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Video: Bihar’s great walls of destruction


Floods are not a new thing in Bihar, a state in the lap of these flood plains. Around the time of India’s independence, the state started caging its rivers with embankments. In this video, Dinesh Mishra explains why Bihar is so vulnerable to flooding and more importantly, why embankments have caused more harm than good.

Dinesh Kumar Mishra & Usha Dewani, India Water Portal

Born out of the sea, the Ganga basin is a playground of the rivers coming down from the Himalayas. Floods are not a new thing in Bihar, a state in the lap of these flood plains. For centuries, the people here have lived with these waters, with the floods washing away their lands once a year, slowly, leaving behind a blanket of rich and fertile silt. However, this changed around the time of India’s independence.

That’s when the story of caging these rivers with embankments began. Rather than help contain the flooding, the embankments only made the situation worse. Bihar’s flood prone area, which was about 25 lakh hectares in 1952 rose to 68.8 lakh hectares in 1994 – an increase of almost three times.

What do the locals have to say about this? How are they coping with the damages resulting from the embankments? Has the government compensated them?

Hear the story of these people from the man who has spent over 30 years of his life understanding the history of floods in Bihar and organizing communities to recall age-old ways of coping with them – Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra.

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The article discusses the impact of the breach of the Kosi river embankment and the technical flaws in its construction, and its current state.

To control Bihar’s floods, understanding river Kamla is crucial
Chicu Lokgariwar, Scroll.in
Kamla floods regularly in monsoon. The traditional system of interconnected village tanks and chaurs, or wetlands, has long sponged up the worst of the floods. This role was shared by the paleo channels. Gajanan Mishra, Joint Secretary of Bihar Water Resources Department, termed these water bodies as detention spaces that take in the initial surge of the flood water. The spread of the river water over the land would also replenish the fertile soil… The construction of embankments in the mid-1960s cut off the links the river had with the paleo channels and the chaur-pond system. This had two direct, but contrasting, impacts. First, the embankments increased the intensity of the floods for those living within them… The breaches that occurred in the embankments also led to intense floods in the surrounding areas. On the other hand, the traditional “detention spaces” were bereft of water, leading to crop failure in those villages.

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