Is it merely a coincidence that I am writing this last segment of my three-part writing on Champa river when due to ongoing lockdown amid unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the rivers not only all over India but worldwide are said to have become cleaner. Many scholars and environmentalists are calling it a ‘boon in disguise’ and asking us to take it as an opportunity to re-engage with human being’s relationship with the surrounding nature. To quickly recap what I have already said in my previous writings that rivers are more than merely water-bodies and each river has not one but many stories around it. These stories are about how did they come into existence to what are their specific features and many more. (Photo above: Live History)
The title of this paper is influenced by Anupam Mishra’s writing ‘Yamuna ki Dilli’[i] which narrates the significance of river for a city and how the equation between the two keeps changing along the passage of time. As mentioned in the previous part of the story, my writing is an attempt to explore the history of Bhagalpur around its one water body named Champa river. Continue reading “Champa’s Angpradesh to Champa Nala of Bhagalpur”→
Champanagar, a small suburb in Bhagalpur district of Bihar derived its name from a river named Champa. However, in the last three decades or so the river has reached in such a state that it is called nala (drain) by the local people. Even the administration uses the term ‘nala’ for the river and this narrative is an attempt to explore this shift i.e. how Champa ‘nadi’ became ‘nala’. To me, Bhagalpur is a new place as I joined a workplace here merely four months back but due to my interest in ‘politics of water’, I got curious in a campaign titled ‘kahan gum ho gayi Champa’ being carried out by a Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran in November, 2019. Following the newspaper reports, I was interested in exploring the change in this narrative. I intend to write three to four pieces in this series (viz. problems faced by the rivers, the prospects of river rejuvenation, etc.) in near future and the first part will focus on significance of this river for this region. The series could also be seen as an attempt to understand the history of the city through its rivers or water bodies in general and Bhagalpur as a city in particular. Continue reading “How did Champa Nadi (river in Bhagalpur, Bihar) become Nala (drain)?”→
A new surge in the developmental interventions in the rivers in India is seen with the implementation of National Inland Waterways Act, 2016. Under this Act, 138 stretches of the rivers, creeks, backwaters, estuaries, etc. in 24 states and 2 union territories will be developed as the ‘national inland waterways’ for the transportation of huge cargo and passenger vessels. Being declared as “national” means that the control and regulation of these waterways will be in the hands of the central government and not state governments. This project of Central Government is being pushed forward with the claims of inland water transport being cost-effect, environmental friendly and safe for the transportation of hazardous goods. However, these so called benefits are neither universal nor automatic as they will be dependent on certain conditions, and will accrue if and when those conditions are met. Development of these waterways will be controlled and regulated by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). Continue reading “National Inland Waterways in Bihar: Viable or desirable?”→
It’s a bit intriguing situation. IMD and Skymet experts are downgrading the monsoon rainfall from earlier forecast 100% to 92%. Both agencies are predicting even lower rainfall in remaining part of current South West Monsoon. Bihar has received 413.2 mm rainfall till Aug 2, 2018, 22% below normal. And yet, starting Aug 1, CWC’s flood forecasting sites along the Ganga were showing ominous portents. For the first time this monsoon, the sites started showing steep upwards trend. Continue reading “Will sluggish Farakka again create prolonged floods along Ganga in Bihar?”→
Ganga Basin, particularly Bihar is facing unprecedented floods, starting on Aug 12, 2017. Water levels of Major tributaries of Ganga, including Kosi, Mahananda, Rapti, Ghagra, Bagmati, Gandak and Kamlabalan are close to or above the historically highest flood levels almost simultaneously. This has rarely happened in the past. The water level of Ghagra is close to HFL at Elgine Bridge in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh. Most other flood forecasting sites in North Bihar and East UP were shown as pink dots on CWC flood forecasting map on Aug 13-15, signifying that water level at these sites was above the danger level. This is possibly the beginning, this wave is expected to rise as it travels down towards Bihar and then W Bengal and Bangladesh. Continue reading “Ganga basin faces unprecedented floods in Aug 2017”→
DURING FEB 25-26, 2017, A LANDMARK MEETING HAPPENED IN PATNA, ORGANISED BY BIHAR GOVERNMENT, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF CHIEF MINISTER SHRI NITISH KUMAR. THE MEETING WAS ON INCESSANT GANGA WITH SUBTITLE “CAN WE ACHIEVE CLEAN GANGA WITHOUT INCESSANT GANGA?”. THIS NATIONAL-INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE WAS LANDMARK MEETING FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, SINCE A STATE GOVERNMENT WAS TAKING THE LEADERSHIP FOR THE CAUSE OF THE RIVER GANGA. WHILE THE CONFERENCE WAS FOCUSSED ON ACHIEVING A REJUVENATED GANGA, I WAS TO SPEAK ON THE WAY FORWARD ABOUT THE FARAKKA BARRAGE, A KEY OBSTACLE IN THE PATH OF REJUVENATED GANGA. FOLLOWING IS MY LETTER TO BIHAR CHIEF MINISTER, FOLLOWING THE CONFERENCE, WHICH CONTAINS MY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE BIHAR GOVERNMENT. THESE RECOMMENDATIONS WERE APPARENTLY ACCEPTED IN THE FINAL SESSION.
