About 73 % of Bihar is a flood-affected region. Most of these are due to rivers that originate in Nepal namely Mahananda, Koshi, Bagmati, and Gandak. The dam’s gates in Nepal are opened during monsoons and a very high water discharge takes place from the mountainous regions to the plains of Bihar. Despite an increase in the length of embankments, there has been an increase in the flood-prone regions. Clearly, embankments, as they are built, is not a solution. Millions of tonnes of silt are getting deposited in the river beds every year that ultimately leads to an increase in sedimentation of the river Ganga. The cumulative damage to public property is in thousands of crores. Thousands of crores are also doled out in relief measures post floods. It seems like a bleeding wound that we are nurturing instead of treating in a better manner.
Science and Technology have progressed a lot and a lot of these inventions and innovations happen in western universities because they are well funded as well as a believer in the capability of Science. Our leaders have to sponsor national competitions, research projects as well as build universities to solve our problems with a focus on research and innovation. How many universities in India are specially built to solve our disaster-related issues. If we compare the damage due to these disasters – they can be rather mitigated to fund solutions.
Every problem has a hidden solution. An opportunity that was not channelized and hence turned into a problem. Bihar floods provide ample amounts of silt, water that has not been channelized due to lack of a political will or a mindset that doesn’t want to invest in Science. We need to change this mindset.
Sponge cities is a concept that has been adopted by China. It designs our cities in such a way that the maximum utility of rainwater happens and flood possibility is reduced. Though it requires huge investments – such projects have already been discussed in Kochi, Kerala. There is also a need to revive our lakes and ponds that somehow got encroached upon as they can also play their role in reducing floods. Bihar has seen a reduction in the number of ponds from 2,50,000 to 93,000. The reason is there is not a clear understanding among people of their utility and role in the larger scenario. Our environmental and natural ecosystems if damaged and encroached upon to fulfill other needs will have consequences. We need to make our development sustainable and not just look upon its commercial aspects which most people are interested in.
The silt in Kosi can be removed with the help of dredgers and contains a high amount of silica and other oxides that are raw materials for the cement industry. They can also improve soil fertility and can have other uses such as in the construction of bricks or as backfill material in road construction.
Research also needs to be done as to how certain species of plants can help in flood reduction. Vetiver grasses are one type of such species that can play their role in reducing the impact of floods.
There has been also a dire need to improve the drainage network and infrastructure in our villages, towns, and cities. A lot can be learned from China and Japan and the way they are tackling these issues. Nowadays, many students want to become software engineers because of lucrative offers but we need better city planners, designers, architects, and other engineers who can take up the challenge and solve some of these problems that impact millions in our country.