A leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] in Bihar took everyone by surprise when he opposed the raising of embankments for flood control at a public forum.
At a book release function in Patna, Bihar Legislative Council Chairman Tarakant Jha backed the stance of environmentalists, who have often claimed embankments cause flood woes rather than solving them.
"I personally feel there is a need to demolish all embankments in Bihar to give a free run to flood water. There is no need of embankments because it hardly solves any problems but creates more floods," Jha said.
He was speaking at the release function of Bagmati Ki Sadgati ( a book on Bagmati river in north Bihar) authored by engineer-turned-environmentalist Dinesh Kumar Mishra.
Jha's unexpected remarks on embankments shocked Bihar Water Resource Development Minister Vijoy Kumar Choudhary, who was also present at the function.
Choudhary stressed that embankments were still used as a protective measure worldwide to save thousands of lives during floods. But he conceded that the government was willing to consider better options to tackle annual floods that plague people of the state every year.
"It is a welcome change that a politician of his stature took a positive stand on embankments," Mishra told rediff.com.
Mishra, a well known expert on rivers, said that it was crucial that Jha had made his statement publicly. "Several people, including politicians, say many things on embankments, but not publicly," he said.
Mishra claimed that Bihar's rivers had breached their embankments at least 370 times during the past 23 years. "In the same period, embankments on Bagmati River were breached 44 times," he said.
"The annual report of the Water Resources Department of Bihar mentions that there had been no breaches in the Bagmati embankments in 1993, which witnessed the worst floods in the basin in the history of the embankments. There were as many as 14 breaches/cuts in the river embankment then. These breaches are mentioned in other reports of the WRD. That makes the basic report on the performance of embankments suspicious and when the basic information is wrong, the remedy suggested also becomes indefensible," he said.
He said that such points had raised serious doubts about the efficacy of raising embankments to prevent or control floods. "We all know that crores of rupees have been spent for flood control by building embankments," Mishra said.
In his book, Mishra has questioned the proposal to construct a dam at Nunthar in Nepal to resolve the recurrent flood problem in Bagmati basin.