March 2, 21017
Shri Nitish Kumar,
Chief Minister of Bihar,
Firstly, I would like to thank you and Water Resources Department of Bihar for inviting me to the Patna Conference on Incessant Ganga on Feb 25-26, 2017. This shows great vision and foresight on your behalf, to raise such crucial issues that is not only necessary for the Ganga, people of Bihar, environment of Bihar and future of Bihar, but also for the whole nation. We hope you will continue to lead the nation on this issue, and I am sure you will get huge support, including from me. Continue reading “Landmark Ganga Conference in Patna: What Bihar needs to urgently do”→
In the midst of a serious meeting pontificating on water issues, suddenly one hears an evocative sher in impeccable Urdu, followed by laughter and rounds of Irshad. The sher captures a lot in a few lines.
For an MTech Engineer from IIT and a Ph D Structural Engineer, Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra, Mishra ji, is a colourful personality.
His erudition on rivers and floods in Bihar is tempered by folklore, songs, myths and shayari. A polyglot, Mishraji speaks and writes with eloquence in not only in Hindi and English, but in Bengali, Odiya and Urdu with equal ease. He holds a doctorate from the University of South Gujarat and has been an Ashoka Fellow. Mishraji is an institution in himself when it comes to rivers and floods of North Bihar and has single-handedly contributed to a gradually changing perception of flooding rivers as a catastrophe or “something to be tamed”.
And hence, it gives us great pleasure to share that Mishraji was honored with the Bhagirath Parayas Samman at the India Rivers Week held in New Delhi on the 29th November 2016. India Rivers Week is being organized since November 2014 by a consortium of NGOs including WWF India, INTACH, SANDRP, Toxics Link and PEACE Institute Charitable Trust. More than 100 River experts, planners, researchers, artists, enthusiasts and activists from different parts of the country have been coming together to celebrate India Rivers Week in Delhi in last week of November to discuss, deliberate and exchange their experiences and ideas aimed at the conserving, rejuvenation, restoration of rivers in the country.
Citation of Bhagirtah Prayas Samman states “Dinesh Mishra, an engineer from IIT Kharagpur, has laid the foundation for an extensive knowledge base on floods in rivers.Through his writings, lectures, advocacy and public interactions he has inspired many individuals and organisations to record local knowledge about floods and generate information that creates awareness among communities. All this has become part of a larger social movement… It is an honour to recognize and celebrate Dr Dinesh Mishra’s extraordinary Bhagirath efforts in institutionalizing traditional ways of living with floods.”
Born just prior to independence in a village in Utter Pradesh, Mishraji has dedicated his life in telling us about destruction wrought by infrastructure centric-flood control measures on rivers… especially rivers of the Ganga basin in North Bihar. Since 1984, Mirshraji is engaged in the study of floods, water-logging and irrigation and has slowly nurtured a diverse army which is able to see a lot more in floods than only destruction. He has helped us see the impact of flood control infrastructure like embankments.
