NEPAL’S CONSTITUTION MAKING AND WATER RESOURCES

We have already witnessed enormous loss of life and property in 2008 breach of Kosi embankment when the flood discharge was only about 1 ½ lack cusecs, where-as extremely high flood discharge of almost nine lacks cusecs have already been measured

Sept. 25, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 09, No. -7, September 25 2015 (Ashoj 8, 2072)

Apart from  future economic survival  even the physical existence of some regions of Nepal Terai would very much depend on  adequate  planning and implementation of water resources projects  to be located deep inside hilly region far away from the Terai  sacrificing to a considerable  extent the environmental and economic interests of the hilly region. This type of project benefiting Terai  has already started to  be implemented.  One of the perfect examples of this type of projects is the Bheri-Babai diversion project aimed at providing  irrigation to  Bardia and Banke districts,  which is already under construction. There are several other such type of projects in advance planning stage to irrigate almost the entire Terai

Confusion Over New Consttitution

Unfortunately  the vast majority of our Terai people are completely ignorant of the above facts.  Even intelligentsia and politicians across the country do not yet seem  to realize that it is  inconceivable to think of sustainable  future Terai  detached from the adjoining high mountains and the Himalayan region, which are the perennial source of water supply to Terai in future. Failure of  our policy makers to appreciate this reality and accordingly enlighten countrymen  has thrown everybody into confusion and  it might be the real  cause of controversy in reaching a  settlement acceptable to everyone in delineation of  provincial boundaries. This issue will be bothering even after the promulgation of  new constitution. 

Nature of Water Resources Projects

Bheri- Babai project or similar other projects  earmarked for implementation in future  are completely   extravagant worthless project from the view point of exclusively power generation.  This type of projects necessitating construction of very long diversion tunnels are costly and on top of it involve  substantial reduction  in  hydropower  generation potential.  Planning this type of projects precludes building a series of hydropower in cascade to tap the entire potential of the river. As a result,  they can be justified only from the view point of Terai irrigation.

Abundant water diverted from  the hill into Terai particularly in dry season is nothing less than nectar  for parched Terai lands year by year suffering  from constantly growing  shortages of water critically needed to meet the  irrigation requirement of Terai.  These are the finding of vast studies  already carried out by various reputed international agencies  and donor governments. 

Depletion of  Water Resources in Terai

The water resources of Terai is being depleted due to  the main following reasons:

(1)          There was a rampant deforestation in the past across the entire  Terai region and its adjoining Churia area.  This has led to gradual drying up of the local rivulets and streams that were traditionally the source  of local irrigation. Contrary to it, area under cultivation has greatly increased due to deforestation, which has led to increase in  demand for water needed to irrigate new lands.

(2)          There is rapid growth of  population in   the upper catchment areas of  small and medium sized rivers also directly flowing  into Terai from the hill areas. The flow of these  rivers is being increasingly used in the hill region itself during the dry season since a long time with the result that the dry season flow of such rivers in Terai is constantly decreasing.

(3)          Substantial withdrawal of ground water in future for irrigation in Bihar and UP that have   deeper aquifer bottom  would have adverse impact on ground water potential of our Terai. An example of such case is the Mississippi v. Memphis Ground Water Dispute in the USA.  Mississippi state had blamed Tennessee for unlawfully withdrawing its ground water by forming deep cone of depression.   

Terai Irrigation Projects

Detailed studies of several projects have already been conducted to recommend ways to resolve water supply to irrigate on a large scale Terai lands by diverting  water from the water resources projects located far away in the mountain region. They are as follows:

Detailed irrigation development studies of all districts  from Parsa  to  Saptari by diverting Sun-Kosi River were conducted with the help of UNDP/FAO;   Similarly  for Jhapa by diverting Kankai River(with the help of West German Govt. and ADB);   For Rupandehi and Nawal Parasi by diverting  Kali Gandaki river(with the help of UNDP);  Kapilvastu by diverting West Rapti river (with the help of West German agency);  Banke, Bardia, Kailali by ADB, JICA  by diverting Bheri river along with irrigation  water drawing directly from the Karnali storage dam project (with the help of ADB, JICA and World Bank).  With the exception of irrigation in Jhapa and irrigation drawing water directly from the Karnali storage dam project, all other proposed schemes involve diversion of water from the mid hill by long tunneling across high mountains. 

