The Kamla River and People On Collision Course

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The Kamla River and People On Collision Course, August, 2006

1. The Kamla River


The Kamla is a famous river in the Mithila region of Bihar. The harrowing tales of destruction that are associated with the most unsettled river of Bihar, the Kosi, are not linked to the Kamla. The waters of the Kosi is said to carry far less nutrients as far as agriculture is concerned but the Kamla enjoys a far better reputation among farmers for the nutrients that are present in its waters. It is said that the land that forms part of the Kamla basin is so productive that it is equated to producing gold. A kattha (slightly more than 3 decimals) of land here easily yields 80 kilograms of paddy and the only precondition is that the Kamla should be helpful. However, despite being such a life saving river, the Kamla does not find much of a mention in the scriptures. Even in Ramayana or the Mahabharata, there is no reference of the river that could establish the importance of the Kamla. A similar lack of mention becomes obvious within the Jain and the Buddhist literature too. However, the Kamla is very popular when it comes to the folk tales and legends and its good reputation overtakes that of the Kosi River. The local folklore regards the Kamla as a virgin Brahmin deity.

Map Showing Location of North Bihar and its rivers not to scaleIt is said that long ago the Kamla used to live in the heavens when Brahma, the creator of the world decided to start life on earth. He assigned the roles of the deities and fixed the Brahmin priests who will perform their rituals. Some how, the Kamla was missing when Brahma finalized the list. When she came to know of it, she went to Brahma and complained about the omission. By that time there was no Brahmin left who could be given charge of performing the Puja of the Kamla. Brahma then told the Kamla that she is the deity of water and will be worshipped by the fishermen. A son will be born to the King Vishwambhar Sardar and his wife. Rani Gajawanti and this child would initiate the worshipping of the Kamla. As the legend goes. Vishwambhar Sardar was a resident of the village Bharora near Singhwara, northwest of Darbhanga, in Bihar. When Brahma told the Kamla about who her priest would be, the child (who would be the priest) was already in his mother's womb and that aroused the curiosity in the Kamla. The Kamla shadowed the child, named Garbhi Dayal Singh, looked after him, nursed him and protected him like her own child. The story of this child, from his birth to growing into youth, and his marriage forms a legend and sung by the local folk singers who take weeks to narrate the entire episode. This boy was married to a girl named Dhani and born to Dukh Haran Sardar and his wife Bahura from Bakhari, in Begusarai district. Bahura was a witch and she tortured Vishwambhar Dayal and his son Garbhi along with his family but the Kamla protected him like a shadow.

After cutting Bahura to size, Garbhi returned home with his wife. Dhani, and performed the first puja of the Kamla on the banks of Tilyuga. It is since then that the fishermen of the area started worshipping the Kamla. Similar stories are doing the rounds is linked with the Kamla and the ruling deity of the fishermen, Jaisingh.

Another story that is prevalent in the folklore is that the Kamla has a fisherman well-wisher named Koilabir. He has a spade that has a handle of eighty-four maunds with a blade that weighs eighty maunds. Koilabir paves the way for the Kamla with the help of this spade and the Kamla follows him. He is very strong and stout and protects the Kamla from any untoward incident. As the legend goes, once a very rich and powerful person named Ugla, a dealer of hides and bones got envious of the Kamla as she is worshipped by all and sundry and no one cares about him. He thought of teaching the Kamla a lesson and put a bundh across her with a view that when Kamla would rise. he would pull her out, take her to his home, put vermilion powder on her forehead and marry her. The Kamla got scared after listening to the resolve of Ugla and went to Koilabir to tell him the story and seek his help. Koilabir, having listened to the Kamla, went and demolished the bundh and the Kamla remained free.

Ugla, however, was not prepared to swallow the defeat so easily. He put a bundh of bones across the Kamla who went to Koilabir for help, once again. Koilabir returned to the bundh site and found that it was built of bones and he refused to touch or break the bundh, being built of an unholy material. He, however, advised the Kamla to go to Delhi and meet one Maharaja Amar Singh who might set her free from the bondage by breaking the bundh built of bones. He told the Kamla that the Maharaja was a celibate and had a seven-storied palace and a sandal tree was located south of his palace. The Maharaja had a wrestling ground that was 22 kilometers wide and that she would not find any difficulty in locating the place. Kamla went to Delhi and traversed the wrestling ground and climbed the sandal tree. -After sometime, a hefty person arrived at the scene. Smelling some mischief, he shouted, ...I have lost my energy. It seems, some woman has traversed this wrestling ground. If I find her, I will give a punch on her face and bury her eighty feet below the ground. The Kamla descended from the tree thinking that the person could be none other than Maharaja Amar Singh and that he would surely protect her by going to Morang where Ugla had put the bundh across her. She told all her problems to the Maharaja as to how Ugla had intercepted her and was chasing her with vermilion powder in his hand. She asked him for help. Amar Singh assured her all the help and said that he would be consigned to hell if he could not bail her out of the trouble.

The Maharaja had a massive physical frame having a height of 9 yards and his chest measuring 6 yards across. To accomplish his task he was quick, to go to his mother for her blessings. Amar Singh returned to follow the Kamla to the place where the bundh was constructed. He killed Ugla but when he saw the bundh built of bones, he; too: refused to break it but advised the Kamla to go further west and look for Miran Faquir who would free her. The Kamla went to Arabia, in the west, to look for Miran (or Mira or Mir Saheb), a Muslim, and sought his help. Miran came and broke the bundh and freed the Kamla from the clutches of Ugla. The Kamla remained free ever since. The local fishermen worship the Kamla and; along with her, Miran Faquir also gets the devotees offerings.

It is difficult to say what kind of truth lies behind these folk tales but it is certain that the rivers are a part of our society, culture and civilization and it would be a mistake to judge them merely as drainage channels. A temple in the name of the Kamla is being built near Partapur on the eastern bank of the Kamla, close to Jhanjharpur in the Madhubani district. An annual fair revering the Kamla is also held here regularly.

2. Geographical Features of the Kamla


The River originates from the Mahabharat range in the Himalayas, close to Sindhulia Garhi at a height of 1200 meters, in Nepal. Many rivulets, like the Jima Khola, the Chandaha, the Thakua Khola, the Tawa Khola, the Baijnath Khola, and the Kali Khola join the Kamla before it disgorges into the plains near Tetaria, close to Chisapani, in Nepal. The catchment area of the river at Chisapani is only 1409 sq. km. A dam on the river is proposed at this location. The river then flows in the southerly direction and is joined by the Jiwa (Baiti), the Ghurmi, the Lohjara and the Mainawati on its left bank. No river joins the Kamla on its right bank till it crosses into India but a stream, the Bachhraja, branches off from the river. The Bachhraja was, once upon a time, the main channel of the Kamla (Fig. -2).

Various course of the kamlaThe Kamla enters India, about 3.5 kilometers north of Jainagar, in the Madhubani district. In the Indian portion of the Kamla, the rivers like the Dhauri, the Soni, the Balan, the Gobarjai, the Trishula and the Sugarwe join it on its left bank. Of these rivers, the Balan comes from the Himalayas and flows east of Ladania Thana and is joined by another river called the Soni. This river joins the Balan near Pipra Ghat in the Babu Barhi block of Madhubani district and the resulting stream is called the Kamla-Balan. There was a very severe flood, in Bihar, in the year 1954 when the Kamla turned eastwards and joined the course of the Balan near Pipra Ghat. This combined stream joins the Kareh, southeast of Badla Ghat. The flow path of the Balan, which is also called the Jhanjharpur Balan, is the path that the Kamla has adopted these days. The river passes through the villages of Bhatgawan, Bithauni, Chapahi. Gangdwar, Imadpatti, Kandarpi Ghat, Gandharayan. Bhabhan, Banaur, Harna, Mahrail, Ojhaul, Bahl, Mehath and Mahinathpur before it reaches Jhanjharpur ;.kihere it crosses the Darbhanga-Nirmali rail line. South of this railway line, the Kamla-Balan passes through the villages of Balbhadrapur, BeIhi, Khairi, Phatki, Prasad, Bhit Bhagwanpur, Bauram, Jhamta and Jamalpur before it joins the Kareh near Phuhia. The Balan used to join the Tilyuga near Rasiyari, in earlier days. But the changing courses of almost all the rivers along with the embankments built on the rivers to prevent this shift, have changed the entire drainage mechanism of the area. Many rivers have ceased to exist while many others have their profiles grossly changed. The Tilyuga and the Bainti rivers are now lost within the Kosi embankments.

The Kamla also brings a huge amount of detritus along with its flow although it is not as much as it is in the Kosi. The Kamla also changes its course from time to time. Many of its abandoned channels become active during the rainy season and can be seen on the western side of the present stream of the Kamla-Balan. These abandoned channels are spread from Benipatti to Rampatti in the north to the outskirts of Darbhanga and up to 35 kilometer further down near Jhanjharpur, in the south. The total length of the Kamla-Balan is 328 kilometers of which 208 kilometers lies in Nepal and the remaining 120 kilometers is in India. Chisapani, where the river disgorges into the plains, is located 48 kilometers north of Jainagar.

The total catchment area of the Kamla-Balan is 7232 sq.km. of which 4488 sq.km. is located in Bihar and the remaining portion is in Nepal. Within India, 63 percent of the catchment area lies in Madhubani district, 31 percent in Darbhanga district, 3 percent each in Saharsa and Samastipur districts and only one percent in Khagaria district. The river remains in spate in the rainy season and can be forded in the rest of the year. The maximum rainfall in the Indian Territory of the Kamla basin is 1450 mm in the Khutauna block of the basin and the lowest is in Kusheshwar Asthan (1000 mm). It is an amazing fact that despite having the lowest rainfall in its part of the basin, Kusheshwar Asthan remains submerged for a major portion of the year. We shall go into the causes of such submergence later. The Kosi on the east, the Adhwara on the west, and the Himalayas on the north and the Kareh on the south surround the Kamla-Balan basin. The total population of the Kamla-Balan basin (1991 census figures) was 38.72 lakh, and which was likely to have gone up to 44.64 lakh in 2001.

3. Different Courses of the Kamla


The Kamla although, it is not as unstable as the Kosi but it is known to have shifted its course and ever since such records are being kept, four different channels of the river are known to have existed. The Project Report of the Kamla Embanking Scheme (1956) mentions about the different courses of the river and a brief description of these channels of the Kamla.

3.1. The Bachhraja Dhar


At the time of the Rennels survey (1779), the Kamla used to flow very close to the west of Jainagar. It was also flowing west of Madhubani but in Darbhanga, the river was passing three kilometers east of the town and used to join the Kareh near Phuhia via Ghausaghat and Trimuhanighat. The total length of the channel was 240 kilometers. After the Rennel’s survey, the Kamla followed its old course till the village Rathos but it took a turn near Raghauli to join the Darbhanga Bagmati, east of Kamtaul railway station. It then proceeded to join the Kareh, upstream of Hayaghat railway station. The total length of this route of the Kamla, from Nepal hills to its confluence with Kareh, was only 158 kilometers and this stream marked the extreme western boundary of the Kamla.

3.2 The Pat Ghat Kamla


This channel of the Kamla, starting from the east of Jainagar, followed the Jainagar-Sakri rail route up to Rajnagar railway station and then it took a turn towards south to cross the Sakri-Nirmali railway line, west of Lohna Road railway station. The Kamla then joined the Tilyuga near Baltharawa village and this 189 kilometers long route of the river was known as the Pat Ghat Kamla.

3.3 The Sakri Kamla


The Pat Ghat Kamla, too, never remained in its place and, in 1922. it flowed from Jainagar to Rajnagar and crossed the Sakri-Jainagar rail line at Rajnagar itself through the bridge no: 16A. Then the river took a turn to the bridge no: 15 and, ultimately, returned to its old channel after passing through the bridge no: 7. The river crossed the Darbhanga-Nirmali rail line through bridge no: 54, west of Sakri railway station. The Kamla now started flowing parallel to, and east of. the Sakri-Behera-Supaul road and joined the Jiwachh Dhar near Jhamta. Still ahead, this new channel joined the Pat Ghat Kamla channel near Saharawa and proceeded to join the Tilyuga near Baltharwa. The total length of this route in the terai and the plains was 211 kilometers.

3.4 The Jiwachh Kamla


The Kamla changed its route once again, in 1930, near Mohanpur village. This new channel crossed the Sakri-Jainagar rail line through bridge no: 9 and adopted the path of the Chhatahari Dhar. This channel used to flow through Badriban and Kakana villages and flowing further down south and used to join the Jiwachh near Nima. This channel of the Jiwachh crosses the Darbhanga-Nirmali rail line through bridge no: 43 and, joins the Sakri Kamla near Jhamta and the Tilyuga near Baltharwa. The total length of this route is 234 kilometers. During 1939-1940, there was another change in the Chhutahari Dhar-Jiwachh Dhar route and the stream between Badriban and Dhanuki started flowing through Sahura and Akaspur and rewound near Dhanuki to follow its old route. The Kamla followed this channel till 1954 when it suddenly took a turn near Bhakua to join the Balan near Pipra Ghat.

In the lower reaches, the Kamla-Balan bifurcates near the village Gulma. The major channel that flows towards the east is called the Kosi Dhar by the local people and crosses the Mansi-Supaul rail line near Dhamara Ghat railway station and ultimately joins the Kareh. The southern channel of the Kamla-Balan is called the Bahwa Dhar and it joins the Kareh below Phuhia, two kilometers downstream of Tilkeshwar.

4. The Floods of the Kamla


Few years after the British colonization of India, a severe famine struck the country in 1770 and its impact was also felt in Darbhanga. Those days what was known as Darbhanga comprised of the present Darbhanga, Madhubani and Samastipur districts. On the one hand there was the adverse impact of the famine and, on the other, there was the terror of the zamindars. The agriculture in the area reached its lowest ebb because of this combination. At one stage, in 1783, the collector of Darbhanga had to propose that the Vazir of Oudh should be requested to send peasants so that agricultural operations could be resumed in the area. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Pargana Pachhi and Allapur of Darbhanga was a sanctuary of wild animals. The situation changed slowly and according to a report of the collector of Darbhanga (1828), there was more fallow land than the cultivated one. The situation was so bad in the terai area, close to Nepal and the area enclosed between the Dhaus and the Tilyuga, that for every bigha of cultivated land, at least, fifty bighas of land remained fallow. Some improvements were recorded in the early nineteenth century but till then half the land in the district was lying fallow and in the northern portion the uncultivated land was even more. By 1840, cultivation was started on three quarters of the land in the district but, in the northern zones, it remained only half the land was cultivated and, in general, agriculture stagnated for a long time to come. In 1875, the land under agriculture touched a figure of 79 percent and according to the survey settlement report of 1896-1903, agriculture was practiced on 80 percent of the land in Darbhanga. ...We should probably therefore be justified in concluding that cultivation has nearly doubled itself in the last hundred years, but that the greater part of the increase took place in the first half of the last century.

Famine was an improbability in the area of Darbhanga as it was cris-crossed with large number of rivers and streams. The land in Darbhanga was then infested with the jungles of Kans (Thatch Grass-Saccharum), Pater (Spotneum-Typha-Australis) and was waterlogged and marshy. ... The largest uncultivated area is in the headquarters sub-division, where there is considerable amount of swamp and marsh, which is under water for the greater part of the year. It is nearly as great in the Madhubani subdivision where there is much culturable jungle along the banks of the streams and on the Nepal frontier: and it amounts to 23 percent of the total area of the Madhubani than a where it is due to the large number of mango groves which strew the country.

O'Malley (1907) was of the opinion that further expansion of agriculture in the district was not possible and that there were ample evidences to shows that soon the production from the land here would not be able to sustain the pressure of an increasing population. In which case either the standard of living of the people will go down or the productivity of the land will have to be raised. The population of Darbhanga, in 1901, was 29,12,611 which now (2001 census) stands at 1,02,69,537 (inclusive of Madhubani and Samastipur).

Thus, two conditions for the development of Darbhanga were already set in the beginning of the twentieth century itself that, should the population rise further, the standard of living would decline and the land of Darbhanga could not sustain the needs of its population unless productivity is raised. To increase the agricultural production, it was essential that more and more land was brought under cultivation. This was possible but there was a limit to its expansion and it was essential that the drought and floods are brought under control and adequate irrigation is provided for the agriculture production to rise. The flood situation was such that the area was surrounded with rivers from all sides. While the rivers like the Tilyuga, the Balan, the Bhutahi Balan, the Panchi, the Dhokra, the Bihul, the Kharag, the Ghordah, the Sugarwe, the Supain, the Baiti, the Soni, and the Kamla were flowing from north to south; there was a pressure from the Adhwara Group of rivers and the Bagmati from the west and southwest. There was an impact of the Burhi Gandak and the Ganga in the south while the Kosi was knocking at the door from the east in the form of the Dhemura. And to cap it all, most of these rivers were unstable. We have had a glimpse of the changing courses of the Kamla but the other rivers also were no different either. The Kosi, however, was notorious for its vagaries. The silt content of the water in these rivers had its own set of problems. A river, when it descends down the hills, has a tremendous velocity of flow, which reduces drastically as the river reaches the plains. This allows the sediments contained in the flow to spread and settle over a large area. In the following monsoon season, the river cuts across the deposited sediments and carves a new path for itself. That is how the rivers make their delta. Shallow beds of the rivers and flat gradient of the land in plains create situations that if it rains well even for a day, all the rivers would overflow their banks and flood the area and as one moves in the south easterly direction, the spread of water was on the rise because all the rivers were converging in that direction only.

