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Kosi River — The Sorrow of Bihar


  Kosi River ( कोसी नदी)

  The Kosi River ( कोसी नदी) is one of the largest tributaries of the Ganga River . Kosi river is called Koshi in Nepal and is a Tran boundary river between Nepal and India. The river basin is surrounded by the ridges separating it from the Brahmaputra in the north, the Gandaki in the west, the Mahananda in the east, and by the Ganga in the south. Kamlā, Bāghmati (Kareh) and Budhi Gandak are major tributaries of Koshi in India, besides minor tributaries like Bhutahi Balān.

  Over the last 250 years, the Kosi River has shifted its course over 120 kilometres from east to west. The Kosi River (The Sorrow of Bihar) is one of two major tributaries, the other river being Gandak, draining the plains of north Bihar, the most flood-prone area of India. This river is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata as Kauśiki.

      Kosi river

 The Kosi river has seven major tributaries. These tributaries encircle Mt Everest from all sides and are fed by the world's highest glaciers. After descends from the mountains they merge and  called simply the Koshi. After flowing  58 km in Nepal, it enters the north Bihar plains near Bhimnagar and after another 260 km , flows into the Ganges near Kursela. The river travels a distance of 729 km from its source to the confluence with the Ganga.

  The Kosi river fan located in northeast Bihar and eastern Mithila is 180 km  long and 150 km -wide alluvial cone shows evidence of lateral channel shifting exceeding 120 km   during the past 250 years through more than 12 distinct channels. The river, which used to flow near Purnea in the 18th century, now flows west of Saharsa.

  Two famous national parks are located in the Koshi river basin: the Sagarmatha National Park, in eastern Nepal and the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve situated in Eastern Nepal. Sagarmatha National park is located in eastern Nepal is also included as a UNESCO world heritage site, was created on July 19, 1976.

Kosi River- The Sorrow of Bihar

 The Kosi is known as the “Sorrow of Bihar”  when it flows from Nepal to India, as it has caused widespread human suffering in the past through flooding and very frequent changes in course. The Kosi Barrage has been designed for a peak flood of 27,014 m³/s 

  Kosi Barrage, also called Bhimnagar Barrage after the name of the place where it was built between the years 1959 and 1963 straddles the Indo-Nepal border. It is an irrigation, flood control and hydropower generation project on the Kosi river built under a bilateral agreement between Nepal and India: the entire cost of the project was borne by India. The catchment area of the river is 61,788  in Nepal at the Barrage site.

 On August 18, 2008, the Kosi river picked up an old channel it had abandoned over 100 years ago near the border with Nepal and India. Nearly 27 lakhs people were reported affected as the river broke its embankment at Kusaha in Nepal, thus submerging several districts of Nepal and India.

  The worst affected districts included Supaul, Araria, Saharsa,Madhepura, Purnia, Katihar, parts of Khagaria and northern parts of Bhagalpur, as well as adjoing regions of Nepal. The floods caused by the breach in the eastern afflux embankment at upstream Kuaha village in Nepal on August 18 is the worst in the region.

  Over 30 lakh people in 16 districts are in the grip of floods, with 23 lakh in worst-hit Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura and Araria districts alone. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said five army columns have been pressed into service for relief and rescue, while the state has requisitioned 25 more columns.

  Large areas remain totally submerged, with reports suggesting that some villages have simply been washed away by strong currents. Tens of thousands of people have also been displaced in neighbouring Nepal, where some of those who have lost their homes are camping under plastic sheets.

  IAF helicopters and army columns deployed to assist the state government's flood fighting machinery continued relief and evacuation operations. Though Disaster Management Additional Secretary Pratayaya Amrit said while over 4.75 lakh people have been evacuated, lakhs more were in dire need of being shifted to safer places. Amrit said about two lakh people were taking shelter in 17 relief camps set up by the state governments and many more being run by non-government organisations (NGOs).

  While Bihar's key political parties,  Nitish Kumar-led ruling Janata Dal (United) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) - are at each other’s throat for the worst-ever floods in the state, experts say the fragile relations between India and Nepal are the root cause of the catastrophe.

Kosi water threatens Bihar after Nepal landslide on August 4

The Bihar government launched massive evacuation of people living on the Kosi embankments fearing a 10-metre high wall of water to sweep down the river from Nepal following a landslide in the Himalayan nation on August 2, 2014 .

The release of 28 lakh cusecs of water accumulated in a lake-like formation caused by massive landslide in river Bhatta Kosi on the Nepal side. Around 2.25 lakh people could be hit in the nine Bihar districts of Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura, Khagaria, Purnia, Araria, Madhubani, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur. The state government has ordered forcible shifting of people living between the two Kosi embankments
 The landslide point is located 260km from the Birpur Kosi barrage in Supaul district of Bihar.

  Kosi Barrage

 The Kosi Barrage: The Dam built on the Kosi river in Nepal has now become old and ill maintained.

