Bihar · Ganga · Rivers

River Stories, Walking Across India – II

Guest Blog by Siddharth Agarwal

In the years 2018 and 2019, I spent months walking East across India with Paul Salopek on the Out of Eden Walk[i]. His trail started in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia in East Africa, roughly following the path of the early human migration out of Africa and across the globe.

The India trail of the Out of Eden Walk started from the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, Punjab. It then moved East through the Indus Basin, followed by the basins of West flowing rivers like Luni, then a large chunk through the southern Gangetic plains in Central India before crossing over to the Brahmaputra basin close to Siliguri in West Bengal. The crossover to Myanmar happened at Moreh in Manipur, also incidentally very close to the basin boundary of Brahmaputra and Irrawady. He entered India in March 2018, and crossed over to Myanmar in July 2019.

The Out of Eden Walk trail in India was ~4000kms, of which I was present for about 1500kms in different sections. These stretches were spread across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and bit of Assam & Manipur.

Continue reading “River Stories, Walking Across India – II”
Bihar · Floods

Making sense of 2020 Gandak floods

While Bihar is again facing one of the worse floods this monsoon, one basin in Bihar that has possibly faced the maximum floods is Gandak, as a number of reports[i] have described. The floods in Gandak basin were pretty serious, as embankments along Gandak breached at multiple locations, first on western side (Gopalganj district) starting on July 23-24 night and then on Eastern side (Purbi Champaran district).  The flood lead to breaking of three year old HFL (Highest Flood Level) record at Dumariaghat, 19 year old HFL record at Lalganj and most shockingly, 34 year old HFL record at Rewaghat. Continue reading “Making sense of 2020 Gandak floods”

Bihar · Nepal

Story of small transboundary river: Understanding Bhikhna Thori and River Pandai on India-Nepal border in Pashchim Champaran, Bihar

Guest Blog by Eklavya Prasad, Megh Pyne Abhiyan

Last week, a note was in circulation, which listed few border related conflicts between India (Bihar) and Nepal (Parsa). Of the nine points mentioned in the note, seven were directly or indirectly related to either a river, or access to water, or flood protection works. Out of the seven, one issue was with regard to an old concern involving River Pandai, which has witnessed different dimension of cooperation and discord between communities across the Indo-Nepal border in Pashchim (West) Champaran and Parsa districts respectively. However, the note highlight the conflict as a recent one with a specific intent and that was explained as नेपाल की करतूत : पानी रोक लिया, ताकि एसएसबी के जवान परेशान हों (Nepal’s handiwork : They stopped the water to trouble the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) jawans). After having read the note, I decided to write this piece based on my own understanding and learnings (through direct interactions and personal communication in the past and references) about River Pandai and Bhikhna Thori, to provide a comprehensive perspective.

Continue reading “Story of small transboundary river: Understanding Bhikhna Thori and River Pandai on India-Nepal border in Pashchim Champaran, Bihar”

Bihar · Rivers

Bringing Life back to Champa River

Guest Blog by Dr. Ruchi Shree (TMBU, Bhagalpur)

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)

Continue reading “Bringing Life back to Champa River”

Bihar · Rivers

Champa’s Angpradesh to Champa Nala of Bhagalpur

                                                                                       Guest Blog by Dr. Ruchi Shree (TMBU, Bhagalpur)

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”

Bihar · Rivers

How did Champa Nadi (river in Bhagalpur, Bihar) become Nala (drain)?

Guest Blog by Dr. Ruchi Shree

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)?”

Bihar · Ganga · Inland Waterways

National Inland Waterways in Bihar: Viable or desirable?

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?”

Bihar · Dams · Floods · Ganga

Will sluggish Farakka again create prolonged floods along Ganga in Bihar?

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?”

Bihar · Floods · Ganga

Ganga basin faces unprecedented floods in Aug 2017

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”

Bihar · Ganga · West Bengal

Landmark Ganga Conference in Patna: What Bihar needs to urgently do

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

To

Shri Nitish Kumar,

Chief Minister of Bihar,

Patna, Bihar

Respected Sir,

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”