Apart from this many rivers were embanked by the zamindars who had also put ring bundhs around habitations to protect them from floods. These structures used to impede the drainage and were instrumental in making the floods permanent in the form of waterlogging.. ... Owing to this combination of circumstances, the district has always been subject to severe and widespread inundations, which cause a good deal of temporary suffering. But, as a rule, the distress they cause soon passes away; the dwelling which are destroyed are quickly replaced, as the cost of erecting such mud-walls huts is small; and the cultivators are compensated, in large measure, for the losses they sustain by the fertilizing silt left by the receding waters, which increases the productiveness of the soil and ensures rich crops.

Detailed accounts of earlier floods are available in old British documents, gazetteers, settlement and administrative reports and the annual reports of the Irrigation Department. For example, there were three successive floods in 1893, in the months of July, August and September. The first flood of July was absorbed but the following floods came when the ground and the available cushion for the flood was saturated. On one side, the Muzaffarpur-Barauni-Katihar railway line was blocking the passage of the drainage of the Burhi Gandak and the Bagmati, on the other side, the Kamla was maintaining the pressure from the north. This resulted in the passage of one-meter deep water from northwest to southeast through the district causing immense damage to crops, dwellings, roads and the railway lines. Almost half the district became an island and the people were forced to take shelter on the high lands, railway lines and the roads. .... Fortunately, the waters rose gradually; no lives, so far as could be ascertained, were lost; and the people had time to save their stores and to drive off most of their cattle. . .The way in which the people recovered from their losses, instead of being overwhelmed by them, was very remarkable.

Similarly, the floods of 1898 in Darbhanga were caused by the rising levels of the Kamla, the Kareh, the Darbhanga Bagmati and the Burhi Gandak. Many of the thanas, from Beni Patti, in the northwest, to Darbhanga, Laheria Sarai, Dalsing Sarai and Waris Nagar, in the southeast, were hit by this flood. Spills from the Baraila Chaur inundated Dalsing Sarai. Although, there was no loss to cattle, this flood took away some 164 lives with it besides destroying 88,000 houses. On the positive side, there was a bumper Rabi harvest that year because of fresh soil on the fields. If any body needed some employment, it was available in the repairs of the Barauni-Katihar railway line and not a single application was given for loans from the government...Prices did not rise and the Collector reported that, taking the district as a whole, the flood was rather beneficial than otherwise.

Flood came in 1902 also but the flood of 1906 created a history in Darbhanga. The common belief is that a flood is never succeeded by a famine but this years, apart from demolishing many a bridges, roads and rail lines, demolished this belief too. The first wave of flood came in the month of July and it was followed by incessant rains that started 6th August and continued up to the 24th August submerging the greater part of the district for over 16 days. From the Kamla in the north to the Burhi Gandak in the west with a simultaneous rise of the Bagmati and the Darbhanga Bagmati, most of the district was inundated. Almost entire Darbhanga town was under a sheet of water excepting the kachahri, in Laheriasarai, and the Bara Bazar in Darbhanga and many people rendered homeless took shelter on these highlands. Floodwater entered the town so suddenly and the onset of flooding was so fast that the people did not find time to react to the situation and had to move immediately. It took about a week for the water to recede in the town but, in other areas, it took over two months. The damage to the crops was so extensive that the prices soared high. The year (1905-06) was also not a very good year, generally, as far as agriculture was concerned. The floods and the rising prices broke the backbone of the people. Famine had to be declared in Rosera and Behera and free rations had to be distributed to 45,000 flood victims in the month of October, 19,000 in the month of November and 15,800 in the month of December. If the local officers and the indigo planters had not distributed food, a near starvation situation would have occurred. Test relief works had to be opened despite floods and, at one point of time, some 32,000 persons were engaged in the relief works. This worst ever flood till date in Darbhanga had water spread over 2,714 sq. km in the Sadar subdivision, 1510 sq. km. in Madhubani and 1075 sq.km. in Samastipur subdivision bringing the total to 5299 sq. kilometers.

Floods were also faced in Darbhanga in 1910, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1919, 1920 to 1922, 1924, 1926 to 1943, 1946, 1953 to 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1971, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1986 to 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995 to 2000, 2002 and 2004. Of these, the floods of 1954 and 1987 were the most severe floods of the last century. The flood of 1954 is important in the sense that virtually nothing was done to protect people from the floods till then because whatever was done in the independent India to tame the rivers and their floods was subsequent to the adoption of the flood policy of 1954. Prior to that date, all the works on the flood control were done by the farmers and the zamindars and the local people. The engineers believe that these works were undertaken for immediate and local gains and were thoroughly unscientific in nature.

In that context we shall glance through the problems faced by the people in 1954. in the Kamla Basin, in Darbhanga as that formed the basis of all the future flood control works in the district.

Till the beginning of rainy season, in 1954, the Kamla was flowing in the Jiwachh Dhar at the Kumhar Tola village, slightly north of Raiyam. This was the route of the river since 1930. It used to stray a bit here and there during the rainy season but there was no major change in its direction of flow. Despite following a given path, the river spared no opportunity of overflowing its banks and inundating the surrounding area. Because of its excessive sediment load, the Kamla had rendered the beds of the Jiwachh and the Lalbega shallow. The Lalbega was a small stream, which used to Join the Jiwachh, one and half kilometer below Kumhar Tola. The Jiwachh and the Lalbega had very limited waterway and the situation became worse when the water of the Kamla started pouring into them to the detriment of the western portion of the Madhubani town. This entire flow of the rivers used to wander in the lower - areas and, it appeared that, the river was making its delta near Raiyam. Looking at the rivers, it was difficult to identify the streams or to predict which one would emerge as the final route of the river. At times, excessive flow was seen in one channel while immediately thereafter, it used to get dry with sand appearing in its bed. It appeared once that the Kamla will adopt its Ghausa Ghat course but in the month of October, it took a sudden turn near Bhakua and joined the Balan, abandoning the Ghausa Ghat channel filling it with sand.

The floods came twice this year in the month of July and once in the month of August. It ruined the Kamla Canal System and the embankments being built near Jainagar on the Kamla, in the first instance, and the west flowing waters of the river did not spare even the Jainagar-Janakpur railway line. The river also appeared to have carved a new course for itself, on the left bank, near the village Bairaha and a similar incident took place near Khairamath, where the river was eroding the banks very badly. Most of the houses in this village were washed away. The south flowing waters of the Kamla devastated the villages of Tehra, Seira and Hanuman Nagar and damaged Belahi, to a great extent. All this water got into the Dhauri near Chatra. Simultaneous erosion was going on near Bhakua and the water of the river was spreading towards the east. In the second wave of the floods, in the month of August, Balua Tol was washed away and the Kamla was now inching towards the Soni. By October, the river joined the Balan near Pipra Ghat.

The Balan did not have the capacity to hold the waters of the Dhauri, the Soni and the Kamla. The result was that heavy flooding took place all along its course. This water extended from the Pat Ghat Kamla, in the west, to a 3 to 6 kilometers strip along Tamuria, in the east. The entire area between Bhaduar Ghat to the Sakri Nirmali rail line appeared like an ocean. On the other side, the floodwaters of the Kamla had filled the Mangrauni Chaur, west of Madhubani, in the first flood in the month of July itself, with water depths varying from 2 to 2.25 meters, widespread damage of crops and dwellings was observed in Raiyam. Because of the floods and sand casting of the beds of the Jiwachh and the Lalbega: in the month of August, the water of the Mangrauni Chaur found it hard to get drained out and; as a result, got choked with sand of up to 2 meters depth. The Kamla waters overtopped the railway line near Manigachhi and also north of Madhubani. The train services remained suspended for over nine days.

The worst ever flood till date in Darbhanga, was spread over 65 percent of the total area of the district. Crops were lost almost in the same proportion. Out of a total of 3,438 villages of Darbhanga, 2,501 villages were affected by this years flood. A population of 19,76,771, out of the total population of 37,67,798, was affected in Darbhanga by the flood that destroyed 32,950 houses and killed 13 persons besides killing over 500 cattle.

In 1955, almost a similar story was repeated in Darbhanga. The waters of the Kamla and the Balan reached up to the Deep village, west of Tamuria while on the right bank, its spread extended up to the Pat Ghat Kamla. The railway line between Jainagar and Khajouli was overtopped this year also and the train services had to be suspended for some days. The water also overtopped near Tamuria railway station and the train services had to be suspended north of Ghoghardiha. The floods had affected 2341 villages, 25.02 lakh people, and 4.16 lakh hectares of land in Darbhanga besides killing 17 persons. More people suffered from floods this year than in the last year.

5. Irrigation Problem in the Kamla Basin


A major portion of the Kamla in the Indian territory now lies in the Madhubani district that earlier used to be a subdivision of what was earlier Darbhanga. Old British records reveal that irrigation was neither needed nor practiced in Darbhanga and the Samastipur subdivision of Darbhanga. The small rivers originating in Nepal, acquire a big shape when they enter Madhubani and it was generally not possible for the farmers and the zamindars (Land-Lords) to tamper with these rivers. Also, the spread of the floodwater was so vast and wide that not only the requirement of the monsoon paddy was met with: the moisture retained in the soil was enough to meet the needs of the Rabi crop also. The extent, duration and the depth of floods were, generally; known to everybody and the farmers had with them the varieties of paddy seeds to suit every given condition. The situation in Madhubani was a bit different and irrigation was needed there in the Rabi season and, it is for this reason, there existed a very efficient and well thought out irrigation system with the help of pynes and tanks. There are people who still survive to tell about the indigenous system of irrigation but the wisdom is dying slowly and within years all these people will be no more with us. It must be mentioned here that the people had their own system of farming, used their owns seeds, and an irrigation system that did not consume as much water as one needs today for the high yielding crops.

This entire area was cris-crossed with small and big rivers mentioned earlier. Many small streams, that were almost perennial, completed the landscape. The small size of the nallahs used to help the farmers in that they could block and divert it at their will and take the water to their fields. Such streams are called pynes locally. A small input from the zamindar used to be a big help in utilizing this resource.

There used to be an engineer and sub-manager named R.S.King with the Raj Darbhanga who had become an expert on making use of these pynes for irrigation. The First Irrigation Commission of India (1903) has lauded the efforts of King in the Madhubani district. It so happened that the Government prepared a scheme, in 1877, for constructing a 19 kilometers long canal, taking off from the Kamla, to irrigate 21,300 hectares of land in Madhubani. This scheme was to cost Rs. 10,41,000/-. The government was in a dilemma whether to take up the scheme or not, for the British Government those days used to take up only such schemes that would bear their own expenses, pay the interest on the capital and yield some profit to them. The British were also vary of constructing anything close to the Nepal border for they feared that if the Government of Nepal constructed any dam or a bundh upstream in their territory the Indian project would fail automatically. These were the reasons that the 1877 scheme on the Kamla was not taken up for construction.

When the members of the first Irrigation Commission of India (1903) reached Darbhanga in 1902, they happened to meet R.S.King who told them that it was definitely possible to irrigate the area that the Government wanted to. But the fact was that, in a normal monsoon year, the farmers would not take water from the canal because they would not need it and, in a deficient rainfall year, there would not be enough water in the canals for the farmers to irrigate their fields. The Government would not get any revenue in either case and that would mean that the Government would be a loser. The Government, however, believed that the quantity of water in the canals would never go so low that there will not be any water available in them to irrigate the fields in a scarcity year like 1888-89, 1891-92, 1896-97 or 1901-02. The Commission suggested further studies of the proposed project because its cost was so low and the risks on the returns even lesser.

The Commission was very pleasantly surprised that under the enlightened orders of the Darbhanga Maharaja private irrigation works were taken up on a large scale with R.S King providing the technical input. In the unprecedented drought of 1896-97, R.S. King put temporary bundhs across the Kamla and diverted its waters to the old and abandoned channels of the river, in the east; from where the farmers took the waters to their fields with the help of pynes or the village channels. In this way he saved 9000 hectares of paddy at a cost of just Rs. 10,000/-. In May 1901, he added 3 kilometers more to the canal and saved paddy crops worth 14,250 hectares belonging to 42 villages. In the same year, he diverted the entire flow of the Kamla into the old bed of Jiwachh by putting an earthen dam across the river and secured a good Rabi harvest. This entire fete was achieved just at a cost of Rs.4,000/-.

 

INTERVIEW WITH R. S. KING


Q. How many bighas or acres do you consider that you irrigated by these means?


- It is shown in brief here (map). 40,000 acres of yellow: that is the crop secured. 5000 rabi irrigated after it had been sown and 15,000 of these villages (shown in map) which had water given to them in their tanks for their cattle and for their seedlings.

 

Q. Then 45,000 acres were really irrigated?


- Yes.


Q. So this irrigation quite doubled the value of the out turn?


- More than that. It would be multiplied by four.


Q. And the outlay altogether was how much?


- Including the channel made in 1897, it was between Rs. 13,000 Rs.14,000.


Q. Did you first make these channels in 1897?


- I made this channel (indicates on map Narkatia) in 1897 and also this one here (indicates on the map Arerh ). I spent Rs. 10,000 in 1897 and Rs. 4,000 last year.


Q. It was a successful enterprise. I think?


- It was only done bit by bit from practical experience of how the water had been flowing for years with the help of natives.

 

Source: Report of the First Irrigation Commission. 1903. page 216. Interview on 30 October 1902.

 

The interesting fact was that the Government had -set aside Rs.71, 000/- for relief operations in Darbhanga, in 1901-02. to meet any scarcity. But just as everything was near normal in the Raj, the relief operations had not to be taken up. The Irrigation Commission (1903) writes that, ...had this money been expended in the way which we Fcue advocated and with the same happy results as have been attained by Mr. King irrigation might have been provided for between 61,000 and 80,000 hectares of winter rice. King was very ably supported by his colleague Sealy, in his venture.

The First Irrigation Commission, while lauding the efforts of King lamented that such kind of works cannot be taken up by the Public Works Department (irrigation was the responsibility of the PWD those days-Author). It felt that the manager of private estates had a much freer hand in undertaking measures for the benefit of his tenants than can be given by the PWD. If the Government had to build canals, it would be expected to pay a high compensation for all the land occupied, provide crossings at all the village roads and to incur charges and liabilities which were really prohibitive in case of works required to meet temporary emergencies. Above all, a direct return of some kind was expected on the outlay, which involved the introduction of a scale of charges, and consequent inquisitorial measures, which were certain to be unpopular, and costly.

King only performed the duty of a responsible engineer but did not work wonders. Madhubani is interspersed with various small and big streams and there has been a rich tradition of irrigation with the help of these dhars, as they are called locally. King achieved results by combining the experience of the farmers about the direction and the magnitude of the flows, his technical competence and devotion to the profession and the resources of the Darbhanga Raj. Until recently, the farmers of Depura village, near Benipatti, used to intercept the waters of the Bachhraja and divert it to Benipatti chaur (Land depression formed, generally, because of shifting of the river bed) through the Hajma Nalla that passed through the villages of Depura. Nadaut and Muhammadpur. From the Benipatti Chaur, the water used to be tapped for Rabi irrigation by the villagers of Depura, Nadaut, Muhammadpur, Bhatahiser, Benipatti, Pauam, Birauli, Adhwari and Salaha. This was the traditional source of water and the traditional technology for irrigation in these villages. Within Benipatti, a nalla takes off from the eastern bank of the Bachhraja dhar, north of Chamma Tol. Its waters fall into the Navaki Pokhara (Benipatti) and re-emerges through Dhobghat Pulia. This nalla irrigates the fields in Baraha, Kataiya, Bankatta, Damodarpur and Ballia. Similarly, the nallah that emerges from the west bank of the Bachhraja Dhar joins the Sansar Pokhara. This feeds another nallah that passes through Sarisab, Benipatti, Behta, Jagat and Jagat Araji and finally falls in the Soilee Dhar irrigating all the fields on its way.

The residents of the Partapur village, near Jhanjharpur, had befriended the Bolan River and tap its waters for round the year irrigation. This is detailed elsewhere. The entire area of Madhubani district has some story of irrigation or the other, which no engineer. other than King, ever bothered to understand or examinees.

