DAMS, RIVERS & PEOPLE Jan 2015 and Feb-March 2015 issues

The Jan 2015 issue of DRP magazine can be found at: https://sandrp.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/drp-jan-2015.pdf.

The Feb March 2015 issue of DRP magazine can be found at: https://sandrp.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/drp-feb-march-2015.pdf.

The Cover pages of the two issues can be seen below:

DRP Jan 2015 Cover Page
DRP Jan 2015 Cover Page

Continue reading “DAMS, RIVERS & PEOPLE Jan 2015 and Feb-March 2015 issues”



Above: Dead river Yamuna at Mawi (Panipat) in Haryana (Photo by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan)

Guest Blog by: Manoj Misra (yamunajiye@gmail.com)

A perennial river that does not flow is no river. This is because flow enables a river to fulfil its various ecological functions of which completion of the water and nutrient cycles; maintenance of aquatic and riparian flora and fauna and recharge of ground water through aquifer action is the most evident and critical. The recharged ground water also helps meet a number of human dependencies like irrigation and drinking water supplies.

On this World Water Day (March 22) 2015, following the 6th meeting of the Yamuna Review Committee held under chairperson ship of Union Water Resources Minister Sushri Uma Bharti (See Annexure for the PIB Press Release about it) on March 20, 2015, this blog shows how it is possible to achieve environment flows in Yamuna River. Hope all the concerned state governments including that of Delhi headed by Arvind Kejriwal, Union Water Resources Minister and the National Green Tribunal that made an order in this regard, will take due note of this.

The state of the Yamuna has reached a boiling point as eleven members of the Yamuna Muktikaran Abhiyaan have started a fast unto death on March 21, 2015 in Delhi, charging Union Water Resource Minister Uma Bharti that “she only made hollow promises. She barely knew about the issue”. This group has been marching to Delhi every year since last three years and have felt cheated by the authorities each time. They decided to end the protest action on March 22, 2015 under some rather vague promise by the government that within two months Yamuna river will be brought under Environment Protection Act, 1986.



Lawlessness in Maharashtra’s Water Sector

Above: Increasing height of a dam which holds no water Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

Guest post by Pradeep Purandare, pradeeppurandare@gmail.com

Irrigation Laws in Maharashtra: Politics of Non-Implementation

Laws are generally enacted to implement the policy by the ruling class & its government to promote & safeguard its own class & caste interests. However, while drafting the policy & laws, politically correct concepts & terminology in fashion is used for public consumption. New things are accepted because those come as conditions for getting the loan from donor agencies. Creating a desirable image or impression at national / international level can also be the motivation. Adopting a new policy or enacting a new law does not necessarily mean that the establishment of the day sincerely believes in that policy & law. Once the purpose of getting the loan and or creating an impression is served, government conveniently forgets implementing the policy & the law. Or, implementation is done in selective & superficial manner. Clauses / sections which were included for public consumption & which can really make the difference, if implemented in letter & spirit, are generally either put in cold storage or subsequently amended to make them more “practical & workable”. This does not happen as a result of inefficiency, callousness or indifference. This happens with purpose & by well defined strategy. This is politics of non-implementation! It is done to implement the hidden agenda. Of course, it’s not something new. It has been happening since long & in most of the walks of life. This paper makes an attempt to simply describe how politics of non-implementation is being done in water sector in general & in the field of irrigation in particular in Maharashtra – a supposedly progressive, highly industrialized & a modern State of India.

Enacting a law is not sufficient. The operative part which includes rules, notifications, agreements, government resolutions, orders & circulars as per the new Act is also equally important. If operative part is not in place, then the Act remains on paper for all practical purposes.

PLEASE SEE ANNEXURE 1 for Detailed table.

