Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bihar minister inspects Kosi embankment repair in Nepal

KATHMANDU - The Bihar government Thursday sent its Minister of Water Resources Bijendra Prasad Yadav to southern Nepal to inspect the repair of the breached embankment of Himalayan river Kosi known as the “sorrow of Bihar”.

A joint inspection of the repair of the breached embankment of the river in Sunsari district was carried out by the Indian minister, who was accompanied by the principal secretary in Bihar’s department of water resources, Ajay Nayak, and the Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood.

Nepal was represented by Mahendra B. Gurung, director general of the department of water induced disaster prevention and Anil Kumar Pokhrel, deputy director general of department of irrigation.

The inspection occurred after growing reports in the Nepali media that the Indian contracting company that was given the job of repairing the breached embankment, Vashisht and Vashisht, had not completed the entire task.

This month, Nepal’s parliament sent a team of lawmakers to Kusaha, the village where the Kosi first breached its embankment last monsoon, creating havoc in southern Nepal as well as Bihar.

The MPs, headed by Shanta Chaudhari from the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, had said that though the breach had been closed, there were three vulnerable spots in the embankment that should also be fortified.

According to a treaty signed between the two neighbouring countries in 1954, India is responsible for the design, operation and maintenance of the Kosi embankment in lieu of flood control measures that are to benefit Bihar as well as water for irrigation during the dry seasons.

A torrential monsoon last year caused thousands in Nepal to be displaced while in Bihar, the figure reached nearly three million. About 1,000 people were feared killed in Bihar.

The Kosi remains a major irritant in Indo-Nepal relations and there are fears in Nepal that a flood could recur this monsoon.

Nepali officials and media have been irked by Yadav paying an earlier visit to Nepal and addressing a press conference without Nepali officials, where he claimed the repair had been fully completed.