Upon the recommendation of the First Irrigation Commission, an irrigation scheme designed by Sibold was proposed for implementation, in 1906.The idea was to renovate the canals that King had made in 1901. According to Darbhanga Gazetteer (1964), a scheme to irrigate 12,000 hectares of land was prepared in 1901 at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,000/-. This scheme, too, did not work. There seems to be some confusion here because the Commission had praised the efforts of King and King himself, in the interview given to the Commission, had said that he had successfully irrigated 18,210 hectares of land. This canal unfortunately did not function well and was abandoned. Renovating the same canal with which King had irrigated 18,210 hectares of land should, normally, not have failed.

However, there was complete silence over the issue of irrigation from the Kamla till 1950. This year, an attempt was made by resurrect King Canal by cutting it in a width of 3 meters but the canals got heavily sand cast. The Bachhraja Dhar had no regular source of supply of water and hence after the rainy season was over, the Dhar as well as the canal got dried up.

In 1951, as a relief measure, the Bachhraja Dhar was re-sectioned once again. Jawahar Lal Nehru had laid the foundation of this work in the Narkatia village. The farmers in this village still fondly remember the visit of Nehru and that of Indira Gandhi. A good coverage of irrigation was achieved in the Kharif season this year but, in the Rabi season, the irrigated area was limited to 900 hectares. In 1954, a fresh-scheme to irrigate 15,150 hectares of land in the basin was proposed. The problem was that the channel of the river at Jainagar, where the headwork was proposed, was not stable. Being located closer to the foothill, this place was a storehouse of sand and silt and the river used to change its course because of this sediment load. The changing course of the river would desert the head-work every year and a new pilot channel would have to be dug to feed the canal.. Sometimes, the rainwater gushing from Nepal used to destroy the canals. Then, the arrangements to protect the canals from the attack of water coming from upstream had to be taken up and head-works had to be constructed. The irrigation, however, never improved. Against the expected irrigation of 15,150 hectares, the actual achievement in 1959-60, 1960-61, and 1961-62 was only 460 hectares, 600 hectares and 875 hectares respectively. There was a proposal to construct a weir on the Kamla at Jainagar to regulate the flow of the river and the construction of this weir had started in 1959 and it was hoped that there would be no problem after this weir becomes functional.

This scheme started providing irrigation in 1964.

6. The Kamla Irrigation Scheme


An irrigation system was planned with the extension of canals in the Kamla Project, in early 1950s, and the Kings canals were later merged with this system. A weir was constructed on the Kamla near Jainagar to divert water into the canals and it was anticipated that all the problems related to the irrigation would be solved. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

The problem with this area of Madhubani is that there is enough water during the rainy season and additional inputs are not required, generally. Sometimes, deficiency of water is felt during the Hathia constellation (early October) and the canal waters are useful only in such contingencies. But if the Hathia rains are not there, the flow in the river is also greatly reduced and it becomes difficult to push the available waters into the canals. Further, the farmers in the upper reaches of the canal, intercept this water for irrigation and release it only after their own demands are met. The Irrigation Department or the administration can do a precious little in such cases. Otherwise also, there has been tremendous sedimentation in the canal beds and their capacity greatly reduced. The water in the Kings Canal somehow manages to reach up to Balat village beyond which it dries up. Similar is the case with the Sugharaul and Pakri distributaries below Umgaon. The irrigation in these villages is dependent on the farmers upstream who block the canal water for their use. The downstream farmers get water, sometimes by requesting upstream farmers and, at times, by removing the blockades in the nights. There are always the chances of violent conflicts in such cases.

Indicative map of kamla irrigation schemeAs if that were not enough, Nepal constructed a barrage on the River Kamla at Godar on their side of the border, near Bandigram, some 20 years ago and that has resulted further in the dwindling supplies at Jainagar. Bhogendra Jha (1985), former MP has written about the problems faced in this area. He said that, “... in our hunch for the flood control and some irrigation, we constructed embankments on either side of the river and put a weir across the Kamla at Jay Nagar. These embankments were to be extended to Mirchaiya, in Nepal, in accordance with the Indo-Nepal agreement. But we did not do that. That resulted in enhanced floods in many villages in Nepal and they faced submergence. The water flowing southward spreads outside the embankments and causes breaches in the Kamla Canals. Fed up with the delays in the construction of the embankments up to Mirchaiya and our silence over the construction of the ChisaPani Multi-purpose Dam on the Kamla, Nepal has constructed a barrage at Godar near Bandigram, north of the Mahendra National Highway some 30 kilometers north of our Jay Nagar barrage. They have taken out canals from both the ends of this barrage. The flow in both these canals put together is of the order of 1000 cusecs (nearly 30 cumecs) and they are unable to irrigate the main portions in the command but that is sufficient to totally paralyze the Kamla Canal System in India. Just as the Jay Nagar barrage is constructed on the plain lands, the Godar barrage is also constructed on the plain lands and cannot tolerate the onslaughts of floods. Thus, there is no reduction in floods on either side of the border.”

A proposal to modernize these canals is pending for a long time with the Government but no action is being taken over it and the canals are loosing their utility day by day. There has been some stray digging of the canal in certain reaches in the past 2-3 years. The Eastern Kamla Canal was designed for irrigating 3,691 hectares in Kharif and 1053 hectares in the Rabi season. The Western Kamla Canal, including Kings Canal, was supposed to irrigate 24,253 hectares in Kharif and 6,930 hectares in the Rabi season. Thus, the total irrigation from these canals was 27,944 hectares in Kharif and 7983 hectares in the Rabi season.

 

Table-1

Actual Irrigation From The Kamla Canals (Hectares)

Year

Kharif

Rabi

Total

% age of Target

1964-65

2,044

-

2,044

5.69

1965-66

2,819

-

2,819

7.85

1966-67

16,558

-

16,558

40.09

1967-68

14,136

-

14,136

39.35

1968-69

24,453

129

24,582

68.42

1969-70

30,381

276

30,657

85.33

1970-71

26,665

751

27,416

76.31

1971-72

11,012

-

11,012

30.65

1972-73

29,272

194

29,466

82.02

1973-74

29,107

329

29,436

81.93

1974-75

11,238

507

11,745

32.69

1975-76

25,575

1,515

27,240

75.82

1976-77

23,102

1,651

24,753

68.90

1977-78

19,187

137

19,324

53.79

1978-79

20,871

1,543

22,414

62.39

1979-80

20,454

1,335

21,789

60.55

1980-81

18,162

1,792

20,404

56.79

1981-82

18,506

754

19,260

53.61

1982-83

16,096

818

16,914

47.08

1983-84

20,267

816

21,083

58.68

1984-85

10,543

1,041

11,584

32.24

1985-86

20,069

972

21,041

58.57

1986-87

NA

NA

NA

NA

1987-88

600

710

1,310

3.67

1988-89

25,000

400

25,400

70.70

1989-90

20,000

1,000

21,000

58.45

1990-91

20,000

570

20,570

57.25

1991-92

8,600

1,100

9,700

27.00

1992-93

7,170

1,100

8,270

23.02

1993-94

11,350

1,660

13,010

36.21

1994-95

9,990

540

10,530

29.31

1995-96

11,032

1,115

12,147

33.77

1996-97

13,254

370

13,624

37.87

1997-98

10,485

369

10,854

30.17

1998-99

11,023

381

11,404

31.78

1999-2K

12,005

568

12,573

34.95

2000-01

10,466

781

11,247

31.31

2001-02

11,020

133

11,153

31.04

2002-03

13,622

130

13,752

38.28

2003-04

22,045

545

22,590

62.88

2004-05

20,050

731

20,781

57.84

2005-06

20,100

350

20,450

56.92

Source : Water Resources Department, Government of Bihar, (At, Jainagar and Patna)

 

A cursory look at the table suggests that there is no consistency in the irrigation figures from the canals. It may be rated satisfactory in some years but, in some years, their performance becomes questionable. There has been some improvement in irrigation figures in past two years and that may be attributed to some re-sectioning of the canal in certain reaches. The irrigation figures from the Kamla Canals do not evoke confidence among the farmers of the region and no farmer bases his agriculture depending on the Kamla Canals.

Comptroller General of Accounts (Civil), in his report of 1977-78 has commented on the performance of the Kamla Irrigation Scheme. It says, ....The Kamla waters carry a lot of sediments in the flow during the floods which results in the blocking of the channels leading to the canal head-works. As the demand increases, the supply is impeded. To meet this problem, a weir was constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 64.09 lakhs in March 1964. In the month of July 1964, another scheme was launched by the Government in the name of the Kamla Irrigation Scheme at an estimated cost of Rs. 57.53 lakhs, (Rs. 46.98 lakhs for the western and Rs. 10.55 lakhs for the eastern canal system) so as to make use of the diverted water from the weir. These estimates were revised to Rs. 147.79 lakhs in July 1970 and Rs. 335.22 lakhs in September 1976. There was no provision for making the village channels in this budget and the farmers could not build them because the availability of water was uncertain. They also did not have the expertise to construct these channels. However, the canals were completed in 1968-69 but the village channels were not. Till 1978, only the budget estimates were being prepared for the village channels.

Not only the availability of water was uncertain in Kamla Canals, they have created other problems also in the region. The western canal travels in the easterly direction, from Jainagar to Umgaon, but the land slopes from north to south and the canal acts as an earthen dam for the rainwater coming from north. This water stagnates on the northern face of the canal. This damages the crops north of the canal in the villages like Lahernia, Mahadeo Patti and Kasera where it remains for up to a fortnight. The canal virtually has no use for these villages. The matter does not end with the main canal alone. The distributaries have their own share in worsening the situation. One such incident took place in the Bituhar village of Harlakhi block of the Madhubani district where severe water logging took place because of the Jiraul distributary. The farmers of these villages did not take things for granted and took the matter up to the Requisition Committee of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha.

It so happened that this distributary of the Kamla Canal was to pass through the eastern side of the Bituhar village. But, in that case, it would pass through the land of the mahant of the Pachahari Math. The executive engineer of the Kamla Canal was under the influence of the spiritual head of the Math and he got the alignment of the canal changed to the western side of the village. The farmers protested and gave many petitions to restore the alignment of the distributary but these requests had to be made to the same executive engineer who was already influenced to disregard them. The distributary was constructed and water logging followed. A farmer from the village, Devendra Singh, along with 51 other farmers lodged a protest with the Vidhan Sabha for the redressal of their problem. Vidhan Sabha constituted a committee to look into the matter and the report of the committee was published in 1981.

The committee report says, ... The crops of the poor farmers are destroyed year by year due to water logging. The houses of the poor Harijans, too, collapsed in large numbers each year.... The Irrigation Department should compensate for the losses incurred by the people. The Committee contacted the Relief Commissioner if he could help the farmers in the matter who opined that if the losses were incurred because of the mistakes of the Irrigation Department, the compensation must also come from them. The Relief Department comes forward to help people only in case of natural calamities. The rent for the land can be waved off in case of the waterlogged land only till such time that there is water on the land. Even this can be done only at the recommendation of the Collector of the district, he maintained.

The Committee wrote further that, … Those, whose land is acquired for the purpose of constructing the canal do not get water, their land gets waterlogged for technical reasons, their houses collapse and the Government watches all these events helplessly. What sort of justice is this? The department must look at the problem from a humanitarian angle. It is a well-known fact that the guilty should be punished and not the innocent The sole reason for water logging is the construction of the canal.

The fact is that a large chunk of land is waterlogged in the Kamla Project because of the embankments and the canals. The Government has submerged the land but, not to talk of any compensation, the process of providing land remissions is so complicated that it is impossible to get any relief on that count. Despite the recommendation of the Committee of the Vidhan Sabha in this case, no action was taken. Bituhar is just an exam-ple but there are so many villages, from Jainagar to Arerh in the Kamla Basin that suffer from waterlogging, sand casting, breaches in the canals and non-availability of water with nobody to look after the peoples interests.

7. Revenue Collection in the Kamla Canals


The process of collection of the irrigation tax is equally cumbersome, humiliating and intimidating for the farmers. This is no different than other large canals like the Kosi or the Gandak. Whether water is released into the canals or not or whether irrigation has been provided at all; the bills come in time. No solution to this problem has been found out so far. Baidya Nath Yadav MLA (1966) had raised this point in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha, way back in 1966, saying, “...the tax is extorted illegally from 90 percent farmers on the plea that they should deposit it now and it will be returned later. When the farmers claim the reimbursement; their requests are not heard ...The Karmacharis of the department also demand money illegally...Those who do not own land in the village, also get the notice for making payment. If the crop is destroyed following a breach in the canal, still, the notices are served. The Karmacharis of the department draw a map of the irrigated area sitting at home without verifying whether the land that they have marked as irrigated is a house or a threshing ground. The payments are sought from all.”

Such charges are being leveled against the revenue staff right from the beginning of irrigation in the area. Irrigation from the Kamla Canal started on a very modest scale in 1964-65 but when it came to the billing for the irrigation charges, the farmers of as distant places as BeniPatti got the notices while the water was not released into those canals. They were ill treated by the staff of the department and their bullocks were confiscated by the revenue staff, besides threatening them of dire consequences. Nothing has changed in the Kamla Project since then.

8. The Kanila Flood Protection Scheme


Flood, it appears, was not a big issue in the Kamla basin in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. There were some zamindari embankments, at places, and the people had their own arrangements of coping with the floods. The British Government used to tread very cautiously in taking up any scheme in the basin because it had no control over what Nepal would do in her territory. Till 1942, the British were opposed to the embankments and wanted their systematic demolition and they had learnt this lesson the hard way when the embankments (earthen walls of trapezoidal cross-section constructed between the river and the human settlements) constructed on the Damodar in the middle of nineteenth century failed to control floods and created many other problems instead. That forced the British to improve the drainage and achieve a greater degree of moderation of floods and they preferred leaving the river to their own devices. Before they left India, however, the British had initiated large dam projects like the ones on the Damodar and Barahkshetra Dam on the Kosi too had started making news. However, all that was done for tackling floods in independent India was building embankments.

Without going into the details of the impact of embankments over the river and the debate that ensued in the past over the choice of embankments as a device to control floods, suffice here to say that the floodwater of a free flowing river carries a lot of sediment load (silt, sand and stones), which is spread over a large area along with the floodwaters. This is how the rivers build their delta. The embankments not only prevent the floodwaters from spilling: they also trap the suspended sediment load within them. Thus the process of natural land building of the river is thwarted, the sediments get deposited within the embankments thereby successively raising the bed of the river and, in turn, the flood level within the embankments. The embankments have to be raised keeping in pace with the rising bed level of the river. There is a practical limit to which the embankments can be raised and maintained. With every rise of the embankment, the surrounding countryside turns into low-lying lands, in the same proportion.

Rising bed and flood levels within the embankments threaten the embankments of failure due to overflowing seepage or slumping down of the slopes of the embankments, to the detriment of the people residing in the surrounding countryside. The embankments may also breach because of the flow under pressure through the holes of rats muskrats and foxes, which these creatures dig through the body of the embankments.

The discharge from a tributary river cannot enter the main river because of the construction of the embankments. This water, from the tributary will either back-flow into the countryside or start flowing parallel to the embankments on the main river flooding new areas, hit her to unknown to experience flooding. The obvious solution to this problem is to construct a sluice gate at the confluence of the two rivers. However, it is difficult to operate such sluice gates during the monsoon months for the fear that if the water level in the main river is high, there is a possibility of the water from the main river flowing back into the tributary. Sluice gates often get jammed after a few years of their construction due to deposition of sand in their front, on the riverside. Thus sluice gates or no sluice gates, the tributary water will spread into the countryside. These sluice gates can be operated only after the rains are over and the water level within the embankments has considerably gone down. By the time the damage is already done, as the tributary cannot discharge its water into the main channel.

When the sluice gates fail to perform, it is often proposed to construct the embankments over the tributary, to prevent its spill. Now, the rainwater that falls within the two embankments of the main river and that of the tributary, has nowhere to escape. It becomes a case of water locking. This water can only evaporate into the atmosphere or seep through the ground. The other option is to pump it back into any of the two rivers. If pumping out the floodwater were the solution, this could have been resorted to even without constructing the embankments, the sluice gates or the secondary embankments. Should a breach occur in any of the embankments mentioned above: the people residing within the two embankments will not find time to react to surges of water gushing out of the gaps and which will confine them to their watery graves.

The embankments prevent the rainwater that would have entered freely into the river and this water accumulates outside the embankments causing severe water logged conditions in the countryside. Waterlogging is further compounded by seepage through the main body of the embankments. Besides, the river water contains a lot of fertilizing silt in its flow, which used to spread over the land along with the floodwater prior to the construction of the embankments. This silt gets trapped between the embankments and the countryside slowly looses its fertility which has got to be replenished artificially by adding fertilizers and which has to be paid for.

