At meeting with PM on floods, Nitish flags non-cooperation

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from Nepal, other issues (Eds: Adds details) Patna, Aug 10 (PTI) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday drew the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 'non-cooperation' from Nepal in carrying out flood management work in accordance with an agreement, and sought his intervention on the matter.

Rivers originating in Nepal have inundated several districts in the northern parts of the state.

At a meeting convened by the prime minister on flood situation in states hit by the calamity, Kumar also said that Bihar was not getting its share of water from the Ganga because of the Farakka Barrage Agreement and urged the Centre to take up the matter with Bangladesh.

Recalling the 'detailed discussions' that he had with Modi when he visited the flood-hit district of Purnea in 2017, the chief minister said, 'At present, the entire north Bihar is affected by the calamity and the situation is likely to remain grim till September'.

The flood in north Bihar is an annual phenomenon that follows heavy rainfall in the catchment areas of Nepal, Kumar said and alleged that neighbouring country has not been extending 'full cooperation' over the past few years which resulted in delayed completion of repair of embankments.

'The repair work which should have been complete by the end of May could be completed only by the end of June.

Flood management work is carried out in the border areas by the water resources department of Bihar, as per an agreement between India and Nepal,' he told the prime minister.

'We received no cooperation from the government of Nepal this year, while we were to repair an embankment in Madhepura and another one in Madhubani, that falls in no man's land. This situation deserves attention,' Kumar said in the meeting held via video conference.

He also recalled that nearly 13 districts of the state had been affected by floods caused by the Ganga in 2016 and said that the state's riverine areas remain submerged for long periods due to slow discharge from the Farakka Barrage'.

This issue needed to be arrested, the chief minister said.

'As per the Indo-Bangladesh agreement, a discharge of 1,500 cusecs has to be ensured through the barrage. Of this, Bihar contributes 1,100 cusecs and is left with only 400 cusecs for its own use. This deprives Bihar of its due share of water from the Ganga, despite the river flowing through its territory,' he said.

The chief minister also called for bringing the Kosi and the Mechi under the project of interlinking of rivers claiming that this would 'benefit an area of 2.14 lakh hectare, ensure better utilization of the water and check floods'.

Kumar also cited 'lack of clarity' in a Rs 1,880 crore state disaster risk management fund proposed by the 15th Finance Commission for the current financial year.

He said that the fund has been broken into two components which should be done away with.

Besides, there is a cap of 25 per cent of the fund for spending on gratuitous relief and this should also be removed, Kumar said.

'This would ease the burden on the states exchequer on account of natural disasters. We need to spend a lot everywhere for repair works, disbursement of gratuitous relief and assistance to farmers,' he added.

Kumar praised the Centre for the prompt response received whenever the state requisitions National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams or IAF helicopters for providing relief in areas rendered inaccessible because of floods.

Presenting a summary of the current flood situation, he told the prime minister that more than 74.20 lakh people of 16 districts in the state were affected by the calamity, out of whom 5.80 lakh have been evacuated with the help of 23 NDRF and 17 SDRF teams.

He also said that 27,000 displaced people have been provided with shelter at 19 relief camps while more than nine lakh were being fed at 1,267 community kitchens.

'I have personally visited many of these places and taken stock of the arrangements in place, in addition to aerial surveys of inundated areas,' he said.

'Special attention is being given to prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in flood-affected areas. Observance of social distancing is being ensured at relief camps and the inmates are being tested for the coronavirus,' he added. PTI NAC NN NN