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Bihar floods: A man-made disaster
The devastating floods in Bihar, caused by a breach in the Kosi barrage, have left many dead and more than 30 lakhs displaced. But the extent of the floods could have been lessened had the administration been alert to the impending tragedy.

BIHAR HAS been battling with horrific floods for the past 15 days. ‘Sorrow of Bihar’, Kosi river has devastated 16 districts of the state. More than 30 lakhs people have been affected by the floods and around a hundred lives have been lost in the water. Due to extent of devastation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the floods in Bihar as ‘national calamity’. Singh also announced a Rs 1000-crore relief package for the state. Other states of the country are also offering relief packages to Bihar.

Government of Bihar is trying hard to provide necessary help to flood affected people. But still people in most affected areas are complaining of not getting adequate relief materials. Rescue and relief operations are going on in Bihar, but it would succeed only when the flood waters recede.

The reason behind the floods in Bihar was due to breach on Kosi river barrage on the Indo - Nepal border. But one can’t deny human hand behind the devastating floods in Bihar. The calamity is also the result of negligent attitude of the Central and state government. According to a senior official of National Disaster Management, the barrage completed its estimated lifespan of 30 years way back in 1986. Since then, 22 years have passed, but neither the state government nor the Centre showed any interest in constructing a new barrage or renovating the old one.

In 1956, the Kosi barrage came into being after a bilateral agreement between India and Nepal. But years before its estimated lifespan of 30 years, the river started changing its course eastward. The then Bihar government was aware of the fact, but it did not asked the Centre for diplomatic level talks with the neighbouring country. Negligence by Nepal towards maintenance of the Kosi barrage, which was breached two weeks back was one of the reasons behind the floods. But Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government also remained silent about the impending disaster.

Despite the flood-prone history of Bihar, the state government never showed much interest in dealing with the situation in advance. In fact, since the country’s Independence, the Centre never initiated diplomatic talks with Nepal. Of course, floods occur due to natural causes such as incessant rains, but by constructing a series of high dams on the Indo – Nepal border the extent of floods could have been reduced.

Fact is that the Centre or the state governments wake up only when floods or other natural calamities comes and destroy everything. At the time of elections, the government makes tall claims, and forgets them with the passage of time. Such negligence of the government and its officials is also visible in man-made structures like bridges, flyovers, buildings, etc.

There are several railway and road bridges across the country, which are very old and have completed their life span. But the concerned authorities don’t care to dismantle the old bridge or replace it with a new one. Every now and then we come across news of falling bridges and buildings, but no one cares about the casualty.

The unfolding tragedy in Bihar is an important lesson for the state government and the Centre as well. Had the necessary steps been taken on time, the 16 districts could have been saved from such devastation. Floods in Bihar have shocked the whole nation and has raised questions against our so-called ‘developing nation’ image. It is time for the government to wake up, rather than play blame game with each other and make it a political issue.

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