Kathmandu, February 5
Top officials and experts from the Koshi region gathered in Patna, Bihar yesterday for a two-day forum to discuss solutions to water security and water-induced disasters in the Koshi basin.
Coming after years of devastating floods in southern Nepal and Bihar, the forum emphasised regional cooperation and evidence-based data collection that can be translated into policy.
Representatives from more than 20 institutions, including the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Beijing, and the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chengdu, China participated in the forum.
The forum was supported by the Government of Australia, and facilitated by the Koshi Basin Programme, an initiative focused on sustainable water management at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
A press statement issued by ICIMOD today said floods and related disasters are a perennial concern in the Koshi basin, where seasonal monsoon rains and glacial melting frequently lead to dangerously-high water levels in the Koshi River.
Bihar, where the river merges with the Ganga, is India’s most flood-prone state, with 76 per cent of residents in the northern regions vulnerable to recurring floods.
Bihar annually suffers losses of life, property, infrastructure, and agriculture due to floods.
According to the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, floods displaced as many as 33,200 people in 2014.
Vijendra Prasad Yadav, Bihar’s minister for energy and commercial tax, stressed the need for scientific understanding of the basin to complement traditional knowledge, and sought the Australian government and ICIMOD’s assistance in this regard.
The opening session of the forum laid down the first strategic improvement in river basin management. Bihar’s Minister for Disaster Management Professor Chandrashekhar stated in his inaugural address that a policy was recently passed to incorporate community-based disaster response into local primary and elementary education.
The forum speakers emphasised the need to overcome this challenge, and link science, policy, and practice across borders. They also recognised the potential water has to act as a larger catalyst for economic development.
Eklabya Sharma, director of Programme Operations at the ICIMOD, highlighted the contributions made by the Koshi Basin Programme.
A version of this article appears in print on February 06, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.