Mishraji believes that India’s flood control policy revolves mainly around embankments resulting in severe environmental problems. The maintenance of such structures is in the hands of “indifferent technocracy” which does not take cognizance of the fact that investment in the flood control sector is doing more harm than good. Rising flood prone area of the country is a pointer to that. There are a wide range of aspects that need to be looked into afresh like agriculture, non-farm employment, migration, health, education, and access to civic amenities etc. He finds it intriguing that reciprocal inaccessibility of the flooded areas during the peak season and prolonged water-logging during the peace-time has not attracted the imagination of most of the responsible people. He is trying to learn from the people, their perception of the problem and take it up with those in power while keeping in touch with the people about the probable official intervention. These bridges are rare and much-needed in India. He has raised the issue of floods and water-logging and the links with infrastructure in state, national and international levels.
He has highlighted the futility of embankments as a flood control measures in rivers like Kosi and its tributaries. Through his persistent efforts of over more than three decades, Mishraji has helped change the way river floods are understood and managed. Using an approach which respects the natural cycle of floods, founded on local knowledge, he has robustly challenged the main stream flood control approach. For him, the long-term sustenance of rivers as well as their natural processes is the key, supported by meticulous research into the historical and cultural aspects of rivers.
Mishraji’s narration of how people used to come out in boats to enjoy flooded areas at full moon nights in Bihar is not only poignant, it also reminds us of the paradigm shift that came into our water management when we discarded age-old wisdom and adopted measures which were out of sync for our rivers.
Mishraji’s work is a confluence of solid grass root level contacts, extensive knowledge of local traditions, topography, geography and hydrology, robust field research and unique analysis. His writings including articles, books and films have made a deep impact on current understanding and thinking about floods in rivers and how best to deal with them. Through all this, he has made notable contributions towards developing a new policy dialogue on India’s flood control system, and the impact they have had on livelihood practices.
Mishraji is also the convener of an informal group of flood activists called Barh Mukti Abhiyan, an effective informal group with wide acceptance and vast contacts. He is currently engaged in writing about river Gandak and Ghaghara and thus shall complete the entire landscape of rivers of north Bihar.
He has over hundreds of Notable among his large number of publications, are “Trapped! Between the Devil and Deep Waters: The Story of Bihar’s Kosi River” and “River Bagmati: Bounties Become a Curse”. His book “Boya Per Babool Ka’ was chosen as one of the best books written over the subject of environment by the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of India in 2002. This was later translated into English and published titled, ‘Living with Politics of Floods’ in 2002.
He was a member of the Dams and Development Forum of UNEP and represented Project Affected People there during 2003-07. He was also a member of the Working Group on Flood Control and Water Logging of the Planning Commission of India to review the progress made in eleventh Five Year Plan and make recommendations for the Twelfth.
He has encouraged many organizations to take up the issue of floods and water-logging in their respective river basins, in Bihar and other states as well, and they are carrying on their works. He has encouraged many groups to take up drainage works of small chaurs (land depressions) and resume agriculture on the land that emerges out of water. He provides them with basic technical details and help them executing the work. This has shown very encouraging results as compared to heavily budgeted drainage schemes taken up by the Irrigation Departments.
He has published a book on the River Mahananda (titled Bandini Mahananda in Hindi), a boundary river between Bihar and Bengal, in 1994 followed by a bi-lingual (Hindi and English) book on the Bhutahi Balan (2004) (Bhutahi Nadi aur Takniki Jhar Phoonk / Story of a Ghost River and Engineering Witchcraft) and on the Kamla River (2005) titled Baghawat Par Majboor Mithila Ki Kamala Nadi/ The Kamla-River and People on Collision Course.
His book on the River Kosi titled ‘Dui Paatan Ke Beech Mein – Kosi Nadi Ki Kahaani’ was published in Hindi in 2006. Its updated English version titled “Trapped! Between the Devil and Deep Waters – Story of Bihar’s Kosi River”, co-published by SANDRP, came out in 2008 just before the famous breach of the Kosi embankment at Kusaha in Nepal. Book on Bagmati was published in 2010, titled Bagmati Ki Sadgati. Its English version is also co-published by SANDRP titled “River Bagmati: Bounties Become a Curse” in August 2012. He has now started working on the major river of North Bihar, the Gandak and that will complete detailing the major rivers of north Bihar. This book will touch the Ghaghara and the Burhi Gandak too that flow almost parallel to the Gandak.
