I am happy to know that there is one more engineer (as Fatmi himself claimed on a TV channel) from Bihar in ministry that too in Man Mohan Singh’s cabinet. We all know the more known engineer-chief minister. I don’t know if there are others in responsible position claiming themselves proudly as engineers. I mention this because of the blaming game going on the reason of the recent breach causing Kosi deluge. I wish these engineers helped Bihar in finding the right and robust solution for the sorrow created by Kosi in future. Those in power can take help from all the available talent on the subject in India. If India is lacking the expertise, let us hire the consultants. Can the two gentlemen or ministers help rather than simply politicking as usual on this critical issue too?
Media in last fortnight has come out with a lot of information about Kosi deluge. Many reputed persons including NK Singh have written about it. Most of them relate to fixing the failure. Even the governments at the center and the state appear to be playing the blame game rather than doing the best that is possible to reduce the miseries of affected millions. One thing is but sure that even the disaster management of the country is of extremely poor standard and inefficient.
The stories of miseries of the massive population affected by the Bihar Deluge are continuously shocking the country. Many of the news are just disturbing. I knew Kosi from my geography book in childhood itself as ‘the sorrow of Bihar’. The present deluge is just unprecedented. The breach made Kosi to follow a route that it never followed for hundred odd years. Death tolls for human beings as well as cattle’s are not known and perhaps may not be known at all. The calamity affected around 40 lakh people across 16 districts and must have destroyed more than 3 lakh houses. It might be the biggest evacuation of the world for a safe location.
But beside the relief work, work must start on long-term solution.
According to one expert on flood, building a barrage and an embankment to tame the turbulent Kosi was an unimaginative response to the flood problem by the Bihar Government. “The best possible solution to the problem would be to “let such a river spread as much as possible. That is the way fertile deposits are left behind and there is moisture left on the ground as well. It is the people who need to learn to live with the traditional flooding.”
But I don’t think the advice provides the right solution. As reported, the breach in the eastern embankments of the Kosi has completely uprooted one of the largest irrigation systems in Bihar – the Kosi Irrigation Project and the extensive damage caused by the flood would result in severe droughts across nine districts of the region, if the canal system of the irrigation project were not restored. So it appears to be prudent that the Centre and the state should work to restore the irrigation project that may cost around Rs 5,000 to 6,000 crore.
Here are some suggestions on action plans that can be weighed and acted on:
· Construct the high dam (239 metre or so) at Barakshetra about 50 km within Nepal to be backed by a barrage downstream that the Central Water Commission suggested in a report to Nehru in 1956 or come out with a better engineering solution. It is surprising that with all the sufferings and losses of all these 50+ years, the project or a better alternative didn’t become the priority of the state or the central government. Today when India is having resources, it must tame the river of sorrow with an engineering solution inspire of its cost.
· Rework on the embankment with hard unimpregnable surfacing with the latest technologies and materials.
· Ensure desilting through mechanical means using latest technology and monitoring methods such as satellite imaging.
· Watchful monitoring of breaches with onset of monsoon in the catchments area when water level reaches a level prefixed level using the reliable technology.
· Use latest technologies to repair the breach promptly, and learn from other countries that have faced similar problems and developed it.
· Use FMEA and other tools to design and construct barrages, create canals for not allowing the floodwater to take new unknown route rather to take the guided route.
· Interlink Kosi at the upper end with other rives that can drain the water when the level rises.
· Create more and shortest routes for Kosi to get into Ganga.
· Prepare the whole of flood prone region to face disaster as it has been done for Tsunami on coastal side. Prepare seltzers and high points along the side of highways and expressways. Create effective disaster management organization. Fix up responsibility. Train officers and people.
I only wish the politicians don’t interfere in finding a technical solution to an engineering challenge.