| Buildings on the banks of the Ganga in Bhagalpur town that are threatened by the rising water level of the river. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Around 10 lakh people from 19 districts have been affected by the flood in the state.
“There was no respite from the flood on Sunday as major rivers, including Ganga, Punpun, Sone, Budhi Gandak, Kosi, Gandak and Bagmati, were flowing above the danger mark. At least 10 lakh people in 19 districts have been affected by the flood” said an official of central water commission.
An official of water resources department said all embankments of the Ganga were safe and situation was under control but the condition in Bhagalpur town was grim.
Ranjan Chaudhary and his family fled their rented accommodation after water entered their ground floor flat at Manik Sarkar Ghat Road in the city’s north.
“Cracks have appeared on the walls and floors of our house. It has also tilted a little bit towards the river. We had to leave the flat when water entered the ground floor. But we left behind our furniture,” said the building contractor, who took shelter at a relative’s home on Friday.
Like Chaudhary, residents of buildings constructed illegally on low government land near the Ganga in the city are spending sleepless nights as the river water level continues to rise.
On Sunday morning, the water rose to 34.39m. “It is likely to rise by 2-4cm in the next 24 hours,” said Kailu Sardar, chief engineer, water resources department, Bhagalpur.
As a result, there is high pressure on the 13-km stretch of the embankment between Bengalitola at Champanagar and Babupur in Sabour.
Sources said over the past few years the river appeared to drift towards the north. As a result there was a high demand for construction on the southern bank of the Ganga. “It seemed that the river had changed course,” said Sardar. “But this year, the Ganga is flowing between pillars 3 and 6 and seems to be returning to the course it followed 20-25 years ago.”
This has resulted in soil erosion at Gopalpur and Ishmailpur blocks of Naugachia.
“At present, the river is in spate. So, we shouldn’t draw any conclusion. Once the water level recedes, things would be clearer,” said Sardar.
But for residents who have lost their homes to the rising water, there is no more time to wait. They lay the blame for their misfortunes squarely on the government.
Ganga Mandal, a resident of Shankerpur diara (now under the river) said: “Last year, the water resources department had carried out levelling near Bindtoli and Shankerpur. This might be another reason why the river course has undergone a shift.”
Mandal and his family of three sons, four daughters and wife are now living at Sachidanand Nagar near the Bhagalpur airstrip.
While the fear of losing their homes is scaring the residents, acute civic problems could be round the corner.
The rising water is also threatening the 100-year-old Barari water works, which supplies drinking water to more than half of Bhagalpur town.
An employee of the water resources department, who did not want to be named, said: “The flood water has almost reached the walls of the water works department. The swift currents might soon wash it away, forcing the plant to be shut down, triggering acute drinking water problems in the city.”
While many have abandoned their homes, others have stayed on. Surendra Kumar, a social worker at Buranath, said: “Despite the danger, the administration has not yet done anything to evacuate people from the illegal houses built by encroaching government land on the river banks.”
Divisional commissioner Minaj Alam said: “We shall soon start evacuating people from these buildings. We are worried about them.”
The mayor of Bhagalpur, Dipak Bhubania, however, claimed he was not aware of the situation. Told about the residents trapped in illegal buildings on the riverbank, he said: “We shall conduct a probe to find out how these buildings were constructed.”
Besides Bhagalpur, the flood situation has worsened in Vaishali, Khagaria and Katihar. Additional secretary of disaster management department Rajeev Kumar Singh, said: “Rescue and relief work operation is going on. Teams of National Disaster Response Force have been deputed in all the flood-hit areas.”
He further said, “Relief camps have been set up and all necessary things are being distributed including Rs 1,500 to each family affected by flood.”