The Koshi Barrage
Indian and Nepali authorities instead of accusing their counterparts better concentrated on the humanitarian work for more than 50,000 displaced victims of the Kosi River flooding. Entire villages including the thatched huts and livestock have been swept away. Thousands are still missing. Those who had taken refuge in the government schools or on the sidewalks of the nearby towns after their villages were inundated with the flood water are facing food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare shortages. There are reports of people suffering from typhoid, pneumonia, and gastroenteritis.
Nicknamed as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’ in the GK books, the Kosi(or Koshi) is the largest river of Nepal that flows from Nepal to India. The river is also known as the ‘Saptakosi’ in Nepal owing to its seven major tributaries which themselves are ferocious streams most of them originating in the Tibet. The Kosi itself converges with the Ganges along the planes of India.
The Kosi Barrage was constructed in 1954 under Indian assistance and inaugurated by the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru. The Barrage which lies on the Indo-Nepal border is a contorversial issue in Nepali politics, for a treaty allows India to control and maintain the Barrage made on Nepali land. Nepali communists have been accusing that the Koirala Brothers Trio – Matrika Prasad, Bishweshwor Prasad, and Girija Prasad – sold the rights on the major rivers of Nepal namely Kosi, Gandaki, and Mahakali to India. Even Prachanda, while visiting the affected area called the perennial Koshi River flooding as Nepal’s National Crisis and termed the Barrage as a ‘historic blunder’ hinting at the ‘unequal’ treaty with India.
India’s interest for controlling the rivers is twofold – safeguarding its people from the floods in the rivers that flow to India and make use of water for irrigation and generate hydroelectricity. Still, even the leaders of India’s Bihar State accuse their central government as well as the Nepal Government of being insensitive to the sufferings of the people residing in the area. Incidentally, former Chief Minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav is presently the Railway Minister of the central government. Most Nepalis believe that Nepal loses a significant part of its hydropower share generated by India on Nepali rivers.
Ironically, while Bhutan even as India’s security protectorate makes a sustained development through hydropower projects on Indian investment, Nepal still suffers from its what Dr. Jagadish Sharma calls “Struggle for Existence” squeezed between the two nuclear giants India and China.