December 13, 2022
KATHMANDU – Nepal and India have agreed to conduct repair and maintenance works at three dozen locations of the Koshi embankment that got damaged in monsoon floods this year.
After conducting a joint inspection of the embankment from Chatara down to the Nepal-India border, officials of the two countries concluded that the embankment should be repaired to prevent future disasters from floods.
A meeting of the Koshi high-level subcommittee on Sunday concluded that the embankments on both sides of the river should be repaired at three dozen locations, said Rukmagat Khanal, deputy director general of the Department of Water Resources and Irrigation who led the Nepali team at the meeting. “The Indian side is expected to complete the repairs before next rainy season.”
The Koshi subcommittee is a bilateral panel established to monitor the damage inflicted by the floods on the embankment on both sides of the river above the Koshi barrage.
According to Khanal, the joint team inspected areas from Chatara down to the Nepal-India border along the Koshi river from November 10, identified vulnerable areas and picked the spots that needed maintenance.
“A majority of the spots recommended for repair and maintenance have been seriously damaged by floods and need immediate attention to minimise the risk of flooding on Nepali land,” said Khanal.
The subcommittee usually meets twice a year—first before the monsoon and second after the rainy season.
Before the monsoon, the meeting assesses the works done to prevent flooding while damages are assessed during the post-rainfall meeting.
As per the Koshi Agreement, the southern neighbour is responsible for managing the barrage as well as carrying out repair and maintenance on the embankments. Nepal facilitates the Indian side for the job.
Koshi is notorious for eroding swathes of land in both Nepal and India, destroying farmlands and homes and inundating settlements every year. Nepal has been raising the issue of delayed maintenance works.
A number of households were affected by the floods in Koshi river in the past monsoon too. Barahakshetra Municipality in Sunsari is one of the most affected areas by the Koshi which displaces hundreds of families every year.
“Floods swept away 60–70 bighas of land in wards 9 and 6 of the municipality in the monsoon,” said Nirajan Mandal Chandrabanshi, ward 9 chairperson of Baharakshera Municipality. A bigha of land is equivalent to 0.67 hectares of land. “As many as 70 houses were relocated due to the risk of flooding this season,” he said.
More than 10,000 bighas of land have been swept away by the river in the last 40 years. Wards 9, 6, 8, 5 and 1 of Baharakshera are hit by floods every year.
In August 2008, Koshi saw one of its worst floods that affected 42,665 people from 7,563 households. At least one person was killed, according to the Nepal Emergency Operation Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The government had provided as much as Rs1.6 billion in relief to the families affected in terms of lost lands and crops.
The Koshi had diverted its 100-year-old course towards east by breaching its embankment.
The floods completely destroyed three erstwhile Village Development Committees whereas two VDCs were partially affected. The flood deposited large amounts of sand and silt on agricultural land affecting millions of people in Nepal and India. The Koshi is known as the ‘sorrow of Bihar’ as floods often wreak havoc in the Indian state.
The Koshi barrage was a product of multiple ideas to control floods in Bihar. The Indian government prioritised the project particularly after the devastating Koshi floods of 1953.