Patna: Bihar water resources minister Sanjay Kumar Jha has urged the Central government to set up the Kosi development authority and help people of state ameliorate sufferings from recurring devastating caused by floods.
Jha’s demand followed a recent order of Patna high court, in which the Central government has been directed to constitute the high-level authority in keeping with bilateral nature of the turbulent Kosi river and the extent of sufferings people of Bihar had to undergo due to the floods.
“The Kosi development authority shall have all relevant officials as members to ensure that it had all ware-withal and understanding to carry out various activities required by the precarious task of balancing diplomacy on one end as also to ensure safety and liberty of the people,” read the order.
Describing it as a historic judgement, WRD minister Jha said it would ‘change the course of our rivers, and correct a historical folly, forever.’
The authority, which shall comprise representatives of Bihar government, government of India, government of Nepal and others, will be required to work to address the vexed issue in a time-bound manner. Perhaps for the first time in the country, a problem has lingered on for seven decades-and that has ravaged lives, put enormous strain on Bihar’s state’s exchequer and led to massive hardships of people-the floods in north Bihar. Way back in 1950, it was felt by all that a high dam was needed at India-Nepal border to mitigate woes of people caused by ravaging floods. Lack of political will, apathy, diplomatic thaw and administrative lethargy ensured the problem remained unaddressed.
Through this judgement, the bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol (now elevated as Supreme Court Judge) Patna high court has not only given succor to aspirations of millions of people, but has also provided a concrete framework for all stakeholders-Bihar Government, Government of India, Nepal Government and other involved agencies-to work together to end the scourge of devastations caused by floods.
This judgement is as historic as Supreme Court verdict in 2002 on inter-linking of rivers that provided direction and single solution to the recurring flood and drought menace, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ordered constitution of a task force to start working on interlinking of rivers. Further, the Apex Court order in 2012 by a three-judge bench brought the inter-linking of rivers on national agenda and NWDA was entrusted with the task.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, as the then railways minister, along with MPs of Bihar had raised the issue with PM Vajpayee. This led to some action then and the establishment of an office at Viratnagar (Nepal) for making of a DPR. Over the years, owing to no further progress, CM Kumar also raised this issue multiple times with government, politicians and civil society groups of Nepal.
“The recent Patna High Court Judgement is pathbreaking, as it gives a direction and substance to the Indo-Nepal treaty on Kosi River, and puts in a time frame workable format that will ensure Center-State and Indo-Nepal cooperation and joint effort to come to the rescue of the people in Bihar,” said Jha, while complementing CM Kumar for his steadfast resolve for a resolution to this issue.
The Court has also asked for factoring in of continued loss of state’s resources and work out a funding formula. As regards the funding, the Central Government has suggested 60:30:10 viz., 60% Central Grant, 30% central loan and 10% state share, the details of which has been placed on record in the Patna High Court. The Court directed that this funding may be finalized with the Central Government so that future activities may be streamlined.
The Court also directed that after the funding issue is resolved, steps may be taken to identify the inter-linking of Kosi and Mechi in time bound manner and the details of follow-up action that are required to implement the project may be identified.
“Once this comes into effect, we shall expect that the devastating Kosi floods 2008 that wrecked the region, took hundred of lives and snatched away livelihood of people, will get buried into history books. As of now we live in perpetual fear,” said Jha.
Officials of the water resources department said that the government has been directed by the court to compensate the losses and hardships faced by the people in such way that they need not require making round to the offices. “The case will be taken up for hearing again on March 13,” said an officer