Monday, September 10, 2007

Waterman chants new mantra to tackle Bihar floods

Patna, India: Bihar could get rid of annual floods in three years by adopting decentralised water management, 'waterman' and Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh said Monday.

'Decentralised water management is the need of the hour to get rid of floods in Bihar. It will be a cost-effective measure which can replace the need for construction of dams and embankments,' Singh told IANS.

Floods in Bihar have claimed over 650 lives and affected 21 million people this monsoon. The natural disaster has damaged roads, including national highways and embankments, in the state. The floods have destroyed standing crops worth Rs.8.28 billion and damaged 521,441 houses, according to officials.

'It is for the Bihar government to decide whether they will go for a cost-effective model for a permanent solution to floods or opt for a high-cost model for a temporary measure,' Singh said.

Singh said keeping in view water flow from catchment areas to flood-prone north Bihar districts, bordering Nepal, the government would have to construct small check dams, bunds and water bodies. 'They will break water flow and control floods,' he said.

He said the construction of small check dams, bunds and water bodies could be met from funds allotted for irrigation and water management schemes.

'Decentralised water management will also solve irrigation problems,' Singh said.

He said construction of big dams and embankments will not solve flood problem in Bihar.

The state government, however, has other measures in mind.

Last week, the state government had decided to use a technology first developed by the US to plug breaches in river embankments.

Impressed by a video footage of the technology used to repair breaches in embankments, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar directed state water resources department secretary A.K. Sinha to contact the US Department of Homeland Security.

A high-level expert committee headed by former National Flood Commission chief engineer Nilendu Sanyal has also suggested using that technology.

The committee, constituted on Aug 31 by the state government to suggest short term and long term strategies to control and tackle floods, submitted its first interim report to Nitish Kumar two days ago.

The technology involves use of prefabricated dams made of metal tripods and self-filling water bladders of high-strength polymers. Such constructs can be airdropped to repair breaches in embankments and roads.

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