by Hari Prasad Shrestha 27 July 2019
It has been a regular phenomenon since a decade in Nepal, especially in plain land of Terai, bordering India, becoming catastrophic during monsoon rain, mainly caused by road, dams, and embarkments illegally built by India along the Nepal border. Every year, it kills hundreds of people, destroys thousands of houses, makes homeless to millions, destroys thousands of acres of croplands and many infrastructures.
The situation in other than bordering plainland of Terai and mountainous regions of Nepal are also not much different than this. Increasing deforestation, climate change, construction of roads, airports, and expanding human settlements are significant causes of floods and destructions there too.
Before a decade, there were some casualties, and limited destructions, and the situation was not so worse compared to currently Nepal is suffering. Major trans-boundary rivers – Kosi, Narayani, Karnali, Rapti, Mahakali, cause floods in Terai plains and the Indian territory downstream due to heavy rainfall upstream.
Flood and rain have their natural phenomenon which has no relations with politics or political boundary. Flood and rain are part of nature, the entire region affected by its reality.
It has been proved that embankments are not permanent solutions to control flood only shift a problem from one place to another. They cannot control floods. For example, the 2008 Koshi floods, when the river broke its embankments and changed its course to almost 120 km to the east.
Officials reported that more than 6.7 million people in India and 2.5 million people in Nepal had been directly affected by the floods and inundation only this year.
Nepalese people blame India’s illegal roads, dams, and embankments for flood and inundation in bordering areas of Nepal. The social media and the leading newspapers in both countries actively view their perspectives differently during the monsoon period.
India’s leading newspapers, published from close to Nepal border, have reverse headlines, they report that India faced flood due to the opening of dam gates in Nepal. Nepalese newspapers also counter the Indian newspapers blaming to Indian infrastructures in the border and the gates of major dams in Nepal are under Indian control as per treaty. The coverage in newspapers published from both the sides and reactions in social media have shown the reality to some extent and more ignorance up to a great extent of the real issue.
The Indian central and state government of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh always deal with Nepal in a light manner concerning flood, ignoring that it is a shared problem. There is no question of being a small and big nation in this issue, nor its political agenda always try to be in the upper hand. In this issue, India deals with Nepal in the way to only benefit itself one-sided. The construction of embankments, dams, and high roads parallel to Nepal border are its example, and it cannot stop the natural flow of rivers and millions of border inhabitants of both the countries’ suffering.
Until now, India has constructed dams, embankments in 18 places adjoining to the border, the locations are: • dams at Laxmanpur and Mahalisagar; • embankments at Rasiawal-Khurdlotun, Danda Pharena, Lal Bakaiya, Kunauli, Bairagania Chakra, Bagmati, Siraha, Luna (Bakraha), Kamala and Khando; • barrages at Koshi, Kailaspuri (Karnali), Sharada and Tanakpur; • proposed high dams at Koshi and Pancheshower; and • Proposed reregulating dam at Purnagiri.
These structures have been permanent suffering to Nepal. And every year millions of people have been affected by these structures. The dissatisfactions in bordering Nepalese people are ever-increasing.
Recently Nepali people oppose on Indian initiatives to construct pilot channel to divert the river from Koshi barrage to Kunauli border to save eastern embarkment and its land. As dissatisfaction and opposition, local people broke the embarkments of Gandak dam and roads in many other Indian locations. However, India is still rapidly constructing thousands of kilometers of high roads parallel to the Nepal border within 300 to 500 feet’s distance. Some other examples are being cited below.
A large and highly productive area of Bara, Parsa, Saptari, and Rautahat are facing the problem of inundation die to one-sided bandha construction of India.
During the rainy season, India closes the door of the head regulator of Gandak canal which causes inundation in Bara and Parsa districts of Nepal.
Hundreds of hectors land of the southern part of Rupandehi district of Nepal are facing the problem of inundation due to the construction of Khurdalotan dam constructed by India in the border to save its three villages – Rasiwal, Khurda, and Lotan from the flood.
A similar problem could be seen in bordering Kapilvastu district of Nepal due to Indian Mahalisagar Dam.
The Bairganiya ring dam is causing complete inundation in Nepali district of Rautahat.
Due to Indian infrastructures blockade of the Holiya and Santari rivers of Banke district, half of the Narainapur Village municipality facing inundation each year.
Moreover, Due to the Laxmanpur dam on the Indian side, the Rapti river spreads heavy water in vast lands in western Nepal Terai.
India constructed Kalkalwa Marginal embarkment within 300- 500 meters distance from Nepal border in 2000. This 22 KM long, 5-meter-wide and high embarkment stops the natural flow of Gandhaili, Sutaiya and Dunduwa rivulets of Banke district of Nepal.
Due to delays in opening gates of Girijapuri dam of India, the inhabitants of Kailai districts of Nepal are suffering from inundation each year.
These examples are more than enough to testify the Indian intentions. As Nepalese have been suffering from flood, the situation of Bihar and Utter Pradesh is not very different.
It is not hidden that Nepalese authorities seem scared or fearful to raise this issue sharply with Indian counterparts or raise lightly during monsoon to show public as they are negotiating with India. And if there is intense pressure from the people, Nepalese authorities use the word ‘diplomatic channel will be used to solve the problem.’ This somehow shows their awful supportive mindset and easy-going gesture toward India.
And in the local level, the problem is that the regional political parties of Terai hardly oppose the issue, while the Madhesi people of Indian origin in Nepal are the prime sufferer from this catastrophe. Only affected people and some social organizations oppose it on a small scale when they suffer for a quarter of the year during the monsoon.
Nepal and India have a Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) to deal with transboundary water issues. There are some other committees, too between Nepal and India like Nepal-India Joint Committee on Inundation and Flood Management, Nepal-India Joint Committee on Water Resources.
However, the meetings and decisions are made at the governmental level, which doesn’t seem to bring any changes to issues at the local or trans-boundary level. India proposed in the Standing Committee meeting that one should consult the other country while constructing dams, embankments within eight kilometers of the border. Nonetheless, India has not kept its word in this regard. Nepalese requests to stop construction and remove the embankment have fallen in deaf ears.
Rather than effective implementing a solution, however, most of the time it proposes joint inspection of the problem, joint survey as a delay tactic. As a result, nothing fruitful has been done to deal with the issues.
The damage to the nation is much more severe as the flood has swept away bridges, roads, transmission lines, and other infrastructure. However, people must forget the pain in the winter because they are helpless.
Nepal cannot solve this problem alone as it is related to two countries. Some Nepali experts propose complaining to Security Council of the United Nations, mediation by a neutral third party, and raising the issue at the International Court of Justice. Other argue that internationalization of the problem could be very expensive monetarily as well it could increase bitterness with the neighbor, and which could take years to be decided. No one can stop the natural flow of the rivers; the only solution is that until India realizes this fact – both the countries are suffering by this shared issue and the border embarkments cannot reduce this problem.