Patna: Bihar plans to construct more embankments to control floods and protect millions of people from being uprooted, a minister said Tuesday.
"Construction of embankments is the only solution at present to get rid of floods in Bihar. It is the best available measure against flood protection," Bihar Water Resources Development Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary told reporters.
At a time when fear of devastating floods is back, the state government plans to construct 1,600 km of embankments in the next five years.
"An action plan is being prepared by the department to construct more embankments to provide protection to millions of people living in flood prone-districts," Choudhary said.
He said that according to the plan, an additional 26 lakh hectares would be protected if proposed embankments are constructed.
The minister said that till date the state government has constructed 3,629 km of embankments to protect the lives and property of people in over 30 lakh hectares of land out of a total of 68.8 lakh hectare in flood-prone areas.
During the floods in 2007, about 37 embankments were breached followed by the devastating flood in 2008 when the Kosi river breached its embankments, officials said.
The state government took measures for strengthening the embankments in 2009 but three were breached, while in 2010 only one embankment was breached.
After two consecutive years of drought, the fear of floods is back in Bihar with incessant rains and heavy water discharge into the Kosi river from Nepal.
However, Choudhary said all embankments were safe and there was no need to panic. "The government is fully ready to face any eventuality if the water level in rivers
poses a threat."
But he conceded that many villages in flood-prone districts face threats due to the increased water levels.
Reports suggested that the authorities have asked hundreds of people to shift to safer places following the rising water level of the Kosi. The state government has asked engineers and district officials to keep a 24-hour vigil.
Choudhary said the eastern Kosi embankment, which had breached in 2008, flooding five districts of northern Bihar, was totally safe. "We are taking care of it. There is no need to panic."
In 2008, over three million people were rendered homeless in Bihar when the Kosi river breached its bank upstream in Nepal and changed course. It was said to be the worst flood in the state in the last 50 years.
According to the water resources department, a lot of water has been discharged into the Kosi in the last one week after heavy rains in Nepal as well as in Bihar.
Two days ago, the Bagmati river breached its embankment in Muzaffarpur district, while the rising waters in the Gandak and Kosi rivers are also posing a serious threat.
All the inundated villages are in the flood-prone districts of Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Purnia, Araria, Saharsa, Madhepura and Bagaha, officials said.