How Modi’s Nepal visit saved Bihar
It was a coincidence that Modi was there in Nepal, when North Bihar was facing a major flood threat from Kosi. Bhote Kosi, a tributary of Kosi had been blocked by a landslide, which had taken place in Nepal, accumulating a lot of water after the blockage. With Nepal government contemplating blasts to remove the block, people of Kosi belt in Bihar and the Manjhi regime were in great distress. Six years ago in 2008, Kusaha dam on Kosi broke in Nepal, and people of Bihar faced the most disastrous flood in the history of independent India. A tragedy of almost the same scale was hanging over Bihar this time, too, though, the government was trying to minimise the damage by making elaborate arrangement in advance by opening up the relief camps and evacuating, in some cases forcibly, people in high risk areas.
But the disaster was actually averted by the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Nepal at the time of danger. The visit of the PM was arranged in advance and no one could have predicted the danger from Kosi breaking its banks. However, exactly while Bihar, with Centre’s help, was making all-out efforts to counter the tragedy, the PM visited Nepal and on first day of his visit, raised the Kosi issue. Nepal never had been very sympathetic to Bihar, as far as its flood problem was concerned, but the presence of Modi and his request to the government of Nepal made all the difference. Nepal government changed its decision to blast the blocked Bhote Kosi and instead it allowed release of the river water in a regulated way, so that it does not play havoc in Bihar.
Nepal understands the importance of good relationship with India, but it is unfortunate that the relationship between the two countries is not very encouraging. Nepal harbours a lot of suspicion and India does not want to attach much importance to its relation with Nepal. This is evident from the fact that Indian Prime Minister is visiting Nepal only after 17 years. Foreign Minister Indra Kumar Gujral was the last Prime Minister of India to visit this Himalayan country. IK Gujral has his own policy for better relations with its neighboring countries, which is known as Gujral doctrine, but after his stint as PM, this doctrine was put on back burner.
Modi’s visit to Nepal has given new hope to the people of North Bihar, who are always afraid of the flood caused by the rivers coming down from the northern neighbour. The government of Bihar can manage the river water flowing within its territory, but it can do nothing to manage the water originating in a foreign country. A state government cannot engage itself in dialogue with another country, because the issue of foreign relation is decided by the Central Government. This is the reason, why flood problems of Northern Bihar could not be solved as yet. There are many rivers, which originate in Himalayas and enter Bihar after travelling a good distance in Nepal. Nepal has made many small dams and when they are filled with water during rainy season, the water is released causing destruction in Bihar. This damages crops and unsettles people. Out of those rivers, Kosi, Kamla and Baghmati pose the most danger.
Bihar government demands that in Nepal, there should be big dams on these rivers and water should be released from them in regulated manner, so that the rivers in Bihar do not overflow and their courses do not change. But Bihar has to talk with Nepal via our foreign office, and a communication gap has developed over time. Our External Affairs Ministry, too, has its own priorities while dealing with Nepal and hence the issue of Bihar gets neglected. Again, Nepal is always suspicious of the intention of Indian government, it loses its concerns for the Indian people, especially the people of Bihar, as the state is affected annually by the way Nepal releases water from its rivers during rainy season.
During his first visit to Nepal as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has earned a lot of goodwill from the people of this country. Political leaders of all shades of the Himalayan country have been charmed by our Prime Minister. It seems that the Indo-Nepal relationship has entered a new era, good news for the flood-ravaged people of North Bihar. They are expecting permanent and lasting solution of their flood problems. With the technological and capital help of India Nepal can make better use of its water resources. It can generate a lot of hydro power, which in turn may push its growth rate. On the other hand, with regulated and managed water people of Bihar can avoid the annual tragedy, which has become its destiny for long.
Enthused with the success of Nepal visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Bihar government has once again raised the issue of construction of big dams on Kosi, Bagmati and Kamla in Nepal. In fact, the experts have already identified the ways to solve the chronic problems. In the past, talks have taken place on the issue. A project office was also opened in Biratnagar of Nepal to initiate the efforts and find out the ways to construct big dams on the above mentioned office. Even though no progress had taken place so far, a lot of expectations have been generated after the successful Modi visit.