Gist of missing operative parts & its implications are given below:

In absence of rules (yes, MIA 76 does not have rules for last 37 years!) & non-issuance of basic notifications (rivers, command areas & appointment of Canal Officers), MIA 76 which is supposed to be the parent Act has remained mostly on paper. Locus standi of implementing authority i.e. Water Resources Department (WRD), therefore, can itself be questioned. The obvious result is there is no water governance. Free for all situation exists. Water theft, vandalism & tampering with canal system are rampant. Offences go un-punished. Irrigators, particularly the tail enders neither get water nor compensation. Politically influential irrigators grab all the benefits. Diversion of water from irrigation to non-irrigation, flow irrigation to lift irrigation & food crops to cash crops becomes easy. Since nothing is legally committed, nothing can legally be challenged. The overall situation is best suited for privatization. An un-notified river or command area, relatively speaking, can easily be handed over to private company. That’s seems to be the ulterior motive of missing operative part!

MMISF Act was brought in to legally provide for Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM). World Bank insisted for the enactment & made it a compulsory condition for getting the loan under Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Program (MWSIP). WRD, therefore, had to succumb. It however did not comply in letter & spirit. Ambiguity in rules for WUAs at higher level, non formation of sub committees, delayed or non execution of agreements with WUAs, insincerity in the processes such as “joint inspection” to “handing over”, not providing measuring devices, confusion over powers of WUAs, keeping lift irrigation out of purview of the Act, inordinate delays in returning part of tariff to WUAs for carrying out maintenance & repairs and last but not the least, non involvement of WUAs either in water budgeting or in conflict resolution speak volumes about the actual implementation of MMSIF Act. Intentions of WRD are clear & obvious. It considers WUAs as just a stop gap arrangement before going for corporatization & contract farming. One can imagine WRD’s line of argument in near future. It could be as follows “We tried our level best but WUAs could not succeed. Government cannot now take the responsibility of water management. Privatization appears to be the only way out”. Incomplete legal processes thus help establishment & make tail enders vulnerable.

Maharashtra established an Independent Regulatory Authority (IRA) in water sector by enacting MWRRA Act. It’s no doubt a pioneering effort. But the actual implementation of this Act is frustrating. There was reluctance to prepare the rules. Rules were prepared after 7 years from the enactment of the Act & that too only after an order to that effect by the High Court. Prepared rules, it is alleged, are contradictory to the provisions of the Act. They have been challenged & the matter is sub-judice.[yesterday Maharashtra’s legislative council had to discuss the issue in the house & Minister for WRD had to stay the implementation of rules] State Water Board & State Water Council has been legally constituted way back in 2005 to respectively prepare & approve the Integrated State Water Plan (ISWP). Both the board & council have not yet started their functioning. Obviously ISWP which was to be prepared within one year from the enactment of the Act is still not in place even after 8 years. MWRRA as per its own Act is supposed to take decisions with reference to ISWP. But it is going ahead even without ISWP. Similarly, River Basin Agencies (RBA) have not been operationalized & issuing water entitlements by RBAs has not so far materialized. MWRRA Act has been amended in 2011 to retrospectively protect non transparent decisions of High Power Committee regarding transfer of water from irrigation to non-irrigation. Powers of MWRRA in respect of sectoral water allocation have already been withdrawn by the said amendment. Effective area under water entitlement thus has been drastically reduced. MWRRA recently decided the criteria for water tariff. But it opted for the safest path. It reduced the water tariff to avoid criticism. But in the process whether it could follow the mandate given by the Act is a moot point. Act says that water tariff should fully recover the O & M Cost & canal system should be properly maintained. Ever deteriorating condition of canals in Maharashtra, however, tell a different story. Regulation of all types of water (surface & ground water) & its uses for different purposes (drinking, domestic, industrial & irrigation) is supposed to be done by MWRRA. Nothing significant has been done so far. In fact, in case of dispute over sharing Godawari Waters between upper & lower Godawari basins, MWRRA has been a silent spectator. As a quasi- judicial IRA it could have done many things. But it preferred playing politics of non-implementation..

Very structure & framework of water governance are thus missing in Maharashtra & hence, there is no Rule of Law. Water conflicts of all types are on increase at all possible levels. Misappropriation & mismanagement is the end result.

It is necessary to develop pro-people intervention strategies & peoples participation in water sector. Implementation of existing water laws could be a necessary (but of course not sufficient) beginning. There are many provisions in the existing water laws that could help initiate pro people intervention.

