How prepared is Bihar?
flood-prone: Eight rivers that have their catchments in Nepal carry a huge quantity of water and sediments to Bihar. The state's flood-prone area increased from 2,500,000 hectares (ha) in 1954 to 6,881,000 ha in 1994 . 941,000 ha remain waterlogged. Nearly 81 per cent of the population in these areas depends on agriculture. About 20 districts are highly flood-prone, including around 76 per cent of north Bihar. Access to these districts is blocked during floods. Roads leading from south to north face maximum damage; nh 31 and nh 77 are cases in point
major loss: In 2004, nearly 2,250,000 people suffered floods for two-and-a-half months. By August 2004, 725 people had drowned and five died in police firing while demanding proper flood relief. Government says crops worth Rs 419 crore, over 1,400,000 ha land, and houses worth Rs 717 crore were destroyed . But in its report "India Flood 2004", non-governmental organisation Action Aid alleges that the government's estimate of the loss is extremely watered down
no account: Last year, Rs 189 crore was distributed among flood-hit districts. The state's Disaster Management Department (dmd) has been asking the districts for their statements of expenditure since July 26, 2004, in vain. dmd's similar requests to various government departments have also not been met. In 2005, Rs 1,800 crore was demanded for various flood control schemes; Rs 86 crore has been approved for 322 works
embankments: By March 2002, existing embankments could protect just 2,928,000 ha. While there has been no addition in the embankment length in the past 12 years, existing embankments are crumbling down. Of the 322 spots to be repaired, work has finished at only 131. In June 2005, the Central Task Force gave Rs 34 crore to repair embankments . Government proposes making roads over embankments to increase their durability. No rehabilitation plan exists for those who would be evicted
food: The government has no estimate of the amount needed for flood relief. A request of the state's Food and Supplies Department for this information was totally ignored by district authorities. The Food Corporation of India's 41 godowns in Bihar can store only 350,000 tonnes foodgrain
boat industry in shambles: The dmd says 15,000 boats are needed during floods. The supply is just half. 7,840 boats, 6,641 privately run, were employed in 2004. But the government hasn't purchased boats for the past 15 years. It has neither got damaged boats repaired, nor new ones constructed. Its officials allegedly take boats from fisherfolk forcibly, at arbitrary rents
Utility of boats beyond flood relief is fast declining. Boat industry workers are shifting to brick-kiln factories. Earlier, 300-350 boats were annually built in the Patna City-Phatuha belt; now the number is barely 30. Even these don't get buyers
The government owes Rs 1.43 crore in boat rents and wages of boatmen for the past nine years. As a result, it now has problems getting boats on hire
Sources: Annual report of Bihar Flood Control Department; Sources in Bihar's Disaster Management and Flood Control departments; Report of Rashtriya Badh Ayog (1980) and Second Irrigation Commission of Bihar (1994)
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.