Sometimes, for topographical or political reason, embankments are built only on one side of the river. Everything remains the same in this case too, except that the floodwater is now free to flow on the side opposite of the embankment. Seeking flood protection through embankments is walking into a trap where every action leads to a new and costly measure and the problem goes on deteriorating with time.

A section of engineers, however, believe that when a river is embanked, the waterway available in the river narrows and which results in the increased velocity in the rivers flow. With the rise in the velocity of rivers water, the eroding capacity of the river increases. When the flood-water erodes the banks and the bottom of the river, its width and depth would increase and so will be its discharge carrying capacity. Thus, the river is re-sectioned and it will carry more discharge, causing the floods to decline.

The debate whether the embankments add to or reduce the flood problem is still inconclusive in the technical circles. We have such a strong case against the embankments, if we do not want to build them. At the same time, the argument in favour of the embankments is equally sound and scientific. Thus, the arguments, for and against the embankments, both, are highly technical and equally compulsive that no body can find any fault with either of them. The decision, whether to build embankments or not, however, is mostly taken by politicians and, for obvious reasons, the engineers are made to defend them. The engineers, irrespective of their stature, are so amenable to the politicians influence that the politicians use them at their will and get the things done the way they like. These inferences are not without foundation.

Thus, whatever happened in the field of flood control was after 1954 and a scheme to embank the Kamla was proposed after the embankments on the Kosi were sanctioned. According to the original scheme, embanking of the Kamla was proposed, in 1956, from Chisapani, in Nepal, to Darjia in Madhubani, over a distance of 149.6 kilometers. The distance of Darjia from the Nepal border is 101.6 kilometers. The scheme was estimated to cost Rs. 4.04 Crores and was expected to protect 1.92 lakh hectares of land from the floods of the Kamla.

The construction of these embankments, from Jainagar to Jhanjharpur was started in 1956 and completed in 1960. They were extended up to Darjia in 1962. In the third phase, the embankments were further extended up to Kothram in 1982-84.

What followed the embankments on the Kosi is recorded elsewhere and we will not go into those details here. We will take a stock of the situation in the Kamla basin in this section. There is a striking resemblance between the Kosi and the Kamla embankments to that of a blacksmith and the goldsmith. The impact of the sledgehammer of the blacksmith is heard and felt even at far distant places but the goldsmith has a miniature hammer and one has to concentrate to hear this sound. The Kosi’s hammer strikes at long intervals and all concerned people feel the impact of it but in the case of Kamla, the strokes are relatively mild but many. The Kamla embankment breaches wholesale and without any gap ever since it was constructed. The river tries to break its shackles frequently in search of freedom. It is a small river as compared to the Kosi and those living on the banks of this- embanked river, often cut the embankments to drain the water stagnating outside the embankments. This is also done with a hope that the river water will spread all over the land and revive its fertility. Because of the construction of the embankments on either side of the riverbanks, the riverbed has gone up considerably and the adjoining areas, as a result, have gone below the level of the river in the same proportion. With the breach in the embankment, whether deliberate or otherwise, the lower lying land gets filled up with sediments emerging out from the gap and water logging, at least, at the local level comes to an end. Breaching of the embankments by the local people is possible only on smaller rivers as the effects of tampering with a river like the Kosi or the Gandak may prove to be too devastating and worse unpredictable.

Index map of kamla balan embankmentHowever, it should not be construed, in any way, that the floods in the Kamla basins are less devastating than that of the Kosi. If two trains, say, a Rajdhani Express and a passenger train meet with an accident simultaneously, then the Rajdhani Express gets more publicity and importance than that of the passenger train. Similar is the difference between the failure of the embankments of these two rivers.

The first phase of the Kamla embankments was the construction of the embankments from Jainagar to the Jhanjharpur railway bridge and this was completed in 1960. Before these embankments could be completed, the second phase of the project was announced that the embankments would be extended further up to Darjia, 21 kilometers further south of the rail bridge. The local leaders and the population were convinced that the river water used to converge at the rail bridge of Jhanjharpur and then emerge out of the bridge like an arrow hitting directly a population of about 150,000 of the blocks of Jhanjharpur, Madhepur, Ghanshyampur. Biraul, and Kusheshwar Asthan. This water was not only destroying the crops of the area, it was also destroying houses in large numbers and some steps should be taken to ease the situation. The state Government also held similar views but it had to wait for the recommendations of a High Level Committee report. This committee comprised of the Chief Engineers of the Kosi Project, the Irrigation Department of Bihar, the Central PWD and the North East Railway besides many others. Central Water and Power Commission also wanted that integrated and comprehensive plans should be made for the lower areas, which should also incorporate the possible impact of the Kosi and the Bagmati and if it meant delays, then they were unavoidable.

The problem with the Kamla-Balan embankments was that the original stream was that of the Balan, which the Kamla joined later, in 1954. It was beyond the capacity of the Balan to accommodate the additional flow of the Kamla in its waterway. Also, the bridge on the Sakri-Jhanjharpur rail line, close to Jhanjharpur, was designed keeping in view of the flow in the Balan and was only 37 meters long. Even this bridge was incapable of accommodating the flow of the combined stream. After completion of the Jainagar-Jhanjharpur embankment on the Kamla-Balan, it was realized that the waterway was grossly undersized and a mistake had been committed. The floodwaters used to emerge from this bridge like a bullet and hit the villages located south of it. Later, without increasing the waterway through this bridge, the Kamla-Balan embankment was extended up to Darjia. The Government of Bihar, at its own expenses, widened this bridge to 107 meters but this widening was only temporary as the Railways had proposed a width of 146 meters for the bridge. It had also raised the Lohna Road-Jhanjharpur Rail line by 1.5 meters. This rail line used to cross the Kamla close to Jhanjharpur railway stations. Thus, the plans were afoot to raise and widen this bridge but this permanent bridge could not be built till 1965 while the embankment till Darjia was complete in 1962.

This state was not suited for the safety and security of embankment and the rail bridge. The newly constructed embankment of the Kamla-Balan got breached near Ramghat in 1963, south of the Jhanjharpur bridge, in the very first year of its commissioning and inundations had to be faced in the villages of Kharwar, Gangapur, Gunakarpur, and Belhi etc. In 1964, the embankments of the river breached at four places including the one near Daiya Kharbar (it had breached here last year also) and many villages of Jhanjharpur, Madhepur, and Manigachhi blocks faced severe flooding. The people here were not used to facing man made floods like this and it was a new experience for them. The river eroded a portion of Lakshmipur village near Jainagar in this years floods.

9. The First Major Setback To The Kamla Embankments 1965


But the kind of devastation that was faced in the floods of 1965 was unprecedented. There was very heavy rain in the catchment areas of the Kamla in Nepal in the first week of July. A partly constructed bridge on the Kamla-Balan, near Jhajharpur, was standing in the way of this water that approached Jhanjharpur. The water level rose by 2 meters within 10 hours of the rains on the 8th July and it far exceeded the maximum flood level of the river in 1964 and smashed the approach road of the railway line and caused 21 breaches on either side of the embankments. The collector of Darbhanga, J.C. Jately, got the information about the disaster and left for Jhanjharpur but had to terminate his journey at Pipra.

The floods took away the railway line and the entire transport system of the area. The grains kept for relief operations were spoiled in the godowns and whatever food material was distributed was not fit for the consumption for even the cattle. Seedlings and the freshly transplanted paddy over a vast area were destroyed and a large number of houses had collapsed. ... 7th and 8th July were the last auspicious days for marriages in the season in Mithila but many newly married couples were left stranded at the railway stations and could not reach their destinations. An unprecedented situation was created there and the communication was snapped. It was quite likely that many marriages might not have been consummated.

Then the usual mud slinging, so common to such occasions, started. The Commissioner of Darbhanga J. S. Bali, issued a statement in which he had said that although the floods were there, the reports about the damages had been exaggerated. There was a strong public reaction against his statement. Wrote a correspondent in the Indian Nation-Patna, “... if Mr. Bali had been an ordinary official, such an attempt to run down eye-witness accounts published in the press would not have mattered. No one unaffected by the floods would have cried over his beer about it. But he happens to be the divisional commissioner, the virtual Governor of his division on whose appreciation of the situation would depend the nature, extent and expedition of relief. At any rate if he has been reported correctly, his statement is likely to cause despair among the flood victims who are passing their day and night in the open on embankments, roads and all available uplands with little food and suffering untold hardship.”

It was an established fact that the floods were caused by the rail bridge at Jhanjharpur. After the incident, the Irrigation Department of the state and the Ministry of Railways, under the Central Government, traded charges on each other for the disaster. The then Irrigation Minister of Bihar, Mahesh Prasad Sinha, leveled charges against the railways that had they completed the bridge on time, the accident could have been averted and that the railway authorities paid no heed to the repeated advice and warnings of the engineers of the Irrigation Department. He reiterated his stand in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha on the 20th July 1965 and Sahdeo Mahto, on behalf of the Government, replied to a call attention motion explaining the existing situation, on the 6th August 1965. Similar charges were leveled by Hari Nath Mishra and Prem Chandra Mishra, MLAs, against the railways. This blame game entered a very interesting phase as the Railway Minister at the center, Dr. Ram Subhag Singh, was also an MP from Bihar. He flatly denied the charges leveled by Mahesh Prasad Sinha and Hari Nath Mishra that the railways had ever made a bridge that had obstructed the flow of water. He maintained that the North Eastern Railway had made only the approach road for the three bridges of 16 feet x 40 feet (5 meters x 12.2 meters) and in lieu of it, the railways had closed the mouth of one 20 feet x 10feet (6 meters x 3 meters) bridge. Therefore the charges leveled by the State Government on the Railway Department were baseless. He said that the basic reason for this years devastating flood was the heavy rains in the Nepal portion of the catchment of the Kamla and the construction of the embankments on the either side of the river by the state Government.” He added that the bridges of the Railways were made keeping in view the discharge of the River Balan and not for the combined flow of the Kamla Balan. Thus, both the sides had arguments in its armor to counter the allegations of the other.

The Chief Engineer of the CWPC, P. N.Kumra visited the bridge site on the 20-21st July and instructed the Railway Engineers that the height of the rail approach bund should be reduced by 1.5 meters and the other structures should be completed immediately. Dr. K.L.Rao, Central Irrigation Minister also visited Jhanjharpur on the 2nd August and asked the Railways to provide 20 vents in the bridge instead of 16 and the suggestion was accepted by the Railway Authorities. The engineers exercised greater restraint than their political counterparts in dealing with each other.

The government of Bihar threw all its experienced engineers and all its might in the repairs of embankments although it, took some time to organize things as it requires dry earth to be placed on the embankments to plug the breaches and this was not available throughout the rainy season. The Government was charged of inefficiency and the charges of corruption remains a permanent undercurrent in such situations.

A good number of villages, in the blocks of Madhepur and Jhanjharpur remained engulfed in floodwaters. Many villages had been trapped within the Kamla embankments that were not rehabilitated till then. The demand of rehabilitating them also picked up momentum. The Government, however, was not bothered about their plight and the flood victims did not have the resources to contest their case legally. Prem Chandra Mishra reminded the Government of the plight of the villages in Jhanjharpur, Madhepur, Manigachhi and Andhra Tharhi blocks that were trapped within the embankments and said that the conditions were abysmal for the villages of Darjia, Baidya Nath Pur, Rahika, Navtolia, Pipra Ghat, Bheria Rahi, Parta Pur and Harina etc. He wanted them to be rehabilitated immediately. After all these efforts, it was then presumed that the Kamla-Balan problem would be solved, once and forever. But this was a mirage.

10. Recommendations For Raising And Strengthening Of The Embankments And Demands For Demolition Of The Embankments


In 1966, these embankments breached at four places once again. Suraj Narain Singh told Bihar Vidhan Sabha (8th September 1966) ...On the 24th August, at 05.00hrs, a train was about to leave Jhanjharpur for Darbhanga. Suddenly, a Railway Officer on duty announced that, it appeared, there was some problem in the embankment. He would go to check it and after that he would signal the train to leave. After five minutes we came to know that the train would not moue even by an inch. We came out to see that the villages were floating. Thousands of bags of grains in the godowns and the medicines were all swept away. People were living on the rooftops and starving there ... on the third day some flattened rice and jaggery was distributed there. I ask you, last year the embankment had breached because of the callousness of the railways but why did it breach this year despite the control of the Irrigation Department? The pet rats of this Government would eat away this state. You will forgive me for saying so, these rats are there in the form of contractors and the Government engineers. Similar complaints were made by Harish Chandra Jha MLA in the Vidhan Sabha. He said that the Kamla embankments should be demolished and the situation prior to the construction of embankments restored. He further said that wherever he went for a round in the flood hit area, the people demanded, ...either the embankments should be demolished or they should be shot dead. Faced with the deluge, the people had been shattered, he said.

Baidya Nath Mehta told the Vidhan Sabha, “... When you work for the good of some people, there are others who suffer, as a result. Is it not your duty in democracy that you compensate for the losses of such people. I had been to the interiors of the Kamla-Balan River...some 24 kilometers deep inside. The river water was touching the rooftops. Did you extend a helping hand to the victims? …Kindly make arrangements for the safety and security of the children of such people lest the republic would fail and the way the bureaucracy behaves, the Government would only get a bad name.”

The Kamla-Balan embankments were now completed but they had become an irritant for the Government. As a last resort, the state Government, in order to save its face and to fulfill its obligations to democracy requested the Central Water and Power Commission for help. The CWPC deputed a senior engineer. Moti Ram to look into the problem who suggested the following steps to be taken,

• Both the embankments of the Kamla-Balan should be raised and strengthened,
• To construct emergency shelters on the embankments that could be used in case of any eventuality,
• To make arrangements for tele-communication system for better safety and security,
• To construct two spill bridges of 122 meters each on either side of the Jhanjharpur bridge.

The state Government accepted all these recommendations but the only work that could be done was dumping earth on the embankments. The extension of the bridge was the job of the Railways and the Bihar Government was not involved in it.

By this time, the flood level within the embankments started going up to 3 meters from 1.2 meters, the deposition of sand within the embankments was increasing and waterlogging outside the embankments was becoming a persistent reality. The voices for the rehabilitation of those trapped between the embankments were being raised and demands were being made in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha to provide boats and strengthen relief operations. The requests were slowly getting converted to hurling curses, “...We should constitute a committee of experts to find a cure for the disease that is embankment. The Government must prepare itself to face the breaches in the embankments otherwise many villages would just be swept away … Rehabilitation of these villages should be taken up immediately. The Government has obstructed the free flow of water and that has led to its stagnation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Government to save the lives of the people and their cattle.” Thus, while living was difficult some five years ago, after the construction of the embankments, dying seemed an easier option.

11. Breaches In The Embankments Become The Order Of The Day


The breaches in the embankments became the order of the day in the years to come. These embankments breached on their own or were deliberately to find a solution to the waterlogging. Major floods in the Kamla-Balan Basin have been seen in the years 1968,1971, 1974,1978, 1979, 1985, 1986,1987,1988,1990, 1993, 1995, 2000, 2002 and 2004. Although 2005 was a severe drought year in Bihar but that did not deter Kamla embankments from breaching. In all these years, the floods have been devastating in the blocks of Andhra Tharhi Jhanjharpur, Lakhnaur and Madhepur in the Madhubani district. In addition, the blocks of Manigachhi, Alinagar, Ghanshyampur, Biraul, Goura-Bauram, Kiratpur, Tardih and Kusheshwar Asthan had suffered equally badly in the district of Darbhanga.

In the highest floods till date, i.e. the one in 1987, the Kamla embankments were virtually destroyed beyond recognition when they breached at 24 places, 13 on the eastern side and 11 on the western. This years floods, raised the question of utility of the embankment as means of flood protection as the embankments have failed the people of the countryside when they are needed most. The flood of 1987 that came in many rounds from 11th-19th, August continued in some form or the other till the month of November. The town of Jhanjharpur along with many villages was covered with a thick bed of sand at many places. The sand that got deposited in the countryside obstructed the drainage there and many new chaurs were created out of the process. The chaur of Partapur near, Jhanjharpur Bazar is an example of this that exists even today. The flood situation this year was so bad that food packets could not be dropped in the area, for weeks together, as no dry land was seen from above for the, purpose. It is only the basic survival instinct of human beings that helped them to escape from the jaws of death. A movement of sorts was started by Kudal Sena under the leadership of Ram Lakhan Jha that year in the Kamla basin. It demanded that if the Government could not protect the people from floods and if it failed in protecting its own embankments, it would be better that it took away its embankments and the flood victims would decide their own course.