Politics of ‘non-implementation by ruling class’ needs to be effectively & immediately challenged by `politics of implementation by pro people forces’. That would help promote people-centered interventions which are so urgently required to fight diversion of water from irrigation to non-irrigation & privatization of water.

Annexure 1:

Implementation of Water Laws in Maharashtra: A Critical Review

                Sections Present status Impact


Sec 114: Rules Rules not prepared in 37 years Act remains on paper
Sec11: River  notification Incomplete in many projects People not informed/ opportunity of being heard denied. Locus standi of WRD doubtful
Sec 3: Command  notification Incomplete in many projects —- do ——–
Sec 8: Appointment of Canal Officers Done but not operative No one takes initiative. Nobody is held responsible. Free for all situation. Water theft, vandalism & tampering with canal system are rampant. Offences go un punished. No FIR. No action.
Sec 75 to 87: Award of


Not used at all. Irrigators don’t get compensation even if the agreed volume of water is not delivered at right time & place. No accountability for the Canal Officers.

MMISF Act, 2005

Sec 76: Rules Prepared. Excessive use of “mutatis mutandis

Ambiguity in rules for WUAs at higher level

Sec 20: Sub committees

Not formed in last 8 years Purpose of participation with decentralization & expanding the circle of knowledge & skill defeated.
Sec 21,29: Agreement Not executed in time & at all levels of WUAs

Serious complaints about not having  joint inspection in true sense, non- completion of agreed repairs & rehabilitation & reluctance by officers  to hand over the system

Purpose of delegation of powers & imbibing sense of responsibility defeated. Encroachment on powers of WUAs

Nexus between local Politicians & officers continues unabated. WRD loses its credibility. Poor quality of repairs & rehabilitation. In absence of real handing over of management to WUAs, power of water distribution remains with WRD officials. Only lip service to participation.

Sec 22: Joint inspection,

…..handing over … and

Sec 23: Measuring devices


Not executed in time & at all levels of WUAs

Serious complaints about not having  joint inspection in true sense, non- completion of agreed repairs & rehabilitation & reluctance by officers  to hand over the system

Providing MD is not yet complete. Credibility of  measurement records is doubtful

Volumetric supply of water to WUAs mostly remains on paper.
Sec 28: Supply of water as per entitlement In absence of proper water budgeting at project level, irrigation scheduling of main system & MD, supply of water as per entitlement is an exception rather than a rule. Bulk supply of water based on entitlement given volumetrically is still a distant dream. WRD is not yet fully equipped for the purpose with compatible physical system.

Sec 30: Powers to WUAs

Not spelt out WRD officials wield the real power.
Sec 38: Competent Authority Not operative WUAs don’t get any technical advise

Sec 39 to 51: Lift Irrigation WUAs

Provisions not brought in force No control over – & regulation of – lift irrigation. Act simply not made applicable to lift irrigation..

Sec 52: Powers & functions of WUAs

Only responsibilities(& not powers) have been spelt out WUAs remain ineffective.
Sec 53: Powers & functions of Canal Officer Emphasis on powers & not on responsibilities In absence of accountability of any kind, WRD officials remain indifferent & callous
Sec 54: Sources of Funds of WUAs Water tariff collected from the members of WUA is the only source of income. WRD has promised to return substantial part of tariff to WUA. However, the promise is not being kept. Most of the WUAs are not economically self reliant. They face problems in routine maintenance & repairs of the canal system and can’t afford to maintain office & staff.

Sec 60 to 62: Offences & penalties

Not operative.

No water governance worth the name.

Sec 63 & 64: Conflict Resolutions Not operative. MWRRA indirectly attempts to bypass the powers of upper level WUAs through regulators WUAs not involved in conflict resolution. Purpose defeated.

Sec 68: Water budgeting at Project Level

Not operative. WUAs not involved in water budgeting. Purpose defeated.
Sec 70:  Water supply for  non-irrigation purposes Water entitlement issued only to select WUAs in selected projects. Unit for issuing entitlement is not project as a whole. Therefore, ineffective provision. Water supply to non-irrigation gets priority even during periods of shortage of water. Second priority given to irrigation by amending State Water Policy is not being honoured.

