Kosi Floods: Survival of the Fittest
Floods have been a consistent feature in Bihar but the floods in 2008 have been the most terrifying and disastrous. The damage in terms of loss of lives, loss of agriculture lands, crops, livelihoods, and animal capital has been unprecedented. The Kosi River known as Sursar and Sunsari in Nepal has been known as the Sorrow of Bihar. Now with the destruction of Kusaha embankment hundreds of villages and its fertile lands have come under thenew path that Kosi has created for itself. The destruction wrought by the floods caused the UPA government to declare the flood as a national tragedy.
More than 35 lakh people were displaced. Millions lost their crops worth billions. Landless poor have been reduced to penury. For millions of households, the future is bleak. Adults are forced to migrate to big cities for livelihoods leaving their women and children behind.
A group of individuals and organizations have formed a group called Kosi Andolan for advocating on the course corrections for minimizing the uncertainties of the Kosi River and for eliminating the uncertainties in the lives of people living in the more than 1000 villages that have come under the course of Kosi River. This includes around 800 villages under the new course and around 300 villages under the old tracks.
Kosi Andolan seeks to address the root cause of the flood and eliminate suffering in the lives of people living in the villages where people have lost their animal capital, crops, and farmlands and continue to fear floods. There are millions of stories of suffering, hunger, malnutrition that are being narrated each day as one visits the villages and relief camps. Tragedy unfolds in disparate responses from the villages where relief materials are looted, distribution disrupted and creation of distribution lists disputed.
Parents specially belonging to landless families are finding it difficult to feed their children. People living on the embankments in Sursar have not yet found hope for going back to their homes that continue to be wet even after more than one month of floods.
Kosi Andolan has traveled to several villages in the flood affected districts of Madhepura, Supaul, Purnia, Katihar, Araria, & Bhagalpur. It has witnessed the destruction of the farms and lives of the men, women, children, animals and all the lives that came in the way of the water. As late as on 28 September, dead buffalo calves were seen flowing downstream at Sursar. According to an account more than 5000 villagers including children, women and elderly were drown in the river as Kosi River created its course through the sandy layer of the foundation of the embankment that had been place for safety in the Balua village, birth place of the former chief minister Jagannath Mishra. There are thousands who have no home left as that has gone under the Kosi River.
Now the Kosi Andolan has decided to travel from Kusaha[Nepal] to Kursela[Bihar]. The journey will be by boats for recording the evidences of destructions. It has been named “Tabahi ki Gawahi: Naav Yatra Kusaha se Kursela” (Collecting Evidence of Kosi Deluge: Boat Trip from Kusaha to Kursela). The Naav Yatra has started on 11th Oct and concludes on 23 October 2008 at Kursela. The team of Kosi Andolan leaders and volunteers will visit the villages, record stories, document evidences and share the vision of Bihar that is floodless while seeking solutions at the grassroots through conducting meetings, discussions with the people and the opinion leaders, panchayat representatives.
The key strategies will include observation, discussion with the affected. As the members of the Core Group include people who have lost crops, there is a deep interest in seeking permanent solution to the problem of floods in Bihar. The strategy include detailed observation, documentation, discussion, deep interviews, analysis of the literature on flood control measures, analysis of international agreements, meetings with the international and national agencies involved in seeking a permanent solution to floods in Bihar and advocating on the solutions with the concerned government. Kosi Andolan believes that India, Nepal and Bangladesh together need to work for solution. Addressing the concerns of all the governments and people is critical for finding a permanent solution to the problems of floods in Bihar.
Dr.Muhammad Mukhtar Alam
For Core Group, Kosi Andolan, Bihar
*Visit: Kosi Discussion Forum