   The Damage

 The damage to nearly 1,250 miles of highways and 250 road bridges was estimated  around $523 million. Already, hundreds of cases of pneumonia, diarrhea and high fevers have been reported in relief camps. Doctors started immunization drives over the weekend to counter fears that waterborne diseases will spread as the number of camp  residents grow.

  Due the current floods in Kosi river, the situation in Bihar is the worst witnessed for hundreds of years. People's dead bodies are floating in the water along with the corpses of cattle. People are forced to drink that same water. Hundreds of thousands have become homeless. 

  Survivors have taken shelter in government schools, colleges,railway stations and bus stands. But there are still more than 500,000 people to be rescued. They are on the roofs of concrete buildings like school buildings and other elevated places. They are crying in the wilderness.

  The entire affected area appears like a lake 125 km long by 25km wide. This used to be a prosperous area of Bihar. Seven districts have been particularly badly affected with nearly 50-75% of Madhepura district drowned completely and Supaul district also suffering. Whole towns and villages have drowned; railway stations, roads, bridges, government buildings, the entire administrative apparatus of places have been wiped out.

  Government engineers were digging a new channel to correct the course of the Kosi River — which flows from neighboring Nepal — and plug the mile-long breach in embankment. They also have started repairing roads to allow faster movement of relief supplies in the region. 

  Authorities have confirmed 42 deaths, but it is widely believed the final toll will be much higher. Rescue workers have evacuated 914,000 people from nearly 1,000 flooded villages. But with river levels falling by more than two feet over the last few days, more than 30,000 have returned to their homes - ignoring official warnings that their homes were still not safe.  Another 50,000 people have refused to abandon their homes in flood-hit areas despite pleas by authorities to evacuate. 
  About 300,000 homes were destroyed after the Kosi river, which originates in Nepal, burst a dam last month and caused the worst floods in Bihar in 50 years. Officials said 22 bodies were found as water receded in flood- hit Madhepura on September 11, raising the death toll from the floods in Bihar to 130.

  The floods also forced nearly four million people from their homes and destroyed 100,000 ha (250,000 acres) of farmlands, an official said. Tens of thousands of people are living in government relief camps that aid agencies say lack adequate facilities.

A breach in Kosi embankment at Kushaha in Nepal on August 18, 2008 hadresulted in one of the most disastrous floods in Bihar.

  Flood in Kosi river

  Kosi basin turning into a desert after the massive breach in the river embankment in August 18, 2008

   International Help

  On September 17, 2008,  UK  announced a grant of one million pounds for the relief of those affected by the Kosi river floods in Bihar. This is in addition to the 150,000 pounds announced earlier by the British government. Relief materials and aids by several institution and public were distributed. Art has brought Rs.40 million for flood victims of Bihar. Thirty-one leading contemporary artists brought together by Subodh Gupta and Bharati Kher have raised more than Rs.39.3 million through the Artists Flood Relief Charity Auction held Nov 11-12 by Saffronart. Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari on Sep 3 asking MPs to contribute Rs 1 million each from the MPLADS  towards relief and rehabilitation in flood-hit Bihar.

  One year after the Kusaha breach

  On August 25, 2009 there was no end to the miseries of people in the Kosi Basin as the river used to change its course. It is a vibrant river and used to inflict immense losses in the districts of Purnea and Saharsa. All that is history now. On August 18, 2008, when the Kosi breached its eastern afflux bundh at Kusaha in Nepal, the floodwaters engulfed 35 blocks and 993 villages spread over five districts. Nearly 3.3 million people and 3.68 lakh hectares were trapped in floods; 2.34 lakh houses were destroyed and 527 persons died in the disaster. This was the eighth incident of its kind in the past 45 years. There is no  reason for people to be complacent about the cover provided by the Kosi embankment, as the threat of a breach continues to loom large. In a similar incident on the Kosi’s eastern embankment in 1984, the river wiped out 11 villages in Navhatta block of Saharsa district and engulfed 196 villages in seven blocks of Saharsa and Supaul districts of north Bihar. The floodwaters spread over 67,000 hectares and 4.58 lakh people were rendered homeless. They sheltered on the remaining portion of the embankment for more than six months.

 The Kusaha breach was plugged in the month of May this year at an estimated cost of Rs 143.42 crore, approved by the Centre, which sanctioned Rs 1,010 crore for emergency relief after the breach was declared a national calamity on August 28, 2008. The state government reportedly mobilised an equal amount for relief and many NGOs did their own bit. Despite all these inputs, the state needs another Rs 14,800 crore to bring back the victims and the state economy on the rails. It is time to do the sums on the benefits of the Kosi Project.

On September 08, 2008,  Hundreds of thousands of Indian flood refugees are likely to spend six months in state- run relief camps while authorities rebuild homes, roads and  embankments in the flood- ravaged north, officials said Monday. More than 257,000 people have taken shelter in 313 state-run camps in Bihar state, where the Kosi River burst its banks last month and turned hundreds of square miles of land into a giant lake. The state's CM. Nitish Kumar, said the relief camps would run for another six months.

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