Sec 71: Recovery of water charges

Coercive measures not operative. Recovery of water tariff is very poor.
Sec 72: Act to apply to

Existing WUAs

Difference of opinion between WRD & Cooperative Department regarding how to operationalize the provision

Act not being applied to existing WUAs

MWRRA Act, 2005

Act amended in 2011 to retrospectively protect non transparent decisions of High Power Committee regarding transfer of water from irrigation to non-irrigation

Sec 3: Establishment of Authority

Retired bureaucrats are in control.

Powers of MWRRA regarding sectoral allocation withdrawn.

Effective area under water entitlement drastically reduced. There is hardly any regulation as per the Act. Issue of releasing water to Jayakwadi project from up – stream projects is the glaring example.

Sec 5: Selection Committee Serving bureaucrats are in control. Members of selection committee select themselves as Member / Secretary of MWRRA & join the authority soon after retirement from Government.
Sec11: Powers, functions duties of authority Selective & limited implementation. Sec 11 (f) not implemented. Project clearance even without Integrated State Water Plan [ISWP] Adhocism, confusion & regional imbalance in water resources development may further increase
Sec 12: General policies of Authority

Not implemented even when water users have moved the court of law. Several petitions pending in Mumbai High Court

Principles of Tail to head irrigation & equitable distribution of water at river basin level not implemented leading to political agitations & increased animosity within regions of the State.
Sec 13: Dispute Resolution Officers

Appointed. Not active.

In absence of information & awareness about provisions in the Act, water users don’t insist for suitable action. Hence, it is assumed that absence of complaint means absence of dispute itself.

Sec 14: Permission of River basin Agency

River Basin Agencies though exist as per law, they have not started functioning like RBAs

Since RBAs have not issued any water entitlement & not officially permitted any water use whatsoever, every water use since enactment of the Act could be, legally speaking, unauthorised & hence, illegal.
Sec 15: State Water Board

Legally constituted but not at all functioning.

SWB (Chairperson- Chief Secretary) is supposed to prepare ISWP.  Nothing happened in last 8 years.

Sec 16: State Water Council

Legally constituted but not at all functioning.

SWC (Chairperson- Chief Minister) is supposed to approve ISWP.  And then MWRRA should function as per ISWP. Nothing happened in last 8 years. MWRRA is taking decisions violating Sec 11 (f) of its own Act.

Sec 21: Special

Responsibility of


Not implemented Gravity & seriousness of issues regarding backlog in irrigation has not reduced. In fact, it has increased a lot.

Sec 22: Disputes & Appeals

Not in use by the water users. Lack of awareness.

Grievance redressal mechanism provided in the Act, if used, could reduce number of cases going directly to court of law.
Sec 23 : Directives of


Not given so far Government could have used this route instead of amending the Act in haste & panic. It could have also given directions to MWRRA in case of Jayakwadi dispute.
Sec 26: Punishment for


Not used so far.

No effective governance

Sec 30: Rules

Prepared late only after High Court’s order. Rules to certain extent are contradictory to the provisions in the Act Discontent about Rules in Marathwada. Rules challenged in court of law. MLAs requested to challenge the rules in legislative assembly & council


  1. Maharashtra’s State Water Policy, July 2003
  1. Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 (MIA76),
  1. Maharashtra Management of Irrigation by Farmers Act, 2005 (MMISF Act)
  1. Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Act, 2005(MWRRA Act)
  1. Purandare Pradeep, “Wanted – Rule of Law”, http://www.downtoearth.com


– Pradeep Purandare

Retd. Associate Professor, Water & Land Management Institute, Aurangabad, Maharashtra

(The above piece is based on a paper presented at the  International Conference, Dec 19-21, 2013,Organized by College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai, India)

pradeeppurandare@gmail.comhttp://jaagalyaa-thewhistleblower.blogspot.in/,  http://www.irrigationmainsystem.com

Bihar · Floods · Kosi

Breach in Chamarbandha Embankment in Samastipur-1958

Above: Samastipur Floods 2013  Photo: RailIndia

Guest blog by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra[1] (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