On the right bank of the Kamla-Balan, opposite Jhanjharpur, there is a village called Naruar. An inspection Bungalow of the Irrigation Department is also located there. Standing here on the embankment, one can see with the naked eye the difference between the levels of the riverside and that of the surrounding countryside. The Lohna Road Jhanjharpur rail line passes through this place. Whenever there is a breach in the right embankment of the Kamla, upstream of the bridge, the floodwaters also sweep this rail line and such incidents have almost become an annual feature. The rail bridge at Jhanjharpur, that had created so much of heat in 1964-67, is often overtopped and the waterway through the bridge has been greatly reduced due to sedimentation in the bed of the Kamla-Balan.

12. The Flood Victims Breach The Embankments


The process of breaching the embankments started with the construction of the Kamla-Balan embankments. In the year 1963, the first year of their existence, these embankments were cut in the village Kusaul and the Government had instituted cases against the embankment offenders. Hakkal Jha was the prime accused in this case but the case did not proceed because there was some discrepancy in his name and he was discharged. The list of other accused included Raghubir Jha s/o Baba Ji Jha, Kuso Rai s/o Anup Rai, Tuntun Saday s/o Jagannath Saday, Shobha Jha s/o Mahangu Jha, Dev Kant Jha s/o Phusi Jha and Ram Jha s/o Kulkul Jha. The Irrigation Department, however, recognized the anger of the people against the embankments for the first time, in 1985, when the embankment was breached in the village Bagharas. The villagers had cut it to drain the water accumulated in their village on the 2nd August. The Government plugged this breach by 7th August. To get rid of the waterlogging in their village, in a very organized way, after informing the administration, the Kamla embankment was cut near the village Bhith Bhagwanpur, in the Lakhnaur block of Madhubani district, in 1993. There is small river. named Gehuma that used to join the Kosi till such time the western Kosi embankment was not built. After the construction of the western embankment of the Kosi, the Gehumas flow into the Kosi was blocked and it turned toward the Kamla-Balan. There also, the Kamla-Balan embankment stood firmly in its way. Thus, many small rivers like Supain, Gehuma and Bhutahi Balan etc were trapped between the western embankment of the Kosi and the eastern embankment of the Kamla-Balan. Details about the Bhutahi Balan are available elsewhere and we shall not go into the details here. The Government is trying to find a solution to the vexed problems of drainage of rivers like the Gehuma without success for the past 40 years. It tries, sometimes; to push the river into the Kosi and after failing in its attempt, stacks building materials near the Kamla. Engineers watch these rivers helplessly as they ignored their existence while dealing with the larger rivers and find themselves at the end of their wits now. Because of the blockade of the passage, small rivulets and the nallahs, which had no significance at all, started raising their heads. The water logging increased and agriculture became uncertain. There is no other source of making a living and the life became increasingly difficult, day-by-day. Then, one day the farmers of the village decided to do away with the Kamla-Balan embankment. Two persons nearly lost their lives in this adventure.

 

The Tale Of The Living Dead


-Nirbhay Kamat V& PO. Bhith Bhagwan Pur, Dist Madhubani


When the construction of the embankments on the Kosi and the Kamla was completed, a small river Gehuma, in our area virtually got orphaned. It had nowhere to go. Earlier, it used to join the Kosi but after the completion of the embankment on the Kosi; it turned towards the Kamla near our village. The. Kamla was also embanked later and the Gehuma was denied entry into that river too. The water has to find its way somehow and, as a result, the river then started inundating hundreds of villages that came in its way. Our village was at the downstream end of the river where water used to remain till the end of summer season. We pursued the matter with the Government and when all the efforts proved futile, the villagers decided to cut the Kamla embankment. in 1993 to drain out the Gehuma water into the Kant. Many other small streams are also there in our area that used to converge in our village and prolong the waterlogging. I do not remember the date but one night some 1200 to 1300 people from Bhith Bhagwan Pur and adjoining villages marched toward the choked confluence of the Gehuma with the Kamla with axes, spades, lanterns, torches, petrormax and baskets etc to cut the embankment. It was around 8.30 p.m. in the night. Local administration was informed but nobody turned up and why should they? The night was dark, it was raining and the floodwaters were there all around. That night, all these things were in our favour. Water Resources Minister of the state and the local MLA were also informed of the forthcoming ceremony. A local activist, Harsha Narayan Jha had observed fast unto death at the Block Head Quarters of Madhepur that year over the waterlogging issue and his fast was broken on the false assurances of the administration and we were assured that the Government would do something immediately to ease the situation but nothing happened. Thus, our intentions were very clear. Digging continued till around 03.30 a.m., the next morning, when it appeared that the embankment would now give way and everybody ran for safety. Suddenly the embankment sank and there was a virtual stampede. The Gehuma started emptying its waters into the Kamla and we all rain away from the scene. In the milieu, Satto Raut got stuck in the mud but his head was visible. We pulled him out with great difficulty. We left for the village when somebody enquired, where was Bechan? He was also there with Satto? Alarms were raised but Bechan was not to be found. It was certain then that either he was swept away or got buried under the earth. He was last seen with Satto Rout and was expected to be somewhere close to the place he was recovered from. The mob then turned back to look for the impossible. Sattos recovery was easy, his head was visible but Bechan was to be fished out. The spade was to be used very gently lest it would kill him. We were lucky and it was the grace of Goddess Tara that someone struck his head. The mud around him was removed immediately and Bechan was extricated. He was alive but unconscious. His mouth, nose and ears were all filled with mud. We did what all we could in the situation and after a while there was some movement in his body. He took some time to talk and we all heaved a sigh of relief. So many among us prayed to the God to save the life of Bechan, in the meanwhile. I also prayed to Lord Shiva that I would visit his temple at Deoghar for offering prayers if his life was saved. Next year, in the month of Sravana, I went on pilgrimage to Deoghar, 450 kilometers from here, prostrating all the way.

 

.A scheme to take care of the waterlogging due to Gehuma and other nallahs was prepared way back in 1963 at an estimated cost of Rs. 14,95,493/- by the Madhubani Minor Irrigation Department. This scheme had the recommendation of the B.D.Os of the Madhepur and Phulparas. The government had given assurance on the floor of the house then but no work was done. This scheme envisaged the drainage of the Gehuma water into the Kosi through the western embankment of it but the local residents were opposed to such a proposition because it would aggravate waterlogging and as the average land holdings are very small in the area, there was apprehension that lot of land would be lost in construction of the training works. This scheme is in suspension ever since.

The residents of Bhith Bhagwanpur waited patiently for many years. They prayed to all and sundry, sat for Dharna many a times, went on hunger strike and when nothing worked, they went and cut the embankment one night. Some fifteen persons of the village were arrested for breaking law and order but no cases were instituted against them. With the breach of the embankment, the water got a free passage to the river and the river water could also flow freely into the countryside. The depressions in the countryside of the embankment got filled up with the sediments carried in flood waters and agriculture resumed on this land after so many years. After many years of persuation, the Government succeeded in plugging this breach recently.

.While the people breached the embankment at Bhith Bhagwanpur, it breached, on its own, near Sohrai, on the western side and south of the Sakri-Jhanjharpur rail line. As a result, a thick layer of sand got deposited in the villages of Sohrai and Pokharbhinda. All the 25 tanks in these villages were filled with sand, agriculture came to a standstill and many cattle died. Some grass has started growing over these lands now. Seepage preceded the failure of embankment at Sohrai and the villagers had rushed to the Department to seek remedy. The engineers came to the spot but only after the embankment had breached. The then Water Resources Minister of Bihar had assured the Vidhan Sabha (1991) that he had plugged all the holes through which the money meant for flood control in the state was leaked out in corrupt ways and also that he would not allow any embankment to breach. He would resign his post if any embankment breached in the state. In the same year (1991), the western Kosi embankment was eroded at Joginia, in Nepal, and the minister had to resign. The upkeep of this embankment, in Nepal, is the responsibility of the Water Resources Department of Bihar. The resignation was, however, not accepted. More details about this incident are available elsewhere and we would not go into the details here. The state faced an unprecedented drought in 1992. The rainy season of 1993 was the time for the minister to prove his assertion. The Government was not prepared to accept that the embankment had breached at Sohrai because the minister said to the contrary while the local people, in an attempt to get some dole from the Government, had to prove literally that the embankment had actually breached. Later, when the engineers arrived to plug the breach, the villagers tried to interrupt the work and many people were arrested. The Government, however, succeeded in plugging the breach.

In 1994, the embankment breached at Navtol and Balbhadrapur in the east and Naruar and Baur on the west. The way that the Bhith. Bhagwanpur farmers had shown was adopted by the others too. In 1995, eastern embankment of the Kamla was cut at Belhi, Nirmala (2- points), Khairi (Ballia), Khairi (Parsad), and Phatki (Parsad); 6 points altogether simultaneously. The impact of this breaching became obvious in the very next season. Because of the spreading of the fresh soil on the fields, there was a bumper crop of the Green Gram in Nirmala and the villagers could sell Green Gram worth Rs. 1,30,000/- in the market. The agricultural production had come to a halt in this area due to waterlogging for the past ten years. This year Digambar Mandal and Sunil Mandal along with 16 others belonging to the village Khairi were charged of breaching the embankment and cases initiated against them. Another 300 unknown persons were also booked in the same case that never came up for hearing. The Government filled all the breaches in spite of this and amidst protests.

In 1996, the embankment breached in Navtol, Balbhadrapur and Phatki and was cut in Nirmala once again. In 1997, the western embankment was cut at Gopalkha and Jaideopatti in the Ghanashyampur, and Baur (Gaura-Bauram block) of Darbhanga district. All these points were located on the western embankment and with so many breaches there, the pressure on the eastern embankment eased out and there were no breaches or any cut there. The breach at Gopalkha was affected after careful consideration. The villagers wanted to cut the embankment at such a place so that the fresh water and silt of the river could spread on to their fields such that the land emerges from the water. At the same time they wanted to ensure that no damage was done to their houses. The embankment near Gopalkha and Ram Khetari was in a dilapidated state and was likely to breach any moment. The villagers wanted that before an uncontrolled breach took place, they would breach the embankment in a controlled fashion i.e.: at a place suited to them, and thus turn a potential disaster into an advantage. This job was done but there was a mistake in choosing the spot where the breach was to be made. There was soil deposition also but it blocked the drainage upstream, which resulted eventually in waterlogging in upper reaches.

Some people believe that the breach at Gopalkha was not affected by the villagers but was sponsored by the Civil Administration of jhanjharpur, which is one of the sub-divisional head quarter of Madhubani district. Most of the Government offices are located there. This town is located on the eastern bank of the Kamla. It suits the administration that the embankment breaches only on the south of the Sakri-Jhanjharpur rail line or, else, anywhere on the western embankment. Otherwise, the water will enter Jhanjharpur town with all its mud and sand. In the floods of 1987, floodwaters stayed for a very long time in Jhanjharpur and it left a thick bed of sand when it receded. The administration still remembers the hardships faced by it in 1987 and the impact of that flood is still visible there. Scores of ponds and tanks in this area were filled with sand. A law college, Shiv Shankar Poddar Law College has come up on one such filing. The ground floor of Lalit Narayan Janta College was filled with sand and classes there could be resumed only after digging over 1.25 meters sand. The breach that had occurred in the eastern embankment of the Kamla near Chamrahi, close to the Jhanjharpur Bazar, caused waterlogging on over 1500 hectares of land of Partapur and it still continues to be waterlogged. The residents of this village were turned into paupers overnight and were forced to leave the village in search of employment elsewhere. Unless there is a breach in the Kamla embankment, upstream of Partapur, this chaur will not be filled and the land would not emerge out of water. This, the Jhanjharpur administration would resist with all its might. The flood protection in this area is possible only if someone else pays the price for it. There is no evidence that the administration helped the breach in Gopalkha and, at the same time, no evidence is available that the villagers cut it; either. The fact, however, remains that the embankment had breached at Gopalkha.

Anyway, the breaches in the Kamla embankment continue unabated. These embankments breached in Jaidev Patti (65 km from Jainagar) and Baur-Inayatpur (73lm), in Darbhanga in 1998; Belhi (58 km) and Phatki (62 km) in Madhubani, in 1999: Belhi (62 km) (Madhubani) and Kaithwar (Darbhanga) in 2000; Devna (62 km) (Darbhanga) in 2001: and Bhaduar, PipraGhat, Navtol and Banaur (Mabhubani) and Thengha, Jhagarua and Rasiyari (Darbhanga) in 2002. On the 9th July2004, within a span of 16 hours, the Kamla-Balan embankments breached in over 20 places including Murhatti, Bithauni, Bhaduar, Pipraghat, Navtol, Balbhadrapur, Daiya Kharbar, Gangapur, Raj Kharwar, Phatki, Bhagwanpur, Daldal, Parwalpur, Thengaha, Devana, Naruar, Mahinathpur and Olipur. This process will continue till such time the embankments exist. As one moves toward the south of the Sakri-Nirmali Rail line, the miseries suffered by the people increases. In a rain deficit year of 2005, the Kamla embankments had breathed at Seven places including one at Godhaul.

As a matter of fact, a black triangle of manmade miseries is created by the western Kosi embankment (length 125 kilometers), the eastern Kamla-Balan embankment (86 kilometers) and the western Kosi Canal (90 kilometers), from its Head Works at Bhardah in Nepal to Kasma Marar in Khajauli Block where the canal crosses the Kamla River. The slope of the land of this area is from north to south with a leaning toward the east . The uncontrolled water from the north, almost covering the entire length of the Western Kosi Canal (WKC) enters this funnel and causes devastation. Many small rivulets add to the problem in this zone.

The problems mated by the western Kosi embankment are of a different kind. The Kosi changes it course within its embankments and depending up on its location, it attacks the embankments. The western Kosi embankment has breached at Dalwa (1963), Jamalpur (1968), Ghonghepur and Samani (1987) and at Joginia (1991). An account of these breaches is available elsewhere and we will not go into those details here. The people living on the countryside of the embankments live in constant fear of a possible breach anywhere though the rain months. Whenever there had been a breach or if it takes place in future, it would cause a lot of devastation for the people living closer to this arm of the triangle.

13. Victims of Drainage Congestion


We have read about the problems that are created by the eastern embankment of the Kamla in the preceding sections. The story does not end here. During the rainy season, the area below Bheja and that which is trapped between the western Kosi embankment and the eastern embankment of the Kamla-Balan, turns into an ocean. The western embankment of the. Kosi terminates at Ghonghepur and is not tagged to any other structure. Similar is the case of the Kamla embankment that terminates near Mansara and is open ended beyond that The floodwaters of both the rivers turn and flow back into the funnel and submerge a vast area. And, as if that were not enough, the Bagmati that is embanked on its south bank and open on the north, spills its water into the same area and thus the waters of all the three rivers create havoc in this triangle. Here, the water enters from all the three sides with no escape route. Indra Kant Jha, a resident of village Thengaha, PO Tardih, Dist. Darbhanga, says, “...I am not an engineer but do posses some commonsense. The western embankment of the Kosi and both the embankments of the Kamla, three in total, pass through the village Rasiyari. In this zone, waters from more than hundred kilometers collect but the spacing between the Kosi and the Karnla embankment may not be more than one an: a half kilometers. You will call this my modesty if I use the word 'folly' that they have committed by giving such a narrow passage to floodwaters. I could as well use the word 'wickedness'. Their faces should be painted black and a plaque hung around their neck describing the crime they have committed and they should be paraded in Connaught Place in Delhi and sentenced to life imprisonment.”

The result of this 'folly' is that below Bheja, in the Madhepur block of the Madhubani district, a scene of an ocean is created with the onset of the monsoon. According to the Western Kosi Canal sources, an area of 90,450 hectares, lying below the 44.19 meters contour line, that joins Bheja with Laheriasarai, is now permanently waterlogged and no crops can be grown over it unless there is a drought as intense as it was in 1992. Some enterprising farmers have started sowing summer paddy in this area for the past few years but if there is an untimely rain in the catchment areas of the Kosi or. the Kamla, whether local or otherwise, even this crop would be lost. This is the area where once the Kosi Canals were supposed to provide irrigation and the canal is likely to get extended there.

Dev Nath Devan (Vill.and PO Sundar Birajit, Block Madhepur, Dist. Madhubani) complains that, “...If one travels to the area that I am talking about with the engineers who had designed these embankments and introduced as one, I. am not sure how the people will behave with them....Mr. Engineer! Did you not notice the simple fact that the waterway is too narrow for the catchment and that there will be: problems in future? And, Mr. Politician! Did you also not know that this is going to happen in future? Then what sort of technocrat or a leader you are?” He continues, “...those who were trapped between the pairs of the Kosi and the Karnla embankments, have lost their identity as human beings but look at the situation of those who were protected from the floods of both the rivers. We have lost our Kharif crop for all times to come and the Rabi crop can be taken only when the water is drained out in time for sowing. But that does not happen. These protected people have become paupers.”

This results in massive unemployment. That, probably, is the reason why there is a direct State bus service to the carpet making capital of Uttar Pradesh, the town of Bhadohi. The children of this area have to earn their bread to survive by working on the carpet looms.

