Bihar Floods July 2013

Yet another state in north and eastern India is suffering from floods. In the last few days hundreds of villages in Assam have been under water. Before that the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh suffered some of the worst floods in history, with over 1,000 deaths reported in Uttarakhand.

The north eastern Indian state now suffering from floods in Bihar. Around 100 villages are beileved to be under water as of 11th July 2013. The areas most affected are Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj, Muzaffarpur and Katihar districts. There are unconfirmed reports that 8 people have died so far in the flooding. One report says that Bihar is seeing the worst flooding for 50 years.

The state disaster management department said that water levels are high in the Mahananda, Bagmati, Kamla Balan, Gandak, Bodhi Gandak and Kosi rivers, bringing a threat to villages in around 6 different districts.

Work on flood defences in the form of reinforced embankments along the rivers has been carried out since 2008. Bihar Water Resources Development Minister Vijay Kumar said all embankments were safe, and there was no need to panic. The eastern Kosi embankment had been breahced in 2008 flooding five districts of northern Bihar. The Minister claims that:

“The embankment was strengthened and breach repair work was completed,”

I reported that Bihar had suffered from flooding in early June already this year where 22 people died as a result of floods and lightning strikes.

Bihar is often labelled India’s flood state – although these days there seem to be quite a few contenders for that title. In the earlier report I wrote:

Around three quarters of the population of the northern part of the state live under constant threat of floods. Nearly 6,000 people are believed to have died as a result of flooding in Bihar since 1979.

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Why Bihar Floods
The major reason for constant flooding in Bihar is that there are so many rivers. In the northern part of the state there are eight major rivers (Ghaghra, Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Bagmati, Kamala, Bhutahi Balan, Kosi, Mahananda) all of which are tributaries of the Ganges. Bihar, like Uttarakhand, has higher, mountainous regions which often bring fast moving flood waters to the lower areas. One other major problem is with the Koshi Dam in Nepal. When Nepal suffers from heavy rain, the authorities often open the dam in case it should overload, thus letting the flood waters through to Bihar.

Koshi Dam
Nepal is currently suffering from floods also and it is understood that 37 of the total 52 flood gates of the Koshi dam in Nepal were opened on Wednesday 10th July to release flood waters. Levels of the Saptakoshi River have been increasing to danger levels: the water level was measured at 274,200 cubic feet per second – a slight increase from Tuesday’s level of 273,600 cubic feet per second.

Sources: NDTV; The Himalayan Times