Background There was an unexpectedly heavy flood during 1953 in Bihar that led the State leaders to think about the flood control measures to be taken seriously. The losses incurred in the State in floods prompted the Government of India to formulate its first Flood Policy and take preventive and corrective steps so that the flood victims are helped in whatever way possible. While the Flood Policy was given the final shape and announced in September, 1954 Bihar was already under a severe spell of floods in 1954. The 1954 flood is still counted as one of the worst floods in the history of Bihar and remembered well by the elderly generation. Following the floods of 1954 and promulgation of the National Flood Policy many embankments were constructed along the Bihar rivers and the Burhi Gandak that passes through the present districts of W & E Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Begusarai and Khagaria and joins the Ganga about 25 km below Khagaria town was one to be embanked in its stretch below Champaran. Continue reading “Breach in Chamarbandha Embankment in Samastipur-1958”

CAG Report · Karnataka

What ails Irrigation in Karnataka – Recent CAG reports

Guest Blog by Himanshu Upadhyaya (himanshugreen@gmail.com)

What ails irrigation in India is probably a frequently asked question. It was asked in an illustrative article in Economic and Political Weekly in mid 1960s. We are told many times that two aspects often make the planned benefits of irrigation go haywire, namely time over runs and (hence) costs escalation. However, their repeated use to explain missed irrigation targets could be misplaced. The correct diagnosis of what ails India’s irrigation might be found in questioning the norms and decision making process of such projects, if these projects are indeed the best options and who pays when they do not deliver. Continue reading “What ails Irrigation in Karnataka – Recent CAG reports”

Bihar · Floods

Thanks to Bagmati Project, They Are on Roads for Forty Years

Guest blog by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra[1] (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

“We went to meet the collector to ask him whether we were the citizens of this country or not? If, because of the Bagmati Project, our citizenship is terminated, he should issue orders to us to leave the country and get settled in Nepal and we will go there” says the Mukhia of Masaha Alam of a village that was in the Bairgania block of Sitamarhi district of Bihar prior to the construction of the embankments on the Bagmati in 1971-72. The village had an area of 150 acres and 420 families according to 1971 census. Only 104 families have been settled till date[2] and the remaining 316 families in the village are still awaiting rehabilitation as they were trapped within the river and its right embankment then forty years ago and are literally on roads since the river was jacketed to prevent flooding of the plains in the river basin. Continue reading “Thanks to Bagmati Project, They Are on Roads for Forty Years”

Climate Change · Dams · Maharashtra · Marathwada

Battered Maharashtra and Melting Tibet: The Climate Change Connection

Above: Nagpur or Anantnag? Hailstorms of March 2015 in Nagpur  Photo by: Atul Patne


It seems like a bad deja vu.

On the 11th March last year, we wrote about hailstorms in Maharashtra. Back then, the hail, unprecedented rains, strong winds and changes in temperature had affected more than 10 lakh hectares, mainly in Marathwada and Vidarbha. After near-exact one year, we write about the issue again.

Late February and March rains have battered farmers in Vidarbha, Konkan, Marathwada and Uttar Maharashtra (Nashik, Jalgaon and Dhule Districts). Preliminary estimates state that over 8.5 lakh hectares of crops have been impacted in just 17 days and thousands of farmers and landless laborers have been affected. Continue reading “Battered Maharashtra and Melting Tibet: The Climate Change Connection”

Bihar · Floods · Kosi

1948 Floods in Bihar-3 Inaugural flood in Bihar after Independence – Assembly Debate

-Guest blog by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

This years’ flood[1] was discussed in the Bihar Legislative Assembly on the 18th September, 1948 from a different angle than what is common to political forums. Dip Narayan Singh initiated the debate saying, “…I have a feeling that the floods cannot be stopped altogether and therefore I will request the Government to find ways to reduce the losses caused by floods, provide succor to the people at the time of their emergencies and this process should continue to find innovative means to deal with floods. At the moment this job is assigned to the Sub-divisional Officer or the District Magistrate. When the floods arrive then the victims neither get boats nor the relief reaches them in time. I will request the Government, therefore, to initiate a permanent procedure to deal with floods.” He continued, “Let the Government of India constitute a Commission to go into the details of the floods in the Ganga basin and devise strategies for facing the floods so that the miseries caused by it can be reduced.”