Devan's bitterness in not unfounded. As one travels from Madhepur to Bheja, one passes through a small market called Lakshmipur Chowk. There is an arch gate on the right side of the road here named after a freedom fighter Janki Nandan Singh who hailed from this area. He, later, became an MLA too. As one stands facing this gate during the rainy season, one pictures it as the Gateway to Floods. The Kosi and the Karnla embankments are not very far away from this spot. Though this area is technically protected from floods; one can undertake a journey from this 'protected' point straight to the Ganga by boat. The water starts coming to this area towards the end of the summer. The flood season starts here when the snow melts in the Himalayan range and these waters start flowing into the rivers. By the time the water is drained or dried, it is December-January and the sowing season for the Rabi is over. Surya Narayan Thakur narrates the story of impact of the man made floods, waterlogging and the breaches in the embankments on agriculture of the area.

 

All Our Prosperity Was Due To The Silt Of The River


- Surya Narayan Thakur (65), V. & PO. Sukhet Distt. Madhubani


The Kamla was not here in our childhood. The Balan waters used to come here but never for more than 3 to 4 days. There used to be a good harvest of paddy. We had different varieties of it suited for different depths of inundation. Palia required 5 feet deep water while Singra and Dumma Kheraha needed 3-4 feet. Harin Ker and Parwa Pankh used to grow well in 2-2.5 feet deep water while 1.5 to 2 feet depth of water was sufficient for Nanhia. Kalam Kathi required 2.5 to 3 feet of water and Bakaul was grown in permanently waterlogged conditions. The yield of Parwa Pankh was fabulous but a common superstition was that if one reaps a very good harvest of Parwa Pankh, some member of the family would die. Most farmers did not go for Parwa Pankh out of that fear.

 

Barley, wheat, Keshari (a kind of pulse) and oil seeds were the common Rabi crops. Wheat was not very popular those days. Ragi, jute and sugar cane used to grow in plenty. Sugar cane and jute has disappeared because there are no mills around anymore. There were three sugar mills in the area located at Lohat, Sakri and Raiyam. All the three are closed now. Our sugar cane used to go to Sakri Sugar Mill. Barley is now replaced by wheat. When the embankments were not there, the flood level never grew beyond 2.5 to 3 feet and the floodwater never used to stay for a long. It would just come and go. All our prosperity was due to the silt of the river. You must have heard the local saying that when floodwaters of the Balan arrived, an extension was done to the house and if it did not, one lost whatever one had with him. After the embankments were constructed the silt which provided the nutrition to the soil, disappeared. Its direct impact was seen on the Keshari. It cannot tolerate chemical fertilizers.We do get some oilseeds still but mustard has disappeared. It requires dry field in October and that has become an absurdity now.

 

Crop yield has reduced by 70 percent because of interception of the silt by the embankments. Horse gram has vanished from our area and we have to purchase it from market even for ceremonies. Imagine, a farmer purchasing horse gram for performing rituals. Frequent breaches in the embankments put life totally out of gear. Houses, roads, and the entire lifestyle is at risk during those months of monsoon. Still, we want that the embankment must breach because that is the only way to rejuvenate our soil. But, as far as our village is concerned, it must breach somewhere between the Pipra Ghat and the Jhanjharpur rail bridge. Then only the breach would benefit us. It is of no use to us if the embankment breaches south of the Jhanjharpur bridge. In 2002, the eastern embankment of the Kamla -Balan had breached at Pipra Ghat and Bhaduar and we were benefited by it. We could reap a good harvest of green gram and oil seeds and in the same proportion. The paddy that escaped submergence gave a fantastic yield just because of the silt of the Kamla-Balan. Numerous breaches in the embankments, in 2004, caused inconvenience but we were more than compensated by the crop yield.

 

The fishes do escape because of the breaches. Our economy gets shattered and it becomes difficult to get suitable matches for the marriage of children. There is a slump in the marriage market because of dwindling crop production. People from other areas do not want to marry their daughters in our families and we cannot afford to pay the price of the grooms elsewhere. Just remove the waterlogging here and we will raise enough money for the marriage of our daughters by selling one single crop, Ragi.

 

Had the matter stopped at the breathes of the embankments and the mismanagement of the waterlogging problem, one could have adjusted to the situation. The Canal water from the WKC, either through the breaches in its banks or due to release of water into the escape channel, gets into the Sugarwe River near Kalari Patti in Laukahi. This water drowns the area located south of the Jhanjharpur-Nirmali rail line spoiling any Rabi crops that has been sowed there. This, unfortunately, is an annual feature.

 

Nobody has any solution to our problems


Ramchandra Singh (65) V &PO. Ramchandra Block-Madhepur, Distt. Madhubani

 

There was a furor over the alignment of the western embankment of the Kosi in this area in late 1950s. Its first alignment was designed through Pauni till Madhepur and that was changed after a considerable length of it was constructed. The second alignment was constructed east of Tradiha to Bheja. Thus, we have two embankments here. The Gehuma used to pass through Pauni to join the Tilyuga. When the western embankment of the Kosi was constructed, the Tilyuga fell within the Kosi embankments and the Gehuma's outlet into the Tiljuga was blocked. Its water got diverted to the Bagaha Chaur located between Manmohan and Bath. There was another river, the Jhonki Markain that used to join the Balan. At the time of the construction of the Kamla Balan embankment, a sluice gate was constructed near Rakhwari to regulate the flow of the Markain into the Kamla-Balan Soon, the sluice gate became ineffective because of sand deposition in its front. The Markain was diverted thus, and was forced to flow parallel to the eastern embankment of the Kamla till it joined Supain near Bhaduar. The Supain, after crossing the Nirmali-Jhanjharpur rail line near Sonare, east of Tamuria, joined the Gehuma near Phokchaha. Part of the flow of the Supain went directly to the Bagaha Chaur. During the rain season, entire water of the area collected in the Bagaha Chaur.

 

From the Bagaha Chaur, three different streams take off, following different routes, and each one of them tries to join the Kamla Balan near Baijnathpur. Tremendous waterlogging takes place, south of the Jhanjharpur-Nirmali rail line, because of the rise of the riverbed of the Kamla Balan, and choking of the mouth of the Gehuma. The first plan to do away with this waterlogging was made in 1963 by the Minor Irrigation Department of Madhubani. The plan was to drain the water of the Bagaha chaur into a stream flowing west of Agargarha by a link drain that would pass through the villages of Bath, Sikaria, Belwa-Kaparphora, and Agargarha. This proposal was dropped on technical grounds. The second proposal was made to drain the water of the Gehuma into the Kosi by constructing a sluice gate on the western Kosi embankment. The field conditions demanded that an embankment would have to be built on the Gehuma to train the water into the sluice gate. The local farmers opposed this proposal vehemently on the ground that the land holdings in the area were small and the proposed embankment would reduce them even further. Officially, it was stated that the proposed embankment would increase waterlogging and Jagannath Mishra, then Chief Minister, intervened personally to ensure that the scheme was dropped. Had the proposal been implemented, it is true, that it would have aggravated waterloggin in the area.

 

The third proposal was made in 1981 when an embankment was proposed on the Gehuma and train the river to pass through the villages of Sonare, Phokchaha, Manmohan, Ramchandra, Madhepur, Nawada, Khojra, Chandradeep, Bhith Bhagwanpur and finally lead the river into the Kamla-Balan near Baijnathpur. This proposal was also opposed on the similar ground as above. Thus, everybody talks about the removal of waterlogging from this area but nobody has any solution to our problems. All the routes for the water to escape are locked. Where will the water go?

 

Matters do not stop there. There is an escape channel of the western Kosi canal near Kalari Patti, east of Khutauna. When the Canal is active, its surplus water enters the Sugarwe and flows straight to the Bagaha Chaur. We don't mind this water during the Kharif season because it is water everywhere then and we cannot cultivate at all. But during the Rabi season, when our wheat and other crops flower, releases from the canal ruin the standing crops in Maibi, Man Mohan, Bath, Belauncha, Pure, Ramchandra, Madhepur, Sonbarsa, and Amarupi besides many others. Nobody takes the responsibility for this careless and irresponsible act of the Government and the canal authorities. The local MLA has filed a case for compensation for the ruined crops but who is there to bother. To our good luck, the Bhutahi Balan breached its western embankment in 1999, which smashed the western Kosi canal and filled it with sand. The canal is closed ever since and no water is coming to the Bagaha Chaur. The da they are able to revive the canal, our misfortune will knock at our door on again.

 

.Despite this callousness and arrogance, the Government is hell bent on pushing the Western Kosi Canal into this area and, obviously, the farmers are opposing ig it’s extension. Many farmers have refused to take the compensation for their land, which has been acquired by the Government and those who have already taken it, want to return it back. One has to watch and see the success of these moves. In January 2004, many villagers of this area were charged for obstruction of the extension of the Western Kosi Canal and threatening peace. People are apparently, not opposed to the canal Let the Government do whatever it likes to do, they say, but when it comes to parting with the land, the tension mounts.

The problems related to the western embankment of the Kamla are no less. From Benipatti in the north to Manigachhi, Biraul, Alinagar, Tardih, Kiratpur and Singhia in the south: the situation remains the same. If there is any breach on the western embankment, these are the areas that face the wrath of the river Kamla or its abandoned channels. This area, its rivers and their problems need a separate study and it is not intended to go into those details here.

14. Safety of the Embankments


In a debate over the safety of the embankments in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha (1968), a question was raised about the safety and security of those living within the Kosi embankments. Vinayak Prasad Yadav was the member who raised the question that, because of the changes in the course of the Bela Dhar, within the Kosi embankments, the villages of Bela, Singar Jyoti and Dhobiahi are likely to be eroded. He wanted to know the steps taken by the Government to provide succour to such people? Rameshwar Prasad Singh, while replying on behalf of the Government told the Vidhan Sabha, “...These villages are located within the Kosi embankments and the Bela Dhar is an offshoot of the Kosi. As the river water rises, it threatens the village and erosion takes place. The Government is not responsible for protecting the village from erosion. The villagers have been paid the compensation to shift from those places. That land is meant only for agriculture and not for the habitations....The Government does not spend money to protect these villages.” This was a policy statement by the Government and it stands by its words till date. This implies that the Government has absolved itself of any obligation that it might have had for the people living within the embankments of the rivers. If the embankments remain in their position, the life of those living within the embankments becomes miserable. It is the duty of the Water Resources Department of the state to ensure safety of the embankments. How far this duty is observed, we have seen it in earlier sections.

.The mandate given to the Kamla-Balan engineers is the same, in that their job is to ensure the safety of the embankments and preventing water from flowing from the river into the countryside on either side of the embankments. Thus, protecting life and property in the countryside is their job. That this also means that the life and property of those living within the embankments would be at stake is not their business. They resort to flood fighting for the same and they can go to any extent to achieve these objectives. As the river meanders between the two embankments, it can attack any of the embankments. A list of such vulnerable points on the embankments is finalized by 31st May every year. It is the duty of the Chief Engineer (Flood Control) to prepare a Flood Manual every year that gives all the directives to ensure safety against floods. It contains the rules and directions for patrolling the embankments besides giving a complete list of all the officers of the department, from overseers to executive engineers, to draw up on, in case of any emergency. In spite of all such arrangements, the embankments remain fragile and their status as a flood protection measure remains a topic for discussion among the public.

14.1 NGOs Blamed For The Breaches


A very interesting thing that the engineers, on the condition of anonymity, point out that a large number of NGOs are working in the countryside, south of the Jhanjharpur rail-bridge. Their number is less in the areas located north of the bridge. According to the engineers, these NGOs play a leading role in breaching the embankments and once their job is accomplished, they approach their foreign donors for huge amount of funds to run the relief and rehabilitation programmes. And, since the number of such NGOs is less in the north of Jhanjharpur-Sakri rail line, as compared to the south, the cases of breaches in the north is far less than the south Rameshwar Sah (55), village Gunakarpur, block Lakhnaur located south of the said rail line fails to hide his anger over the suggestions of the engineers by saying that, “...I can imagine any one criticizing us for the breaches except the engineers of the Kamla or the Kosi Project. I must say, long long ago, there was one demon king Ravana who had ten heads. These days, we have Ravanas all around us but all of them have just one head. They all speak the same language. Wherever you go, you will find the same Ravana. How many billion dollars of foreign loan is there on our country? And, have you seen wrinkles on the face of any leader? There is a smile on the face of each one of them. How can we develop? Everything has slipped into the hands of the criminals. Big epics (The Mahabharata- Author) were written when a king made advances toward a fisherman's daughter. That happens here everyday and not even whispering takes place.” He continues, “...Whether the embankment breaches or is cut, there is sediment deposition of 4 to 5 meters in the countryside. This happened on a large scale in 1987. So much of earth is deposited in one stroke. How much will it cost if you float a tender for moving the same amount of earth? All the low-lying land was filled up that year. It doesn't take long to get the sand converted into mud in the Kamla basin. This river was our gold line. Why did this sand bother you? You should have allowed it to build the land. This, the river does free of cost and that is a duty assigned to the river by the nature. Then, one cannot sleep peacefully for three months for the fear of failure of the embankment. Why should the people not cut it and sleep peacefully? Is the land not waterlogged where the embankment is intact? The fact is, that the plans and estimates are made br one thing and the executed works are entirely different. They only aim to spend the money and are not bothered about the outcome of the same. The people at Nirmala had cut the embankment and the soil deposition that took place was worth millions of rupees. Why this is not taken into account by the Government? If we remain trapped in waterlogging and, yet, keep quiet then they feel that the area is developing.”

As far as the role of the NGOs in breaching the embankments is concerned, it is replied by Kameshwar Kamati of village Simra, Block-Jhanjharpur, Distt. Madhubani. He says, ....There is a small difference between a voluntary organization and an NGO, just the same that we see in Bharat and India. The 'Indian NGOs’ have a materialistic philosophy and believe in 'Eat Drink and Be Merry'. They rule the roost but are not bothered about the public. Their office bearers, generally, live in Patna or Delhi, they raise money in the name of poor people there and that money is spent there only. These expenditures are audited there and a jazzed up report of their work with the poor is published, only to raise more money in future. These NGOs often publish advertisements about their works, their interviews appear in the press, TV and the radios, and they always steal the limelight. As far as I know, there are only two organizations that get some donations from within India and abroad, south of the said railway line.

The officials of the Government, despite having access to all the resources and authority, cannot protect these structures and pass the buck on to the NGOs. This is an insult to the people residing in the villages close to the embankments that they do not understand their own well being and breach the embankments at the insinuation of the NGOs and they have no understanding of what is happening around them. Only a few years ago, the people at Bhith Bhagwanpur declared openly that they have cut the embankment (1993) and wanted the Government to try them in a court of law but the engineers left the scene and the administration started saying that the embankment had breached on its own and it was not cut. The people who have suffered floods and waterlogging have cut the embankment, for sure, but this cannot be a handiwork of the NGOs. The 'Indian NGOs' relax in their bedrooms while 'Bharat' looks after itself. This whole exercise is to escape the responsibility of floods and to divert the flood debate. The embankments, however, are breaching ever since they were built and the NGOs that the engineers are referring to, were born only a few years ago. It will be of interest to know that when the Kamla-Balan embankment breached at 21 points, in 1965, how many NGOs were operating in the area at that time.

14.2 Evict People From The Embankments


The engineers have another grievance that the people have made settlements on the embankments and their numbers swell during the rainy season as more and more people from the adjoining areas come and stay there. This impedes the movement of the departmental vehicles and creates problems in up keeping of the structures leading to the breaches. The situation becomes worse after a breach in the embankment. The Government has issued notices to those occupying the embankments to vacate but the people do not comply. It is further said that there is lack of political will to implement these orders. Most of the people living on the embankments belong to the weaker sections of society and are politically very useful. The Government and the political parties cannot lock horns with them. Everyone knows that those living on the embankments are not just the 'displaced persons', they are voters also. If the Government of one party uproots them, the other parties would try to make capital out of the same. Only Kalidasa, before he acquired wisdom, can take such risks. From Civil SDO to Commissioner, everybody has got the details of these illegal occupants of the embankment but none of them is in a position to implement these orders. There was a time limit, December 2002, set for the eviction of these people but no action was taken. The engineers, too, do not want these people to be evicted forcibly or implicated in police cases because it is the engineers, from the overseers to the Chief Engineer, who have got move over the embankments without any security guards. It is they who would be facing the ire of the people in case of any eviction.

