the parties. The proponents of High Dam and diversion of rivers seem to feign ignorance about decommissioning of 1,797 dams in USA since 1912 to make room for the free flow of the rivers. Notably, 69 dams were removed in 2020 alone. 

Counting on the Kosi treaty, Union Ministry of Water Resources misled the Rajya Sabha on March 11, 2008 on the issue of Floods in North Bihar by claiming, Government has taken various steps in the direction of water management to stop the flood in north Bihar coming from the rivers of Nepal. There has been no significant shift in the way the Kosi issue was perceived in the 1950s and in recent times. 

The treaty has remained quite pronounced because a carrot of Kosi High Dam, first raised in 1948, has been dangling before the flood victims as one of the `permanent solutions to the problem of recurring floods. Ironically, embankments as temporary solution have become reasonably permanent whereas the `permanent solution has remained elusive. What is `permanent and how permanent is `permanence? It must be acknowledged now that there is a manifest and condemnable insincerity in proposing Multi-purpose High Dam for flood control because the dam is proposed to tap the hydro-power potential. The multiple purposes (irrigation, power-generation, flood-control, etc) are conflict ridden because objectives of flood-control, irrigation and power-generation would require opposite functions from the reservoir. This is ignored since well-entrenched beneficiaries across political lines have an incestuous relationship with the structural solutions like embankments, dams and their victims that prevents rational vulnerability assessment based interventions to remove the impediments to the drainage of the ecological flow of water. 

All endeavours at course correction at this stage must take into account how did the transformation of flood dependent agrarian regimes into flood vulnerable landscapes took place since it was primarily driven by the need to secure private property in land, which was a key concern of the colonial powers. It `soon disrupted natural flow regimes and ended up aggravating flood lines and thereby opening up the deltas to enhanced flood vulnerability; Constructed a network of roads, railway lines, and bridges, which by running in the east- west direction ended up interrupting natural drainage lines that mostly dropped from north to south! These structures, in time, not unexpectedly, began to unsettle a complex and fragile arrangement for drainage. Thus, north Bihar has been deprived of the most fertile land in the world. The Royal Commission of Agriculture had blamed lack of adequate drainage for it. Traditional systems made the agricultural districts of north Bihar Ganga basin prosperous in the early part of the 19th century. The neglect of that system over the years led to the area being impoverished by the late 19th century. 

There is a compelling logic behind seeking immediate review of Indo-Nepal Kosi Treaty that created the rationale for embankments and dams. Continuing with it would tantamount to riding a dead horse. The treaty must acknowledge that technology can only help create irreparable problems. If technology is indeed the answer, surly the technologists have got their questions wrong. Drainage congestion in North Bihar and Nepal is the question that has remained overlooked for several decades.
The litmus test for a sane, credible, fair and democratic treaty lies in providing treatment for permanent water-logging that has come to characterize the Kosi region.

Floods or Earthquakes or hurricanes or tornadoes or tsunamis cannot be controlled. But the catastrophe they can cause be predicted, anticipated and preventable. If that is the case the best flood proofing mechanism since times immemorial is rely on simple truths and beware of the law of unintended consequences. The simple truths being drainage of the river must remain sacrosanct come what may besides early preparedness, timely evacuation of human and animal population and establishment of robust public health system.   
Given its distinct geo-morphological features and complicated hydrological characters,  Kosi is one of the Himalayan rivers that has yet to be understood in its entirety. There is no substitute of reversing the past policies, as is being done world over to combat adverse planetary changes. Land use changes such those attempted in the past and those proposed are acknowledged to be significant contributor to it. It is high time policy makers gave up their outdated "conquest over nature" paradigm and acknowledge "we shall have to learn to live with floods". 

Instead of pretending to be surprised by river's natural functions, scientific logic of water cycle creates a compulsion for re-visiting the Kosi Agreement to factor in fragility of Himalayan watershed, Ganga Basin Master Plan, decommissioning of numerous dams in Europe, South America, USA, and China and the UN report "Aging Water Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk".

Besides recognising the rights and duties of the riparian parties, the revised legal agreement will have to ensure that the natural right of the river  is recognized the way it has been done in rights of rivers Brazil, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador, New Zealand, Uganda, Canada, Northern Ireland and Bangladesh. Unless primacy is accorded to the legal rights of Kosi river, human suffering due to drainage crisis will remain a permanent feature of the river basin as an outcome of a myopic and misplaced "temporary" engineering "solution". 
Dr. Gopal Krishna
The author is Co-author, Report of Peoples' Commission on Kosi River Basin (February 2023), Member, Peoples' Commission on Kosi River Basin (2022), Co-author, Kosi Deluge: The Worst is Still to Come (September 2008), Member, Fact Fact Finding Mission on Kosi River Basin (March 2008) and Co-author, Disputes Over Ganga (2004)