Then and Now. 2008 Kosi Floods, in perspective if the 1948 Floods. Photo: Times of India
Then and Now. 2008 Kosi Floods, in perspective if the 1948 Floods. Photo: Times of India

Prabhunath Singh suggested that,  “…all the embankments running along the Ghaghara from Darauli in the west to Kasmar in the east via Agampur, Tajpur, Naini Bundh, Sonepur Seva Samiti should be raised and strengthened. Along with this sluice gates should be installed on all the small rivers like Tel and others coming from Naini and Brahmapur to facilitate drainage of the stagnating water.”

He charged the Railway Company of obstructing the process for it felt that if all the other embankments are raised and strengthened, the railway embankments will be adversely impacted. That is the reason this district has to face floods year after year. He suggested to the Government that if it really wanted to help the people in their moment of crisis, it should help the flood victims in rebuilding their houses and arrange seeds for them to put agriculture back on rails. If the Government decides to advance loans for the purpose, it will require nearly Rs 30 million for Saran district alone. With that money it would be better for the Government to device means to make Saran a flood free district for all times to come. He further suggested that the Government must realize the money from the people that it gives to them as help and take advice about the costs involved from the engineers[2]. Saran was a rural district with high population density which was unmatched elsewhere. The villages there were beautiful with rich cultural background. The people there have a high degree of self respect. Gratutious relief should be given only to them who really need it. There are people in our villages who would prefer to die than to queue up for relief.

Timeless flood suffering in Kosi. 2008. Photo: Reuters
Timeless flood suffering in Kosi. 2008. Photo: Reuters

Girish Tiwari, also from Saran, said, “…Yesterday someone was asking what is the amount of money orders received in Saran from different places? I want to tell him that the people in Saran will have to starve if their loved ones didn’t send money orders here. The people need relief but there are various ways of providing relief. The places where there is a need of employment, open work there.”

He continued, “There is a stretch of Diyara land starting from Darauli till Sonepur. Let me tell you about Sitab Diyara, the village of Jay Prakash Narayan, which is now located west of the Ghaghara in Balia district of Uttar Pradesh. Many people from this village have shifted to Balia in Uttar Pradesh and some have moved to Rivelganj. People from Nagar Diyara have no place to go and they need land from the Government to settle down somewhere and the Government should acquire land for them. That will be a help.”

Ram Bonod Singh from Chhapra claimed that, “Not an inch of dry land is available from Manjhi to Sonepur. The current of water was so strong that all the mud houses collapsed. Cattle were in deep trouble. Most of them died or swept away and those survived fell sick. There was no fodder as all the land was under water. Fodder needs to be arranged for them and the Government must open cheap husk and straw shops to save the cattle.

Not much has changed..cattle battling the Bihar Floods now. Photo: BBC News
Not much has changed..cattle battling the Bihar Floods now. Photo: BBC News

Dip Narayan Singh lamented that boats were not available normally when the floods struck and the officers had no clue how to face the emergency. Many boats of the traders were parked at Mahnar and Hajipur and had the officers known about their availability they could have helped in rescuing a good number of people from the flooded areas and thus saved their lives. Insisting on the opening of cheap grain shops in the flood ravaged areas he told that a huge amount of food grain was buried under the debris of the collapsed houses and the seeds for the next crop also got trapped there. Such people needed to be helped by ready to eat food and also with seedlings of paddy for immediate transplantation from the areas that were not flooded this year. This should be done without any further loss of time. Some people might need loans for house building and that should be made available to them on deferred payment. Cooperatives could also advance loans to such people wherever they existed. Crop loan might be needed for some and that should be arranged for those who asked for it.

