Farakka barrage not to blame for Bihar floods: Uma

The Farakka Barrage across the Ganga in West Bengal.  

Union Water Resources Minister, Uma Bharti, has stated that the Farakka Barrage — said to be responsible for aggravating floods in Bihar during the monsoon — is blameless. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, has said the dam ought to be decommissioned because it has led to silt building up along the Ganga.

Ms. Bharti has said developing the waterway between Haldia and Allahabad will “take care of the silt”. “Farakka Barrage is not the problem … I have had experts look at it,” she told The Hindu in an interview. “Nitish Kumar is an engineer and he knows it, too. Once the waterway on the Ganga begins, developers will dredge the silt and (Transport Minister) Nitin Gadkari will find creative ways to use that, too.”

The waterway Ms Bharti was referring to is one of six waterways proposed by Mr. Gadkari as part of a massive plan to improve inland water transportation in the country. The longest of them, National Waterway 1 (NW1) will be on the Ganga from Haldia in West Bengal to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, stretching 1,620 kilometres. The NW1 will span Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. A detailed project report has already been prepared for the ₹42 billion crore NW1 project to be funded by the World Bank.

However, the project also involves constructing barrages, and concerns have been raised that this will increase siltation, a perennial problem on this stretch.

Last year, monsoon rains led to severe floods in Bihar and Mr. Kumar — who petitioned Prime Minister Modi — said decommissioning the 40-year-old, 2.6 km-long Farakka Barrage was the only way out. This is because the structure, originally conceived to keep the Kolkata port navigable, had only worsened the flood situation in Bihar over the years.

Mr. Kumar has raised this issue during meetings of the National Ganga Basin Authority, said Ms. Bharti, and she had a committee, led by retired engineer Madhav Chitale, investigate the problems of siltation in the Ganga. “The only solution to this is navigation,” she added.

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Printable version | Apr 29, 2021 11:24:54 PM |

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