Infact, a programme to evict the people from the Kamla and the Kosi embankments was launched by the district administration in the Madhubani, in 1997-98. The 'illegal occupants' of the embankment were chased away by the police but neither the administration nor the victims knew where would they go to. The police had the authority to implement the Government orders but the people had occupied the embankments because they literally could not live in their villages. It was likely that their villages were eroded and their dwellings could not remain intact in such cases. It is also likely that the locations of their houses and the agricultural fields got waterlogged or sand cast and this, surely, was the doing of the Kosi or the Kamla Project, which might have marginalized them to live on the embankments. This is particularly true for the people living between the Kosi and the Kamla rivers. It is certain that whoever is residing on the embankment, is not there for fun or for a picnic. There wouldn't be a person on the embankment who would enjoy being surrounded with water from all sides. All those who are there are compelled to live there and suffer from the feeling of being driven away from their homes and hearths. Without showing any consideration to such factors, the Government executed their eviction. These were the people who might have voted the same Government to power.

It is, however, a fact that for a proper maintenance and upkeep of the embankments, it is necessary that the embankment should be free of any obstacles that impede vehicular movement over them but it is also equally necessary that the evicted people should be provided a place where they could shift to. The Government is itself responsible for the occupation of the embankment, in most cases, and cannot shun its responsibility. When the people were evicted in Madhubani district from the embankments, they had no place to go. The land prices in the vicinity sky-rocketed overnight and a large number of the people had to live on the aisles of the fields, as that was the only public place available which was not waterlogged.

15. The Bogey Of Raising And Strengthening The Embankments


Ever since the embankments on the Kamla-Balan were built, their breaching continues unabated. Since 1965, i.e. within 2 years of their completion, suggestions were made to raise and strengthen the embankments. This was reiterated by experts like Dr. K.L.Rao, P.N. Kumra and Moti Ram, who were all engineers with their roots in centre. Why did the authorities construct low height and weak embankments that would breach, in the first place? The experts would say that this was the job of the State Government and not theirs. Ask the State engineers and they will tell that the State Government hasn't got the money and they did what all they could do with the limited resources at their disposal. When the money was not there, what was the hurry of building the embankments that breach every year and patchwork repair has to be carried out on 'war footing'? Hundreds of persons are killed every year and millions of hectares of agricultural land gets submerged besides collapsing of a large number of houses whose cost may again run into millions. Epidemics break out and a large number of youth are rendered unemployed. The poor become poorer for no fault of theirs and nobody seems to take notice of the facts. If that is the fate of the embankments, are institutions like Water Resources Department, the Planning Commission or the Ganga Flood Control Commission accountable in any way? They are all involved in the approving of the projects. The answer to such questions is very simple. That is how the establishment functions. It may just be a part of the functioning of the establishment to ensure that the poor survive but it is never the sole purpose of the establishment. The constituency of the politicians does not comprise of the poor alone. They represent everybody in their constituency and it is their job to take care of the interests of everybody and this is where the poor loose out.

 

Table-2

Details of villages trapped within or bisected by the kamla balan embankments

Distt./Block

No of Village

Total

Population Male

Female

Total                

SC population

Male

Female

Total

Literates

Male

Female

Total

Literacy Rate

Male             

Female

Madhubani

 

Jainagar

7

64204

34018

30188

7304

3843

3461

22196

16339

5857

34.57

48.03

19.07

Rajnagar

1

9729

5030

4699

2028

1043

985

3376

2301

1075

34.07

45.75

22.88

Khajauli

6

43406

22891

20515

7692

4024

3668

15847

11468

4379

36.05

50.09

21.34

Babu Barahi

13

43237

22230

21007

5089

2636

2453

13236

9800

3436

30.61

44.08

16.35

Andhra Tharhi

11

38452

19612

18840

5794

2979

2815

13367

9398

3969

34.76

47.91

21.06

Jhanjharpur

16

41361

20773

20588

6338

3265

3073

15582

10247

5335

37.67

49.32

25.91

Lakhnaur

7

37686

19347

18339

6291

3206

3085

14681

9760

4921

38.95

50.44

26.83

Madhepur

7

28953

14971

13982

3747

1886

1861

9357

6582

2775

32.31

43.96

19.84

Darbhanga

 

Gaura-Bauram

8

23271

12161

11110

4244

2213

2031

5900

4487

1413

23.35

36.89

12.71

Ghanshyampur

11

29009

14883

14126

5436

2807

2629

10465

6860

3605

36.07

46.09

25.52

Kiratpur

2

33096

17014

16082

7993

4099

3894

9823

6944

2879

29.68

40.81

17.90

Tardih

12

37858

19374

18484

4622

2417

2205

12682

8698

3984

33.49

44.89

21.55

Total

102

430262

222304

207958

66578

34418

320160

146512

102884

43628

34.05

46.28

20.97

 

Bihar

47.53

60.32

33.57

India

65.38

75.85

54.16

Source : Census Report 2001

 

Can the flood problem ever be solved by raising and strengthening the embankments? Will the flow of the floodwaters or the accompanying sediment be reduced by it? Will the riverbed stop rising after the embankments are raised and strengthened? Will it help in reducing the seepage from the embankments and shun waterlogging? Can any engineer guarantee that the embankment that we are calling sturdy and strong today will not breach tomorrow? The answer to all these questions is a big -No. A higher and sturdy embankment will be a greater security threat to the people living in the countryside of the embankment. Unfortunately, the establishment does not take cognizance of these facts. Then what is the use of raising and strengthening these? It's only utility is to improve the movement of traffic and the Government jeeps and vehicles will find it easier to ply over it. To achieve this objective, a bogey is being raised that the floods will be controlled by raising and strengthening the embankments. All this is being done to convince people that the floods will reduced by resorting to such measures because flood control is a saleable item and it suits all the vested interests including engineers, administrators, politicians and the contractors. In good old days, the labourers used to get some employment in earth cutting but that, too, has now slipped into the hands of the tractor owners coming from other states. It does not create local employment either.

16. Rehabilitation in the Kamla Project


Embankments on the Kamla were built in 1950s as the first phase from Jainagar to Jhanjharpur Rail Bridge. These were extended from Jhanjharpur to Darjia between 1960-62. In the 1980s plans were made to extend the same to Phuhia and that has not been completed till date. Their construction terminates, at the moment at Mansara village in Darbhanga. As a sequel to this jacketing of the river many villages got trapped within the embankments and had to be relocated. Despite efforts, it was not possible to procure a map of the villages trapped within the Kamla embankments nor was any list of these villages available anywhere. Every Sub-division office has an election cell where the Block-wise drawings of villages/polling booths are available. Based on these drawings, it has been possible to prepare a blockwise list of the villages that are trapped within the Kamla-Balan embankments along with those villages through which the embankment passes. The findings are summarized in Table-2 below. Block wise detailed list of villages is given in Annexure-1.

Abdul  Jabbar and Atiq-ur-RehmanThus, there are 102 villages within the Kamla-Balan embankments with a population of 4.30 lakhs (2001 Census) that are spread over two districts and 12 blocks. Many of these villages are fully located within the embankments and the land of most of these villages is bifurcated by these embankments. It is these villages whose land was acquired for rehabilitation and, to cap it all, most of waterlogging is noticed there. Thus, just by a single decision of fixing the alignment of the embankments, the people of these villages have suffered untold miseries.According to the Table-2, the overall literacy percentage within the Kamla embankments and the villages directly affected by them, is only 34.05 Of this, the male literacy rate is 46.28 and female literacy is 20.97. In the blocks of Jainagar, Babu Barahi, Madhepur, and Ghanshyampur / Kiratpur, the female literacy rate is less than 20 percent. Bihar occupies the lowest position in literacy within the country and is the only state where the literacy percentage is less than 50 while the literacy rate in and around Kamla-Balan embankments is only 34.05. At the national level, such a literacy rate existed around 1971. The male literacy rate of 46.28 of the Kamla embankment region was observed at the national level around 1980 and the female literacy of 20.97 percent must have existed prior to 1969 in India. If we forget the whole nation and concentrate on Bihar alone, the overall literacy of 34.05 percent must have existed in Bihar prior to 1987, the male literacy rate of 46.28 in 1986-87 and female literacy rate of 20.97 in 1988. If the literacy rate of the population is any indicator of the quality of life in a society, then this part of the country is 30 years behind the rest of the country and, at least, 15 years behind the rest of Bihar. The problems of the embankment victims of the Kamla-Balan and their plight is in no way different to that of those living within the Kosi embankments. They were never rehabilitated properly and most of the embankment victims do not know where the Rehabilitation Office was located. There seems to be no information available about the families displaced by the Kamla-Balan embankments.

Obviously, rehabilitation is quite in tune with this given situation in the Kamla Project. Harna is an important village located on the left bank of the Kamla. Most of the land of this village is trapped within the embankment. Abdul Jabbar (53) talks about the life in his village. He says, “...Ours was not the area of the Kamla. It was Balan here and the Kamla joined it in 1954. As long as it was Balan, we had no problems but the profile of the river fell too short to accommodate the flow of the Kamla. Then came engineers who claimed that when the rivers in China can be brought to terms, Kamla was a river of no consequence before those mighty rivers? They embanked the combined stream of the Kamla Balan in late 1950s. We used tanks for irrigating our fields earlier and could grow paddy, pulses and oil seeds without much of efforts. But slowly, all our trees and vegetation was lost because of the sand that the river brought along with its waters. Biju Jha of our village had mango orchard Of 52 bighas and it was not possible for a person to taste the fruits of all the trees in one go. There were varieties of mangoes in it, from Biju to Kalmi. There were big Jamun (black berry) trees that two persons could not circumvent its stem, a third one was needed. All that is gone now. The tanks have disappeared. All the splendor of my village has disappeared. We neither got any rehabilitation nor compensation. This, despite the fact that ours was the constituency of Jagannath Mishra who thrice became the chief minister of the state. This area has become another Afghanistan now, all barren. There will be revolt if similar situation arises, say, in Punjab. But we are contented.”

Atiq-ur-Rehman (64) from the same village adds, “... Our downfall started with this embankment. Waterlogging outside and sedimentation within the embankments started soon. Then started the breaches in the embankment. There was chaos, which resulted in protests and local people started cutting the embankments for fresh silt that the river used to bring. There were 9 villages trapped within the embankments in our vicinity. These were Harna, Bhaduar, Bithauni, Tirhutta, Bhikhna, Partapur, Dumar Banna, Baksahi and Rajanpura. Some land was acquired in Bithauni, Bhaduar and Harna for resettlement in 1967. Those shifted to the resettlement sites returned soon to their original villages as the resettlement plot was too small. Also, if you have four kids, they would need four houses when they become adult and the land could hardly accommodate one. They all came back. Ninety five per cent of land of Harna and Bhaduar is trapped within the embankments and the agriculture is just a lottery. In these places, the soil is not washed away: it is the land that is swept away. I remember Binodanand Jha, who later became the Chief Minister of the state, used to come and tell us that he would compensate for all our losses, even the loss of bananas in a tree. It was a wholesale fooling of the people. Our patience has exhausted now and we all know that the Government would never do anything to provide us the succor. If it takes back the embankment, we will manage our river.”

The plight of those who did not come to the rehabilitation sites or went back to their original village within the embankments is a bit different. Says Lakshmi Narayan Yadav (50) of village Bheria Rahi, PO Thengaha, Block Tardih, Dist Darbhanga, “...Darjia is about 5-6 kilometers down south from here and this embankment must have been built around 1961-62. We were kids then and I do not know whether we got any rehabilitation at all. Indra Kant Jha of Thengaha became Mukhia in 1979 and he advised us to go to Jhanki Pokhar and settle there on the Government land. We were told this by Indra Kant Babu but the Government was maintaining its silence. If the Government gives us rehabilitation in Madhubani, we will go there but there is no point in seeking rehabilitation in the countryside of the embankment here. This embankment breaches every year and why should we willingly face devastation? When the embankment breaches, it plays havoc with those living on the countryside. We are also inconvenienced but our crops are saved. Our land has risen high because of the continued sedimentation. If the water level rises to foot of the ox there, then it will overflow the embankment. This is happening regularly since 1987. The residents of Belhi, Khairi, Nirmala and Gunakarpur had taken shelter here in our village in 1987. We spent about 80 mounds of Ragi in the flood season that year. We are happy that we could do something to help the people in need. No Government, whether State or the Central reaches here when we face emergencies. Relief supplies are sanctioned in our names but it never reaches here....The embankments are spaced at about a kilometer and if they are raised by 1.5 meters every year, it would result in the raising of land by 60 centimeters annually. How long will you raise the embankments? And if you don't allow the water to flow, will it keep quiet? It would surely, do something in its own defence.”

The situation in Baksahi, block Babu Barhi, Distt. Madhubani is slightly different. Baue Lal Mukhia (62) recalls what had happened there when the embankment was constructed. He says, .... When the embankment was going to be built, Shyam Sidhap and Baksahi villages were trapped within the embankments. It was proposed to acquire land for resettlement in Ghanghaur but the land there was less and some influential people of these villages obstructed the acquisition process and we were compelled to live in our original village. Then came a proposal of constructing a ring bund around our village and we all opposed it because we knew there will be river water outside the ring and the rainwater within the ring would not drain out.

Shyam Sidhap is a village where majority of population is Brahmin and they did not want to shift to Ghanghaur and they were also not prepared to live with us in the rehabilitation site. We got the compensation for the land that was acquired for the embankment but failed to get resettlement and stayed back in our old village. There was a severe flood some 35 years ago when we left the village and came on to this embankment. Some of us have made houses on the 20 feet wide strip on the countryside of the embankment. We know that this land is not ours and belongs to the landlords of Shyam Sidhap and this embankment also does not belong to us. We are landless. But we have lived here for a generation now, planted mango, black berry, Pipal. Ashok and many other trees and treat this place as ours. We have not been issued any notice by the Government to evacuate but if the Government evicts us, we will go from here. What else a helpless person can do? We don't have the capacity to pick up quarrel with anyone? But for the employment opportunities in Kolkata, Asansol, Punjab or Bhadohi: we do not have any source of livelihood.

It is the same story everywhere. Either the people did not get resettlement or they got it and then returned back to their village. The rehabilitation site was captured by the local toughs in many cases, if it was useful anyway for them, of else it got waterlogged and then rendered useless.

17. Not Everything Is Alright In The Kamla Basin


Many things were done in this basin for improving irrigation and affecting flood control but neither was reliable for the farmers. Table -3 below gives the flood loss data of some of the worst flood years in Darbhanga district and these are self-explanatory. It is obvious from these data that the districts suffered most in the floods of 1987. The state government tried very hard to prove the floods of 2004 as the worst ever flood faced in Darbhanga, probably, to get more and more relief from the center.

1955 Figures: Matharani, M. P; A Report On The Flood Situation In North Bihar.

                

Table -3

Details Of Flood Losses In Old Darbhanga District In Some Severe Flood Years

(LH - Lakh Hectares)

SI.No:

Year

Area LH

Flood Affected Area LH

%age Affected

Flood Affected Villages

Affected Agricultural Area LH

Population of The District Lakhs

Population Affected Lakhs

%age of Affected Population

Damaged Houses

Human Deaths

Cattle Lost

1.

1954

8.637

5.611

64.96

2501

5.131

37.68

19.77

52.46

32950

13

500

2.

1955

8.637

NA

NA

2341

4.16

37.68

25.02

66.40

NA

17

NA

3.

1987

8.684

8.24

94.89

3307

6.08

64.49

56.49

87.59

472387

519

1794

4.

2002

8.684

5.47

62.98

2430

4.60

102.69

63.27

61.42

285293

195

796

5.

2004

8.684

6.70

77.15

2993

5.34

102.69

79.47

77.38

310406

505

1573

Source: 1954 Figures-Darbhanga Gazetteers (1964), pp 202-03

1987 Figures: Annual Administrative Report, 1987-88, Dept. Of Relief & Rehabilitation, Government of Bihar, Patna, 1989.

2002 and 2004 Figures: Disaster Management Department Govt. of Bihar

Note: Population figures of 1987, 2002 and 2004 include the districts of Madhubani and Samastipur and have been adopted from the Census Figures. Corrections for interim rise in population have not been applied.

 

 
It is not intended to belittle the sufferings of the people during the floods of 2004 but the fact remains that in the flood of 1987, floods affected an area of 8.04 lakh hectares in the combined districts of Darbhanga, Madhubani and Samastipur that had engulfed 3307 villages Of the total population of 64.49 lakhs then, some 56.49 lakhs (87.59 % of the total) was hit by floods that killed 519 persons and 1794 cattle besides raising to the ground some 4,72,387 houses. A flood relief scam worth Rs 17 crores, however, is reported to be unique to the flood of 2004, in Bihar, and this has not been resolved yet. We have taken 1954 as the reference year because this is treated as one of the worst years for floods in Bihar. It also acquires significance because till 1954, virtually nothing was done to control floods in the country while by 2004, some 265 kilometers of embankment length was constructed in the Kamla basin and it was assured that they would protect an area of 3.40 lakh hectares of land against floods. Lesser said about the assurances and claims, the better it is because the impact of floods of 1906 that 'created history' is now dwarfed before the floods of 1987 and 2004. Further, in 1959, Kedar Pandey, while replying to a question of Radha Nandan Jha MLA on behalf of the Government, had said in the Bihar Assembly, ...The Government of India has proposed to set up a committee for the smooth drainage of the Kamla and the Kosi but it is likely to take up some time. Hence, it may not be possible to take up any work this year.... The function of this committee is not only examine the scheme but it is also expected to consider the flood control measures in the Kamla and the West Kosi basin in an integrated way and then come out with recommendations. These recommendations, apparently, have not been made till date (February 2006). A Special Task Force prepared some drainage schemes for the Kosi and the Gandak basin in 1988 but there were no resources to implement these schemes. Then on, the Water Resources Department WRD of the State revises these estimates occasionally and the files must be shuttling between Central Water Commission, Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance and the Ganga Flood Control Commission. There is total silence over the issue for the past many years.