Murli Manohar Prasad talked about floods as a long term problem and said that some years ago there was a meeting with the Government of Uttar Pradesh when it was decided that the Railway Bridge at Majhi on the Ghaghara will have to be extended and embankments should be built on the river from Dhanawari till Chinwari like that built on the Gandak. Uttar Pradesh had opposed this embankment on the ground that the proposed embankment will have adverse impact on the Balia district. He wanted to know from the minister about the fate of those discussions. He also wanted that the issue of deforestation should also be discussed with Uttar Pradesh as massive felling of trees had aggravated the flood situation in Bihar while maintaining that not much benefit is expected from the restoration of forests as, “Unfortunately, the topography of Saran is quite unique. The level of the Gandak river is above the level of its surrounding, the river flows in many streams that take off at various points from the main stream. The level of these streams is also higher than the adjoining land and embankments are built on them also (He was referring to Zamindari embankments.). The local people had developed a very efficient system of irrigation and drainage that worked well till the Moghul Rule. Sluice gates were built on the embankments at various places on the Gandak which helped in controlling various smaller rivers taking off from the Gandak. Whenever people apprehended floods, they used to drop the shutters of the sluice gates. Besides, they have connected the chaurs (depressed lands) with these rivers and could take water from the rivers or discharge water into it with the help of sluice gates. Their drainage channels used to run parallel to the embankment of the river and were connected to the chaurs and the people could manipulate the direction of flow water as they desired. Almost whole of the Saran district was somehow connected to many of its major rivers namely the Ghaghara, the Gandak and the Ganga. Unfortunately, this amazing set up of irrigation and drainage got ruined with time and the sluice gates that were functional till 1878 ceased to function because the indigo planters who were paying the water rates based on the expenses incurred on running the set up to the Government refused to pay it anymore which they were paying so far. That led to the death of a good irrigation and drainage system. When water ceased to flow through these channels then not only the zamindars but rayyats also started encroaching the river bed and the local officers of the Government helplessly watched the proceedings of dismantling law and order situation of the district. His appeal to the Government was that, “it should not end up only distributing relief to the flood victims but should think seriously over the flood problem of the district.”

2013 Kosi Floods Photo: India Today
2013 Kosi Floods Photo: India Today

Prabhunath Singh intervened once again to say that, “The land between Darauli to Sonepur is quite fertile. The district of Saran is rated as a deficit district not because its land is inferior but because its population is very large and per capita availability of land is too small. I want to reiterate, therefore, that the damage inflicted by floods on the district is the only reason of the misery here and the Survey and Settlement Reports confirm it.” The embankment built in Kasmar Pargana from Sonepur to Darauli was earlier looked after by the Zamindars but their attitude changed and they had virtually abandoned the maintenance of those structures which were in ruinous state. He wanted the Government to take over the up-keep and maintenance of these structures. He added that an embankment existed earlier on the left bank of the Ghaghara from Sonepur to Kasmar and all that was needed to be done was repairing this structure.  If the Government of Uttar Pradesh objected to it then Bihar Government could always tell them that the embankment already existed and the State was only repairing it. The Survey and Settlement Report records stand a testimony to that effect.

Most of the members of the Assembly were of the view that the policy hitherto adopted of ‘no embankments’ along the rivers should be revisited, should now be changed and embankments must be built wherever needed or demanded by the people. The Government, however, was still not decided and used to pass the buck on the experts’ advice as it very well knew the consequences of embanking of heavily silt laden rivers.

Two ministers in the Government replied to this entire debate in the Assembly and their statements are worth studying minutely. First to reply was Ram Charitra Singh who said, “… It is quite likely that the reason for the floods in North Bihar are the people themselves living in the State.  Almost all the rivers of North Bihar have their origin in the Himalayas that are covered with ice. All the rivers that discharge their water into the sea bring a lot of sediments in their flow and deposited it on their path to the sea. That is how the land was formed in this region. Then came the human race which started tampering with the rivers for its own benefits and its lack of foresight resulted in the situation that we are faced with now. The debate that has taken place in the House establishes that we are still trapped in the same mindset.   The result is that many embankments have been built and many others are in the process of being built. The debate today in this House has revealed that many of our friends desire that we should continue building the embankments and they believe firmly that this will benefit them and improve the flood situation. I must say that, scientifically, had these embankments not existed the problem of this magnitude were not going to be there but what has happened has happened. We now better concentrate on the future course of action. Our policy is to control the construction of embankments.  Wherever these embankments are built, their construction is illegitimate and a vigil has got to be kept on them. At some places there were constraint and embankment had to be built there although it creates problems.”

