Progressive Bihar - Finally the sleeping giant is waking up

Progressive Bihar - Finally the sleeping giant is waking up
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Floods in Bihar - What is the solution

Year on Year we keep hearing that Bihar is either suffering from Drought or from floods. More often than not, some part of Bihar goes through a drought situation , while other areas experience floods and that too at the same time. In all situations it is the people who suffer, it is the people who die.

This year again floods came calling: Read The Times of India article from 26th August 2011 - Floods hit thousands in Bihar, UP.  Or the more recent articles Floods in 6 Bihar districts still grim, govt sounds red alert and Flood situation worsens in Bihar.

And then I read an article on BRF (Bihar Revival Forum) that has been trying to garner support for a Canal proposal that will not only ease the flood problems of the people affected by the floods , but at the same time help in improving agriculture in other drought affected areas of Bihar (Read: BRF moots simple plan to check flood in north Bihar). Not only that, as per the plan put together by the BRF, the same water in the canal can be used for generating hydroelectric power. They have reached out to many people for support like ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi and senior BJP leader L K Advani but have not been very successful.

This prompted me to read more about the flood situation in Bihar and the findings are mind-boggling:
  1. 76% population of North Bihar remains in recurring threat of floods
  2. 16.5% of India's total flood affected area is in Bihar
  3. 22.1% of the flood affected people in India stay in Bihar
  4. 73.06% of the total area of Bihar is flood affected
I knew that floods were a major problem but just realized the magnitude after really doing the research. So the question that comes to my mind is "Why haven't successive state of central government done anything about the flood situation in Bihar?"

The number of people affected by floods is the highest in Bihar,  Poverty is the highest in Bihar: I would think this to be a no brainer - Do something to reduce the floods, channelize the water to other drought affected areas and use it as a multipronged tool for the prosperity and well being of the people of Bihar. This will not only ease the problems of the people affected by floods, it will also help them and the people from the other areas who will benefit from channelized flood water for irrigation, prosper. Bihar is an agricultural economy with 70% of the people or more engaged in agriculture and therefore I would think that building a canal should have been taken at the highest priority... . After all one of key reasons for Punjab and Punjabis in Punjab to prosper is that they put in a canal system in place and that led to a green revolution of sorts in Punjab.

The estimated spend by BRF for their proposal has been pegged at Rs. 600 crores by them but the Bihar government estimated it more like Rs. 6000 crores. I would guess Rs. 600 crores mooted by BRF would be the cost of labor and material for building the canal and not included the estimates for land acquisition, project management, government approvals or not factored in some other costs. But either ways looks like the cost will be anywhere from Rs. 600 crores to Rs. 6000 crores.

The canal should be built even if it means spending Rs. 6000 crores or even Rs. 10,000 crores.This amount is way smaller than the amounts that some ministers and government officials are supposed to have made in the recent time in scams like 2G etc. And afterall it will help give a better life to the people of Bihar which will also benefit people across India. With better life in Bihar, there will be lesser people who will migrate out in search of a job or better living conditions and therefore it will reduce the kind of backlashes like the one the Bihari people faced at the hands of the likes of Raj Thackeray's MNS.

So what is the government waiting for? Industries are still not coming to Bihar at the scale that is required. We keep talking about water for running the Thermal plants and that we are not being allowed to use the water from Ganga for it... Why do we need water from Ganga... Let's spend on building a Canal system and perhaps the flood waters will themselves help run our Thermal power plants. Maybe with better electricity and availability of water, more industrial houses would be willing to set up shop in Bihar.

I see a lot of benefits from being able to channelize the flood waters for better use which benefits everyone. I hope the government also realizes this and does not delay any further on taking tangible actions on this at the earliest.

Source of data for Flood statistics - Flood Management Information System of Bihar

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