Mishraji’s crusade to highlight the wisdom behind age-old methods to “live with the floods”, his fight to expose the utterly destructive impacts of embankments and their role in amplifying flood misery, coupled with his sensitive and scholarly love of folklore and literature make his work accessible and engaging. We need more people like Mishraji who can tell us the stories of our rivers.
We congratulate him for the Bhagirath Prayas Samman and thank him, on behalf of our rivers, for his Bhagirath efforts.
Above: Map Showing the location of Bansagar Dam, Sone River, Ganga River and Patna
Water level of Ganga at Patna reached 50.43 m on Aug 21, 2016 morning with still showing rising trend. This level was already 16 cm higher than the highest ever recorded flood level (HFL) of Ganga at Patna of 50.27 m. By Aug 22, 2016, at three more sites along Ganga, the water level had already breached the highest recorded levels: Balia in Uttar Pradesh (Ganga Water level at 60.3 m, higher than the HFL of 60.25 m recorded on Sept 14, 2003), Hathidah in Bihar (Ganga water level at 43.17 m, higher than the HFL of 43.15 m recorded on Aug 7, 1971, that is 45 years back) and Bhagalpur in Bihar (Ganga water level at 34.55 m, higher than HFL of 34.5 m recorded on Sept 3, 2013). This means that the highest flood level that started at Patna is now travelling both upstream and downstream along Ganga.
Several districts of Bihar along Ganga are facing floods, with at least 10 lakh people affected and about 2 lakh people displaced. On Aug 21 alone, NDRF teams have rescued over 5300 people from Didarganj, Bakhtiyarpur, Danapur Chhapra, Vaishali and Maner. At least ten lakh people have been affected in Bihar, two lakh have been displaced and scores have been killed. It seems more like and annual natural calamity.
But that is not the case, if we look closely. Available information shows that the unprecedented floods that we are now seeing in Ganga in Bihar and UP are largely due to contribution of two dams: Bansagar Dam along Sone river in Madhya Pradesh in the upstream and Farakka Dam (misleadingly called a Barrage) on the Ganga river in West Bengal. If Bansagar Dam was operated in optimum way, than it need not have released over ten lakh cusecs of water. As pointed out by Bihar government, the high floods brought by Ganga in Patna are majorly due to the high flow contributed by Sone river upstream of Patna. Continue reading “A tale of two dams: Is Bihar’s unprecedented flood an avoidable man-made disaster?”→
Above: Cover photo and map from NIDM report of Bihar floods 2007
Guest Blog by: Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra
Khagaria faced the first round of floods starting 8th July this year when the floodwaters of the Kosi, the Kareh and the Bagmati had engulfed large number of villages in the district. The Ganga and the Burhi Gandak was relatively quiet at this time despite heavy rainfall locally. It took towards the end of July that the flood level of the rivers started rising alarmingly and the Kazijaan embankment on the Burhi Gandak breached on the 2nd August in Alauli block of the district. The flood water emanating out of the gap created thus engulfed the Panchayats of Raun, Sahasi, Budhaura, Mujauna, Bhikhari Ghat, Shumbha and Burhawa Haripur. The road connecting Alauli to Khagaria was submerged in flood water and its connection with Khagaria was snapped. There was an untimely flood in the Kosi and all the Panchayats of the Beldaur block came under a sheet of water. The blocks of Chautham, Parbatta and Gogri were still spared by floods as the Ganga was maintaining its low profile. So far only 14 Panchayats of Alauli, 5 Panchayats of Chautham, 13 Panchayats of Gogri, 11 Panchayats of Beldaur, 3 Panchayats of Khagaria and only one Panchayat of Kosi was flooded. Relief programs were started in this district on the 4th August but its coverage was meager according to the local people. Rise in the levels of the Badla-Karachin embankment on the Kareh and Badla- Nagarpara embankment on the Kosi/Bagmati was causing concern among the local people. Continue reading “Bihar Floods of 1987- V – District Khagaria”→