| Farmers irrigate a field in Nalanda. Telegraph picture |
The state’s growth is in the fast lane. The irrigation sector, a key element to the agrarian economy in Bihar, however, sticks out like a sore thumb.
“This year (2012), the water discharge from Kosi was much higher than in 2008. Yet, we were able to check any breach from occurring,” remarked water resources minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, stressing that frequent inspections by him and his officials, prevented any floods.
Experts, however, believe that such claims should be taken as a political statement rather than reality. “Nothing has changed since the days of his predecessor Jagdanand Singh. If there has been no floods in Bihar for the past few years, it is because of scant rain rather than the efficiency of the department,” said flood expert Dinesh Mishra, a civil engineering graduate.
Mishra said there were several reports about functioning of the department like the Sanyal Committee and SC Jha Committee report, which indicated that the department was being run by incompetent people. “When Jagannath Mishra vacated the post of chief minister in 1989, the department could irrigate 21.48 lakh hectares. During Jagdanand’s tenure, the figure came down to around 16 lakh hectares. During Chaudhary’s tenure, it further slumped to 12 lakh hectares. At this rate, the department would become irrelevant by 2025,” said Mishra.
As present, of 94.16 lakh hectares of the geographical area of Bihar, 68.8 lakh hectares fall in flood-prone areas. After years of flood protection measures like construction of embankments, the government has been able to secure just 30.36 lakh hectares from floods, while the remaining areas are still exposed to the vagaries of flood.
According to sources, the Kushaha embankment breach was not an isolated case. Official records state that as many as 272 breaches of embankments have been reported from different parts of the state between 1996 and 2010. In 1987, over 100 cases of embankment breach were reported.