Kosi floods inquiry report submitted, finally

Inquiry commission was set up in September 2008 after Opposition party demanded thorough probe to fix responsibility for embankment breach

By Alok Gupta
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The floods killed more than 250 people and displaced nearly three million people in five districts of Bihar The inquiry commission that probed the Kosi floods of 2008 has finally submitted its report, which apparently has fixed responsibility for the breach in the river embankment. Bihar experienced one of the worst floods in five decades when the Kosi river in spate breached its embankment at  Kusaha in Sunsari district of Nepal in August, 2008. The subsequent floods killed more than 250 people and displaced nearly three million people in five districts.

The one-man commission, headed by Justice Rajesh Walia, a retired judge of Patna High Court, submitted the voluminous report in two bags to the state chief secretary Monday.
Amidst smiles and handshake, Walia and chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha refused to speak even a word about the culprits or reasons that caused that massive breach at Kusaha, leading to floods.

The state spent about Rs 1 crore has been spent on the inquiry commission alone.

Walia told media persons that he is not authorised to reveal the contents of the report. Sinha also gave the same reason: “We will read the report before taking action or making its content public,” he said.

Sinha did not say when the report would be shared with the public or victims of Kosi floods.

The inquiry commission was set up in September 2008 after the Opposition demanded a thorough probe to ascertain who was responsible for the breach in the Kosi embankment.

When disaster struck on August 18, 2008, ruling coalition of JD(U) and BJP had been maintaining that the flood situation was under control.

It was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, alarmed over the magnitude of the floods after an aerial survey, had declared it a national calamity.

The Indian Army, Air Force and the National Disaster Response Force were pressed into service for rescue operations.

Floods destroyed standing crops on around 339,936 hectares.

The gushing water from the breached embankment had turned Araria, Purnia, Madhepura, Bhagalpur and West Champaran into islands.

Thousands of families are still struggling to rebuild their houses and get their farmland free from the silt.
Dinesh Mishra, a river expert, said it’s unfortunate that such crucial inquiries take nearly half decade to ascertain the facts.

He also added that preparing inquiry report is not the end of the floods in Bihar. “There needs to be a solution to undo the mammoth dams that will keep breaking and causing human and environmental disasters,” Mishra said.

In an effort to provide relief to the flood victims,  the state government in 2011 initiated the Kosi Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme with the help of World Bank. It aimed to construct 100,000 houses for the displaced families. The project is running behind schedule with only 13,000 houses constructed till the end of February this year.

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