By Anil Giri
Kathmandu, Aug 12 (IANS) With the Koshi river, also called the ‘sorrow of Bihar’, flowing above the danger level and threatening dozens of human settlements with submergence, the Nepal government on Saturday requested India to open the gates of the Koshi barrage.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara called on Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri to open the gates of Koshi barrage as the rising river level has brought thousands of hectares of land in Nepal under water and threatens dozens of human settlements with submergence.
For India, opening the barrage gates is likely to pose a problem as it would cause flooding in downstream areas and villages.
The issue of Koshi and floods has become a regular diplomatic matter between Nepal and India, mainly during the rainy season.
The appeal to India comes as around 30 people have died and dozens have gone missing in the Nepal floods and landslides in the last 24 hours caused by torrential rain, the Nepal Home Ministry said.
Nepal is facing difficulty in rescue and search missions due to continuous rain. The weatherman has warned of more rain on Sunday.
The deaths have mostly taken place in the Terai area of Nepal where the land is almost submerged in flood waters.
Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba called an emergency meeting of the Home Minister, police chiefs and other officials to expedite search and rescue operations in the Terai.
Terai in Nepal is plains land that usually gets affected by rain in the monsoon season due to flooding in rivers originating from the Himalayas.
“I could not manage to visit and inspect the flood affected areas due to bad weather,” Home Minister Janardan Sharma said.
People, activists and party leaders in Terai have called on the government to conduct immediate search and rescue operations in the Terai to prevent further casualties. Almost the entire southern plain has been inundated with flood waters and television footage shows the pathetic condition of people living in the Terai.
The Home Ministry estimates that over 10,000 people have been displaced in various parts of the Terai.
Nepal has witnessed torrential rain since Friday causing landslides in the hill region and floods in the Terai. According to the weather forecasting division, several rivers, including Koshi, Bagmati and others are crossing the danger level.
Several chunks of some highways have collapsed due the rain and landslides and even airports in the Terai region are covered by water.
The Koshi river, a vital lifeline for millions of people in Nepal and India, flows from Tibet and through Nepal before joining the Ganga in northern Bihar in India, and eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal.
The Koshi Barrage is a mega structure near the international border with India. Built between 1958 and 1962, the barrage has 56 gates which are controlled by the Nepal Army and Indian officials from down the river. The infrastructure is crucial for flood management in both countries during the monsoon.