Friday, February 24, 2023

कोसी-मेची नदी परियोजना सहित सभी नदी जोड़ परियोजनाए अवैज्ञानिक व जल चक्र विरोधी है : कोसी जन आयोग रिपोर्ट

(फोटो में: कामरेड केडी यादव,  डॉ. नरेन्द्र पाठक, भाकपा माले के विधायक संदीप सौरभ, डॉ. गोपाल कृष्ण, मेधा पाटकर, कांग्रेस के विधायक संदीप सिन्हा, अरशद अजमल, राहुल यादुका, महेंद्र यादव)

कोसी जन आयोग द्वारा कोसी के सवालों पर 24 फ़रवरी को पटना के ए. एन. सिन्हा इंस्टिट्यूट के सभागार में कोसी जन अधिवेशन का आयोजन किया गया जिसमें आयोग की कोसी क्षेत्र की वर्तमान स्थिति और समाधान पर रिपोर्ट जारी की गयी।  विश्व बांध आयोग की आयुक्त रह चुकी जन आंदोलनो की नेता और कोसी जन आयोग की सदस्य मेधा पाटकर ने कहा कि जब हम नदियों को माँ मानते है तो उसके साथ विकास के नाम पर क्रूर व्यवहार क्यों करते है? उन्होंने कहा कि आपदा आने पर लोग पूछते है कि यह आपदाएं प्राकृतिक है या मानव निर्मित है जबकि असल में ये आपदाएं शासन निर्मित होती । उन्होंने कोसी नदी, बाढ़, विस्थापन वहां के तटबन्ध के भीतर और बाहर के लोगों के सवालों को लेकर बनी रिपोर्ट की अनुशंसाओं को लागू करने की बात उठाई। धँसते जोशी मठ और दरकते हिमालय की घटना का जिक्र करते हुए उन्होंने सरकारों को विकास की गलत अवधारणा की चर्चा भी की। मेधा पाटेकर ने जल-जंगल-जमीन, खनिज संपदा और कोसी की समस्या समाधान करने हेतु सरकार एवं विधायकों से विधानसभा में सवाल उठाकर ठोस नीति बनाने की अपील की। उन्होंने कहा कि यदि सितम्बर तक सरकार इस पर ठोस कार्रवाई नही करती है तो कोसी के लोग पैदल चलकर राजधानी में डेरा डालने आएंगे।

कोसी जन आयोग के सदस्य, पर्यावरणविद् व न्यायशास्त्री डॉ. गोपाल कृष्ण ने रिपोर्ट में कोसी की समस्यायों के विवरण और समाधान के लिए सुझाए गए मार्ग का जिक्र किया।  पटना हाई कोर्ट और सुप्रीम कोर्ट के नदी जोड़ने के संदर्भ मे दिए गए आदेशों को अवैज्ञानिक और जल चक्र विरोधी बताया। कोसी हाई डैम और नदी जोड़ जैसी परियोजना उस दौर की है जब जलवायु संकट की वैज्ञानिक समझ का अभाव था। आज के युग मे दुनिया भर में हजारों बड़े बाधों को नदियों की अविरलता और निर्मलता के लिए हटाया जा रहा है। सरकार को उससे सबक लेना चाहिए। उन्होन याद दिलाया कि 1937 में हुए पटना बाढ़ सम्मेलन में तत्कालिन मुख्य अभियंता जी एच हॉल तटबंध की तीन सीमाओं का रेखांकित किया था। रिपोर्ट का हिंदी संस्करण 48 पृष्ठ का है। इसके पृष्ठ संख्या 32 पर लिखा है: "बिहार सरकार के मेची नदी को कोसी नदी से जोड़ने की परियोजना है। मेची और महानंदा नदियों से जोड़ने के लिए कोसी मुख्य नहर से तनमाटर् का प्रस्ताव है। इसे सिंचाई के साथ-साथ कोसी की बाढ़ के समाधान के रूप  में प्रचारित किया गया हैं। हकीकत में न तो सिंचाई हो सकेगी और न ही बाढ़ की कमी पर कोई असर पड़ेगा। ये सभी नदियां एक ही मौसम में उफान पर आ जाती हैं और बाढ़ आ जाती है। बाढ़ के मौसम में बाढ़ के पानी को मोड़कर कम करने का दावा तथ्य की कसौटी पर खरा नहीं उतरता। इसके गंभीर पारिस्थिक परिणाम भी होंगे। कोसी कुछ महत्वपूर्ण जैव विवधता का घर है, जिसमे लगभग 300 गंगा नदी डॉलफिन, कई जल पक्षी प्रजातियां, कछुए और एक छोटी घड़ियाल की आबादी शामिल  है। घाघरा नदी को कोसी नदी के जलग्रहण क्षेत्र में भी स्थान्तरित करने के प्रस्ताव पर चर्चा चल रही है। जल संसाधन कायों की राजनीतिक अर्थव्यवस्था नदी जोड़ो परियोजनाओं को चलाती हैं। यह बिहार की राजनीतिक अर्थव्यवस्था का एक आवश्यक घटक है"। आयोग की रिपोर्ट का अंग्रेजी संस्करण 33 पृष्ठ का है।  शोधार्थी राहुल यादुका ने कोसी जन आयोग रिपोर्ट की सभी पहलुओं को बयान किया। रिपोर्ट कोसी नदी और बाढ़ नियंत्रण की यात्रा, कोसी परियोजना का मूल्यांकन आदि विषयों के संदर्भ में सुझाव प्रस्तुत करती है 