Kosi  River Sorrow of Bihar

All rivers flowing   from  hills are liable to flooding in Terai resulting in some cases great losses. Kosi flood losses of all such cases acquire international significance because of the enormity  of past and  the  imminent  losses of life and property.

Kosi river known as the sorrow of Bihar had shifted from east to west  over 70 miles within a period of 200 years.  The shifting of the river course was accompanied  by big loss of life and property in Nepal and India.  However,  the  embankments built about 50 years  ago have so far provided a great relief by  preventing  lateral shifting of the river course. 

Kosi River Changing its Course

At present Kosi river channel  bed is well above the surrounding  grounds  due to continued siltation. The embankments have already outlived their useful life.  We have already witnessed enormous loss of life and property in 2008 breach of Kosi embankment  when the flood discharge was only about 1 ½  lack cusecs, where-as  extremely high flood discharge of almost nine lacks cusecs have already been measured twice within  a short  interval of 10 years  some years  ago  when river bed siltation had just started. After that the flood discharge was mostly below 5 lacks cusecs. 

Well known experts on Kosi, like Sir Claude Inglis, Shillingfeld and many others, have predicted that during the extremely high flood the Kosi would  completely change its course breaching the eastern embankment right away near Chatra and would follow its  original  path  about  70 miles  to the east of the present course.

Devastation of Sunsari and Morang Districts

It is not difficult to predict based on  Chinese experience of Yellow river flood control that the loss of life and property would be catastrophic if  the Kosi river flowing at present on highly elevated  bed  spills across the embankment at the time of extremely high flood discharge. A substantial part  of the Sunsari district including some part of Morang would be  totally laid waste as the result of sediment deposition.

The flood affected areas would be completely devastated. The casualty would be very high. It is reported that the loss of life of people each time exceeded one million when the Yellow river embankments were breached  during very high floods of  18 87 and  1931.  It should be noted that the Yellow river according to Dr. K.L. Rao, former Minister of  Govt.  of India has almost a  similar maximum discharge  as the Kosi river.

Can Sunsari and Morang be Saved

According to opinions of renowned experts on Kosi, like Dr. A. N. Khosla, Dr. K. L. Rao and many others, and also based on Chinese experience we can say with absolute certainty that it would be   necessary to implement  Kosi or other big  storage  dam project  to save the life and property of millions living in Sunsari and Morang 

Hill People Unwilling

It is very likely that the hill people would be unwilling to accept  above mentioned type of water resources projects benefiting Terai because they are going to be detrimental to their interest. It has already been explained that Nepal’s water resources development planning inclusive of tunneling to divert water to irrigate land in Terai will be more costly and at the same time the power generation potential  will also be considerably reduced by comparison to alternative variant earmarked exclusively for power generation. Provision of large storage dam necessary for flood control in Terai will have devastating economic as well as environmental consequences for the people of mid hill. Just in  one single Karnali Chisapani storage project case,  the land area under submergence will exceed 40,000 hectares.

We know from the experience of India that there would be insurmountable opposition to this type of projects unless Terai and the adjoining northern mountain and Himalayan region are inseparably bound together within the same province.

Consequences of Inter States Rivalry

In our Indian Sub-continent dispute over water rights  among the states of a country have greatly hampered development of water resources.  India was easily able to resolve international water dispute over Indus and Ganges with Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively but conflicts among its states are not still  fully  resolved. The well known cases of such conflicts among Indian states  are related to Godavari, Cauvery, Krishna and Narmada rivers.

Conclusion

In future people in mid-hill will have to pay very high price for implementing water resources projects to benefit the people of Terai.  Thus, it is going to be very difficult to implement major water resources projects addressing the critical need of Terai if it is detached from the northern mountain and the Himalayan regions, which are the future source of water supply to parching lands of Terai.

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