Strategic Thrust 2: People’s right over Natural Resources
BIHAR: River Basin of Koshi, Gandak and Ganga
2.1 Living with floods:
Bihar had suffered severely due to almost 3months of floods. The 29 districts out of 34 were immersed in the water. It was a worse devastating flood in the recent history. The torrential rain and almost complete destruction of natural drainage system was the main cause of the flood.
A two-day state level consultation with key activists was convened on Oct. 18-19, 2007 at Patna. The participants shared the experience of devastating floods during which humanity was at stake. They also shared various stories of peoples’ initiatives towards clearing the natural drainage systems. The blockage of flow of small rivers resulted in more devastation during this season of flood. Such rivers were ignored in the process of building dams and embankments on big and medium size rivers. The need of maintaining minimum flow was ignored while constructing check dams on such small rivers. It was also reflected that our propagation to maintain natural drainage system and better livelihood had visible impact during the flood. It was therefore decided to undertake campaign to reach out to the affected areas with our strong massage of living with the floods. An action committee was formed under the convenership of Shri Bhagwanji Pathak. The following activities were planned –
a.) Planning consultation on November 12th, 2007;
b.) Documentation of small rivers;
c.) Awareness building during “Chhath” (Water Conservation Festival);
d.) Organising state level seminar on living with floods;
e.) Organising state level conference of the flood victims;
f.) Media campaign and
g.) Field visits.
The committee met on schedule date of Nov. 12th, 2007 at Patna in which details about awareness building during Chhath and state level seminar on living with flood was finalised. The meeting scrutinised 16 papers to be presented before the state level seminar proposed on 15 -17 Dec. 2007. Necessary responsibilities were also assigned among the committee members. The content of the pamphlets to be distributed during the Chhath was finalised.
The Chhath is the holiest festival of the state during which the devotees clean the water bodies including the banks of the rivers. The devotees observe fast during the two-day festival. The devotees gather on the bank of river and water-bodies, stand once a day for a couple of in the water and offer water and various home made sweets, seasonal leafs and fruits to Sun God.
The volunteers of the campaign for living with floods which were drawn from three river based consortiums and other supporting organisations contacted devotees of Chhath and distributed pamphlets to them. The spiritual and environmental meaning of the Chhath was printed in the pamphlet. An earnest appeal to conserve rivers and maintain its natural flow to reduce the devastating impact of floods was made through the pamphlet.
A two-day state level seminar on “Living with Floods” was organised on 15-17 Dec.2007 at Khadi Bhandar (hand made cotton centre), Muzaffarpur. Mr. Kumar Kalanand Mani inaugurated the seminar and delivered the inaugural remarks. Mr. Dhirendra Shrivastava, resident Editor of Dainik Jagaran, Mr. Shashikant Jha an expert on river, Mr. Ghanshyam, JUDAV and many others expressed their views in the session. Prof. Prakash of IRN presided the inaugural session. The following papers were presented and a detailed discussion took place at the seminar-
1. Solution is possible in Gandak valley – Amarnath
2. Let’s live with rivers – Ramnarayan
3. Water climbed on the hill – Bageshwar Bagi
4. Swimming Society is drowning – Anupam Mishra
5. Notion of interlinking – Arun Das
6. Bite of water logging – Satyanarayan Prasad
7. Looks small (river) but creates deeper wounds – Swami Rajeshwar Bharati
8. Water right should be the human right – Arun Das
9. We are on the path of floods – Anupam Mishra
10. DVC, Farakka Barrage and flood – Kapil Bhattacharya
11. Alternative, alternative and alternatives – Hemant
12. Don’t sale water – Anil Prakash
13. Aahar-paeen system – Dwijen Kalia
14. Tradition of tanks in Mithila – Hetukar Jha
15. Terror of Noon river – Swami Rajeshwar Bharati
16. Situation deteriorated because of ignoring small rivers – Amarnath
The following strategies were chalked out for the further follow-up-
1. To create a forum on water issues,
2. Dialogue between inter and intra basin state and countries ,
3. Peoples awareness,
4. Yatra on living with floods,
5. Conference of flood victims,
7. Propagation through print and electronic media,
8. Resource mobilisation,
9. Training of workers, volunteers and media person on flood,
10. Formation of panchayat level living with flood committee and
11. Policy interventions.
25 women and 69 men from 22 districts took part.
A two-day conference of flood victims was organised on 15-16 March 2008 at Khagaria. Khagaria is situated in the midst of three major rivers – i.e. Ganga, Gandak and Koshi. Therefore, this place has become the capital of flood or in other word most affected by flood. 61 women and 120 men – total 181 from the districts of Ganga, Koshi, Gandak, Bagamati and Kamala river area were participated in this conference. The conference was inaugurated by Ms. Maula Devi (who saved her two children from main stream of the river), Mr. Pappu Mahto (who lost his entire family), Krishna Bahan of PBIV, Fr. GC Paul of local church, Maulvi Md. Abbas, Sardar Swarna Singh, Brahmchari Dharmendra Shastri. They shared their heart breaking experiences of life and affirmed that we should not dream of a life beyond the flood. The flood is bound to affect us because we live in river area. Prof. Prakash of IRN spoke on the main theme of the conference and said that the loss of life, property, crops, road, house etc. has become routine in this flood prone area. People have to struggle every year to start their life from scratch. Nearly 75.6 lakhs hectare land gets affected during flood every year. 33.4 million population gets affected by the floods in Bihar and thousand of people loose their life. The infrastructure built for irrigation and electricity in Bihar has become the key source of destruction. Various speakers shared their concern and firmness towards a campaign on living with floods.
The following programmes emerged through group debate as what should be done before the flood, during the flood and after the flood.
Mr. Kumar Kalanand Mani suggested various ways and means of living qualitatively with floods. Ms. Kirsten Gade of eed and Ms. Sapna Singh of FMSF were present during the valedictory session. A rally of the participants was organised and it moved in and around the city. The conference resolved to organise a ‘Living with Floods Yatra’ in April 2008.