अधिवेशन को संबोधित करते हुए भाकपा माले के विधायक संदीप सौरभ ने 1937 में हुए पटना बाढ़ सम्मेलन के हवाले से बताया कि तटबंध बाढ़ से होने वाले नुकसान को बढ़ाते है। वे समस्या को एक स्थान से दूसरे स्थान पर स्थान्तरित करते है और तटबंध झूठी सुरक्षा की भावना पैदा करते है। कोसी जन आयोग रिपोर्ट के मुद्दे को विधानसभा में उठाने की बात कही।

कांग्रेस के विधायक संदीप सिन्हा ने कहा कि कोसी पीपुल्स कमीशन द्वारा जमीनी अध्ययन के आलोक में प्रस्तुत एवं पारित प्रतिवेदन के मुद्दे को विधानसभा में मजबूती से उठाएंगे। (फोटो में: संदीप सिन्हा, डॉ. विद्यार्थी विकास, के.डी. यादव, डॉ. नरेन्द्र पाठक, संदीप सौरभ, डॉ. गोपाल कृष्ण, मेधा पाटकर, राजेंद्र रवि, महेंद्र यादव)

भाकपा माले की केंद्रीय कमिटी के सदस्य व वरिष्ठ नेता के.डी. यादव ने कोसी के लोगो के संघर्षों के साथ एकता का इजहार किया।

जगजीवन राम शोध संस्थान के निदेशक डॉ. नरेन्द्र पाठक ने रिपोर्ट में कोसी के लोगों के उठाए सवालों की चर्चा की।

ए एन सिन्हा इंस्टिट्यूट के सहायक प्रोफेसर डॉ. विद्यार्थी विकास ने कहा कि सरकार को अलग से कोशी के लिए बजट बनाने के अलावे विधान सभा में अलग से कमिटी बनानी चाहिए जिससे इस मुद्दे पर सतत कार्यक्रम चल सके।

कार्यक्रम की अध्यक्षता पर्यावरणविद राजेंद्र रवि एवं मंच संचालन कोसी नवनिर्माण मंच के संस्थापक महेंद्र यादव ने किया।

अधिवेशन की शुरुआत बाढ़ पीडित बृजेंद्र यादव द्वारा जनगीत प्रस्तुति से प्रारंभ हुई।

कोसी क्षेत्र के रामचन्द्र यादव, इंद्र नारायण सिंह, प्रियंका कुमारी, चन्द्रबीर यादव, राजू खान, रोहित ऋषदेव ने कोसी के तटबन्ध के बीच और बाहर की अपनी अपनी समस्यायों व पीड़ा बताते हुए जन आयोग  की प्रक्रिया व रिपोर्ट में उनकी बातें आने पर एकता कायम की।

इस मौके पर पूर्व शिक्षा पदाधिकारी विनोदानंद झा, समाजिक कार्यकर्ता चेतना त्रिपाठी, देश बचाओ अभियान फरकिया मिशन के संस्थापक अध्यक्ष किरण देव यादव, लेखक पुष्पराज, पत्रकार अमरनाथ झा, सविता सीटू तिवारी, विनोद कुमार, कनिष्का, सैफ खान, दिलीप झा, ज्ञानेश कुमार, प्रियतम मुखिया, रिंकी कुमारी, कुमुद रानी, सन्तोष मुखिया, श्रवण, धर्मेन्द्र, मनीष, मनोज, रमन, अखलेस,जहिब अजमल, किरनदीप, बीरेन्द्र प्रभात, एडवोकेट मणिलाल आदि उपस्थित थे।

 (फोटो में: इं.गजानन मिश्र, डॉ. गोपाल कृष्ण, मेधा पाटकर व राजेंद्र रवि) इससे पहले 23 फ़रवरी को पटना में कोसी पीपुल्स कमीशन द्वारा प्रस्तुत रिपोर्ट को कोसी जन अधिवेशन में  सर्वसम्मति से पारित  गया।