The WRD of the State tried to take up some drainage schemes for implementation during 1998-99 but when the engineers went to the site for the construction work, they found that the topography of the area has changed completely and it was not possible to take up the work based on the available plans and drawings. Situation demanded fresh surveys and designs before anything could be done in the field. No further information is available on this venture. We know that for the success of any drainage scheme, it is essential that the water is led to a river, the Kosi or the Kamla in this case. We also know that many tributaries of the river reach up to the embankment but they abruptly take a turn there and start flowing parallel to the embankment because the bed level of the rivers within the embankments is at a higher level and water from outside cannot easily get inside. This water will get inside only when the previous bed levels are restored between the tributary and the main river. And the river will have its natural flow only when the embankments are not there. It will be foolish to suggest that the WRD of the state does not know this simple fact but it is assigned the duty of making schemes and implementing them. It is not the job of the department to suggest something that is not asked from it.

18. The Proposed Chisapani Dam On The Kamla


There is a dam proposed on the Kamla at ChisaPani, on the lines of the Barahkshetra Dam on the Kosi, that is supposed to control floods in the Kamla basin. According to the Second Irrigation Commission of Bihar (1994), this proposed 66.14 meters (217 feet) high dam can accommodate a peak discharge of 5377 cumecs (1,89,270 cusecs) and will produce 17 MW of hydropower. There is no flood cushion provided in this proposed dam and flood control, if any, is proposed to be achieved through flow regulation alone. It is interesting to note whether the politicians and engineers are aware of this fact as both claim that once the ChisaPani dam is constructed, the flood problem of the Kamla basin will be solved. This darn was first proposed in 1956 and is expected to cost Rs. 92.80 Crores at 1990 price levels. The details of this dam will be worked out once an agreement is reached between the Government of India and His Majesty's Government in Nepal. With Mahakali Treaty (1996) remaining a non-starter, one really does not know when the two Governments will agree on the ChisaPani darn on the Kamla. Otherwise also, despite the repeated assurances of the politicians in India, this dam will be built only when Nepal so desires and nobody knows when this dam will come in the ambit of her priorities. Further, the location where this dam is proposed, the river has a catchment of only 1409 Sq. Km while the catchment area of the river, below the dam, is 5,823 Sq Km. Because the catchment area of the river below the dam is about 4 times larger than that at the proposed dam site, it is unlikely that the dam will have any significant contribution in controlling the floods of the river.

19. Is There A Way Out?


If we take up the issue of irrigation first, it is solely dependant on the enterprise of the farmers in the basin. Unreliable supplies of irrigational waters have little to contribute toward the agriculture in the area and this is more pronounced in the middle and the lower reaches of the canal. It is difficult to say that the things will improve much even if the Kamla Canals are merged into the Western Kosi Canal system. If the irrigation from the Eastern Kosi Main Canal had been that efficient, the farmers in the districts of Supaul, Saharsa, Araria, Purnea and Katihar would not have to depend on Diesel Pumps for irrigation. It is essential, therefore, to make the Irrigation aspect of the project more accountable to the farmers and it should be ensured that the promises made to the people by the Kamla Irrigation Project or by WKC, in future, are met with. There is total indifference towards performance at the moment in both these projects.

As far as WKC is concerned, the first foundation stone of this canal was laid by Jagjiwan Ram, in 1957 and before the work on the actual construction could start in 1974, there were four more foundation laying ceremonies. The project was estimated to cost Rs. 13.49 crores, initially (1962) and it was expected then that the canal would irrigate 2.63 lakh hectares of crop area when completed. The WKC, after spending Rs 621 crores (March 2005), 46 times more than the original estimate, irrigated just 17,390 hectares which is only 6.61 percent of its stated objective. The WRD of the State claims that the construction of the canal would be completed by 2008, which is unbelievable because the WRD of the state is claiming. since 1984, that it would complete the work on the WKC in all respects within the coming two years. The project estimate has shot up to Rs. 904 crores (1998 price levels). The project is yet to spend Rs. 183 crores at the 1998 price level and the kind of investment that is going into the canal makes it impossible to get it completed by 2008. There is an urgent need to change such a situation and pressure should be brought on to the Government to make serious interventions. This is possible only by exerting pressure by the farmers groups and, unfortunately, there is none.

Same thing holds for the flood control also. Where is that flood-protected area of 3.40 lakh hectares that was promised to be flood free by the Kamla embankments? If the ChisaPani Dam is the last and final solution to problems facing the people, then why it is not being built? There is a need to create awareness about these issues. Besides, there are many things in the fields of livelihood, agriculture, health, education, communication, housing, water supply and sanitation that the people and the society can implement at their level. These details are available elsewhere. There is a need to get an evaluation of the Kamla Flood Protection Scheme done by involving the affected people too and if the project is creating more problems than actually solving them, some consensus decisions must be taken about the future of these schemes. It must be reminded here that the real problem lies not with the floodwaters but with the sediments. This has not been tackled by building embankments and will continue to persist even if a dam at ChisaPani is built. The problems have arisen in these basins because the presence of excessive silt in floodwaters, drainage congestion caused by faulty road and rail construction, unscientific construction of embankments and canals and vested interest in perpetuation of the flood problem. Every farmer would want the natural floods to occur but not the one that one is exposed to these days.

This aspect has been grossly ignored by the engineers bureaucrats, politicians arid NGOs and unless that is tackled, no amount of preparation to face floods as disaster, disaster mitigation and post-flood rehabilitation would help. Floods have traditionally been a way of life in the area and only vested interest would rate them as a disaster. The disaster, if at all it is there, is purely manmade and with some efforts it should be possible to identify the men who made it and want to perpetuate the same. Unless the problem is identified properly and a effort is made to genuinely solve it; distribution of flattened rice, jaggery, horse gram and polythene sheets will unfailingly continue to occupy the center stage during every flood season and the vested interests in relief operations will continue to have a field day.

Traditionally, the floodwaters used to travel far and wide, in an uninterrupted manner, and with that used to travel the suspended load in it. This led to the rejuvenation of the fertility of the soil and moderation of floods, to a large extent. The heavier particles of sand mostly remained to the confines of the rivers but, by building the embankments on it, the flood levels were raised and the subsequent breaches in the embankment made the spread of water and sediments unruly and coarse sand got pushed into the field. The sediments will create a different set of problem even if Chisa Pani Dam is built. Also, it will not be wise to ignore the role played by the Chaurs and Tanks of the area in moderation of floods. Elderly people of the basin opine that the first heavy spell of rains in the season were useful in settling the dust of the summer and absorb the heat. The next round of rains would fill in all the fields and filling of the chaurs and tanks would take place during the third round of rains. Having achieved all this, the river spill used to spread all over and was known as the first flood, an event eagerly awaited by all and sundry. The villagers knew the importance of these depressions and used to maintain these chaurs and tanks. This established practice was later taken over by the Government, which neither did the job nor allowed people to do it themselves. It is essential that the use of modern science should not be done as an obstinate response, it should be used to strengthen the well-thought and time-tested traditions.

One hears quite often that the Kamla embankments are likely to be extended from Jainagar to Mirchaiya, in Nepal. If that is true, then what is happening from Jainagar to Mansara in the Indian portion will also happen between Mirchaiya and Jainagar. If this is acceptable to all. we do not have anything to say. But if there are breaches or cuts in Nepal portion of the embankment, the gushing water will create problems in Bihar villages close to the border. India may have to bear the costs of the relief and rehabilitation measures in Nepal and compensating for the losses. This is a reality because India had to spend a sum of Rs. 5.17 Crores on the repairs of the damaged western Kosi embankment at Joginia, in Nepal, in 1991 and had to pay a compensation of Rs. 19.80 lakhs to Nepal for acquiring temporary lands, trees, crop losses and shifting of the houses etc. Fortunately, the floodwaters of the Kosi had receded and there was no loss to the life and property in Joginia. Such breaches or cuts will create unnecessary social tensions in the border areas.

Lastly, if at any stage, the negotiations about the proposed Chisa Pani Dam on the Kamla enters a crucial phase, it must be ensured that the cost of proper rehabilitation of those trapped within the Kamla embankments is added to the cost of the dam. Also, the estimates must take care of the costs of removal of water logging in the Kamla-Kosi interfluves, the plans of which are being prepared since 1958 and no action has been taken over these proposals so far. Any construction of a dam in the basin must only be taken up on the condition that proper rehabilitation of the embankment victims will be done and waterlogging removed from the lower areas. People should not fall into the trap that once the dam is built, all the problems of the basin would be solved. It is apprehended that once the dam building activity takes any serious turn, all the emphasis will go to the submergence areas and the rehabilitation there and the voices of the people of the lower downstream areas would be lost in the din. The fresh problems that the Chisa Pani Dam would create in future in the down stream areas would be over and above these problems. The fact remains that the proposed Chisa Pani Dam will not solve any problem of the downstream areas. Much depends on the embankment victims and the civil society present in the basin areas as to whether it prepares itself for a struggle to get its legitimate rights or, else, believe the dam builders and get cheated once again.

Reference


1. Report of The Second Irrigation Commission Of Bihar, 1994, Vol-V, Part-1, p-483.
2. O’Malley, L.S.S.; Bengal District Gazetteers, Darbhanga, 1907.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Roy Choudhary, P.C.; Bihar District Gazeteers, Darbhanga, 1964, p-196 and Matharani, M.P.; A Report On The Flood Situation In North Bihar, 1955.
9. Matharani, op.cit.
10. O’, Malley, L.S.S.; As quoted in Darbhanga District Gazetteers (1964), p-136.
11. Report of the first irrigation commission of India, Part II, 1903, p. 165-167.
12. Ibid., p-168.
13. Ibid., p-167.
14. Sah, Ram Gulam; Resident Benipatti, Personal Communication.
15. Mishra, Dinesh Kumar; Living With Politics of Floods, 2002, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, p. 97-98.
16. Roy Choudhary, P.C.: op.cit., Darbhanga, p-136.
17. Ibid., p-137-38.
18. Jha, Bhogendra; River Management of Flood Drought and Power Shortage in Bihar, 1985.
19. Report of the Comptroller General of Accounts 1977-78 (Civil), p-82
20. Report of The Requisition Committee, Bihar Vidhan Sabha Secretariat, 101st Report, p. 3-5.
21. Yadav, Baidya Nath, proceedings-Bihar Vidhan Sabha, 21st july 1965, p-1.
22. Singh, Pitambar; Ibid., 10th March 1965, p-24.
23. Mishra, Dinesh Kumar: Impact of the Flood management policies on the lifestyle of the people of Bihar’s Saharsa District, PHD. Thesis, University of South Gujarat, Surat, 2006.
24. The Indian Nation-Patna, 12th July 1965, p-1.
25. Singh, Suraj Narayan; Bihar Vidhan Sabha Debates, 21st July 1965, p-1.
26. Man Made Floods and Exaggerated Reports, The Indian Nation-Patna, 19th July 1965, p-3.
27. Singh, Dr. Ram Subhag; N.E. Railway is not responsible for the Breaches in the Bunds, The Indian Nation-Patna, 17th July 1965, p-1.
28. The Indian Nation-Patna, Dated 3rd and 4th August 1965.
29. Mishra, Prem Chandra; Bihar Vidhan Sabha Debates, 23rd August 1965, p-2.
30. Singh, Suraj Narayan; Bihar Vidhan Sabha Debates, 8th Sept. 1966, pp-24-26.
31. Jha, Harish Chandra; ibid., p-35.
32. Mehta, Baidya Nath; ibid., Dated 15th September 1966, p-35.
33. Azad Narmadeshwar Singh; ibid., 31st July 1967, p-68.
34. Report of the Second Bihar State Irrigation commission, 1994, vol.V, part-1, p-548.
35. Mishra, Dinesh kumar, Story of A Ghost River And Engineering Witchcraft, Barh Mukti Abhiyan and Kasturba Mahila Mandal, 2004.
36. Mishra Dinesh Kumar; PHD. Thesis, op.cit.
37. Mishra, Dinesh Kumar; The Embankment Trap, SEMINAR 478, June 1999.
38. Mishra Dinesh Kumar; PHD. Thesis, op.cit.
39. Dev Nath Devan, Proceedings of the Third Delegates Conference of Barh Mukti Abhiyan. Held at Darbhanga, 5-6th April 2000, p-10-11.
40. Singh, Rameshwar Prasad; Bihar Vidhan Sabha Debates, 28th March 1968.
41. Administrative Report of the Dept. of Relief and Rehabilitation 1987-88, Govt. of Bihar, 1989. P.14-17.
42. Pandey, Kedar; Proceedings Bihar Vidhan Sabha, 24th February 1959, p-7.
43. Report of The Second Irrigation Commission of Bihar, 1994, Vol-V, Part-1, p-511.
44. Report of The Western Kosi Canal Project, 2005, Office of the Chief Engineer, Western Kosi Canal, Darbhanga.
45. Mishra, Dinesh Kumar; Living With The Politics of Floods, op.cit.
46. Report of the Special Committee of Bihar Vidhan Sabha, Western Kosi Embankment (Hanuman Nagar), 1993, p-88.
47. Ibid., p-118.

 

Annexure-1


Block-wise List of the Villages Trapped Within the Kamla Embankments Along with Villages Through Which Embankments Pass

District Madhubani

Tirhutta

District Darbhanga

1. Block Jainagar (7)

Barhi

1. Block- Tardih (12)

Jainagar

Ghanghaur

Pokharbhinda

Dodwar

Chhaurahi

Kaithwar

Barmotar

Baruar

Raja Kharbir

Korahia

Bishunpur

Bishunpur

Selra

6. Jhanjharpur (16)

Kokraha

Parwa

Mahinathpur

Devana

Belhi

Ojhoul

Thengaha

2. Block-Khajauli (6)

Sarvasima

Katahara

Sukki

Kako

Sotheria

Kanhauli

Shankarpur

Siddhitajpur

Maharajpur

Naruar

Kuwari

Chandardih

Bali

Mahia

Chandar Gobraura

Ramkhetari

2. Block-Ghanshyampur (11)

Bhakua

Motipur

Jadupatti

3. Block-Rajnagar (1)

Walipur

Supaul

Sugauna

Imadpatti

Parri

4. Block- Andhra Tharhi (12)

Sameya

Tumaul

Bithauni

Balni Mehath

Godhaul

Chapahi

Khaira

Burheb

Gangdwar

Kothia Bharaul

Asman

Sihoria

Kishanpur Barsam

Bhagwanpur

Rakhwari

7. Block-Lakhnaur (7)

Faizullahpur

Ghoghdaria

Madanpur

Salahpur

Rajanpura

Behat

Dohatha

Bhaduar

Kaithinia

3. Block-Gaura Bauram (8)

Harna

Gangapur

Mansara

Mahrail

Gunakarpur

Bath

Tilai

Kasayam

Gaura Man

Azrakbe Chapahi (Uninhabitated)

Balia

Akhatwara

5. Block-Babu Barhi (13)

8. Block-Madhepur (7)

Mansara

Murahaddi

Parsad

Malhi

Shyam Sidhap

Az Rakbe Siddhitajpur

Kothram

Bhatgawan

Bhith Bhagwanpur

Rauta

Madhawapur

Madanpur

4. Block-Kiratpur

Bairia

Khor

Rasiyari

Mathkhudar Kalan

Parasauni

Jhagarua

Bela

Parwalpur

Total 102 villages

Note: This list contains the name of villages between jainagar (Madhubani) and Mansara (Block-Gaura Bauram of Darbhanga district). If the embankments are extended beyond Mansara, more villages will be entrapped.

 

 

बगावत पर मजबूर मिथिला की कमला नदी, अगस्त 2006


(हिन्दी-अंग्रेजी में पढ़ने के लिये कृपया आलेख के लिंक पर क्लिक करें।)

1

बगावत पर मजबूर मिथिला की कमला नदी (The Kamla River and People On Collision Course)

2

The Kamla River and People On Collision Course

 

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