He continued, “…I went to the Saran district recently and stayed there for three days (watching the flood situation) and immediately after my return here I got 14 embankments built along the Ganga for flood protection including Dighwara, Shitalpur and Kaudimal. I am not upset that so many embankments have been destroyed this year and a sum of Rs. Two lakhs twenty thousand has been wasted but I don’t regret it and should our engineers suggest that an embankment is essential, I will not hesitate helping them build it.” He admitted that the kind of damages due to floods that were seen in Saran this year were not seen elsewhere and assured all his help to the district. Emphasizing the need for drainage of the Chhapra town he had already instructed the Chief Engineer, Special Officer and the District Magistrate to repair the roads, railway line in collaboration with the District Board even if it amounted to cutting the railway line immediately. The Kharif crop was already lost and if the water is not drained out, the chances of Rabi would also recede.

Another minister, KB Sahay had this to say. “…The problem of floods is very critical. If we construct embankments in Saran, what impact will it have on the other districts? If we control the Ganga in Saran, how will that effect the other districts in UP? I want to put all these facts before the House and want to assure you that the Government will appoint a Commission whose job will be to tell that if an embankment is to be built in Muzaffarpur, it should tell us where and how?…If in Patna then where and how and so on.”

2008 Flood Photo: Bihar Days
2008 Flood Photo: Bihar Days

Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Convenor-Barh Mukti (dkmishra108@gmail.com)


[1] This is Third part of a series of articles Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra has written for SANDRP based on his month long research at the National Library, Kolkata recently.

For Part 1 see: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/1948-floods-in-bihar-1-inaugural-flood-after-independence-view-from-press-gallery/

Part 2: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/1948-floods-in-bihar-2-inaugural-flood-after-independence-official-version-of-floods-and-its-aftermath/

[2] He meant that the Government should not give money to the flood victims just as a dole. It was to be a soft loan and the estimates etc should be suggested by engineers.

Bihar · Floods

1948 Floods in Bihar-2 Inaugural flood after Independence – Official Version of Floods and its Aftermath

Compiled[1] by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

Government of Bihar, Revenue Department, Report on the Flood and Relief Operations in Bihar for 1948-49. Superintendent, Government Printing, Bihar, Patna, 1951.

Muzaffarpur [2]“During the August floods water from the River Narayani flooded the village Fatehabad. About 100 houses are reported to have collapsed as a result of the breach in the bundh due to change in course of the River Gandak. There were heavy showers and considerable damage was caused to the paddy crops and certain parts of the Sadar and major parts of Katra, Minapur and Sakra thanas experienced floods… During floods in the Ganges, Hajipur sub-division was badly affected and steps had to be taken to arrange relief.” P-15 Continue reading “1948 Floods in Bihar-2 Inaugural flood after Independence – Official Version of Floods and its Aftermath”

Bihar · Floods

1948 Floods in Bihar-1 – Inaugural flood after Independence – View from Press Gallery

Guest blog by Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra (dkmishra108@gmail.com)

Background Bihar is long known for its floods. The British had left India but their legacy of looking at rivers and their floods was still continuing in 1948[1]. They always favored ‘leaving the rivers to their own devices’ and did precious little to tame the rivers. The zamindars used to put temporary and not so temporary embankments along the rivers to provide some flood protection to their ‘ryots’ which used to breach quite often to the detriment of the people living in the flood plains of the river. The repairs of such breaches were the responsibility of the zamindars but if they did not repair the same, the British establishment used to repair it and realize the cost of it from the zamindars. There were only 160 kilometers of ‘well designed and equally well constructed’ embankments on Bihar Rivers then. Zamindars had got a hint from the Government of India that their days were numbered and had little interest in maintaining the embankments in order. It was under these circumstances that the Government of Bihar (GoB) was expected to face the floods for the first time in independent India. Continue reading “1948 Floods in Bihar-1 – Inaugural flood after Independence – View from Press Gallery”