The idea of a national interlinking of rivers needs to base itself on the past six decades’ experience of river and fl ood control measures. A contribution from Bihar shows that not only is the state’s “surplus water” tag a bit incorrect, the very structures – dams, canals and embankments – which are proposed to implement the river interlinking project have been a big failure. Then what explains the enthusiasm for this failed idea?

Dinesh Kumar Mishra looks back at the history of floods in North Bihar and wonders what this year has in store Had the Kosi river not breached its eastern embankment at Kusaha last year, 2008 would have gone down as a drought year in North Bihar. The rains were scanty and there was virtual drought after the breach occurred. That is why the Kosi hit only 3.3 million people across five

The Kosi afflux bundh breached in Kusaha in Nepal on 18 August 2008. This was the eighth incident of its kind and the first time did a breach occur upstream of the Kosi Barrage. The ones in 1968 and 1984 were no less disastrous but this year

The overflowing Kosi had, as of end-August, wreaked destruction on more than three million people living in north and east Bihar. A field visit reports on the misery of the affected, haphazard rescue efforts and criminal exploitation of the uprooted. The immediate task is to improve relief operations and then provide support to the displaced who will not be able to find work until the 2009 kharif season. A blame game is now in operation, but since the early 1960s whichever the party in power, the people of Bihar have been affected by official apathy towards the embankments on the Kosi.

The Story of Bihar

The Government of India adopted the first Flood Control Policy in 1954 and proceeded to construct 33928.642 kilometers of embankments along its rivers, 38809.857 kilometers of drainage channels dug to drain unwanted floodwaters and protect 2458 towns against floods and raise 4716 villages above the maximum observed flood level. It is worth noting that the nationwide floods of 1954 had a spread area of only 7.490 mh. This had gone up by 22 times in the 51 years between 1954 and 2004 despite an investment of Rs. 8113.11 crores till the end of the ninth FYP (2002).

the floods have once again ravaged Bihar. Claims made by the government that all precautionary measures were taken, embankment and anti-erosion work completed in time and that the floods would not be allowed to occur

The Centre for Science and Environment recently interviewed a number of environmental experts, industrialists and economists to come up with a list of suggestions for green taxes and financial incentives: