In 1968, the Koshi river swept away a whole lot of houses, destroying land and livelihoods. Generations later, villagers in Nepal’s Sunsari district are nonetheless ready for assist from the Indian and Nepali governments.
By Birat Anupam
Memories of the Koshi river flooding on 10 October 1968 are nonetheless contemporary within the minds of the residents of Sunsari, a district in south-east Nepal. In the village of Sindure Tappu, the river burst its banks earlier than daybreak and swept away a whole lot of houses, forcing individuals to clamber to their rooftops.
“The flood came around 3 am,” Prahlad Thapa recalled. “I cannot remember any human casualties but our settlement was flooded and almost all the cattle were washed away. We stayed atop our houses for hours – we were compelled to defecate there. Locals rescued us only at 4 pm.”
Today, Sindure Tappu doesn’t exist; a big a part of it was submerged by the river.
Thapa is one in all a whole lot of people that lived by means of the highest flood within the Koshi’s recorded historical past. But 52 years on, the displaced locals haven’t been compensated.
A four-generational battle
When the Koshi flooded Thapa’s village on that fateful day, his grandfather, Dil Bahadur Thapa, led the household. He tried to get compensation for his misplaced property however had no success, and died in 1972.
“My grandfather was a property owner. He had even employed labourers to support our agrarian family,” stated Thapa, who now chairs the Koshi Inundation Victim Struggle Committee, a neighborhood activist group.
He added, “Tragically, once a property owner, my grandfather died landless.”
After the demise of Thapa’s grandfather, his father, Man Bahadur Thapa, pressed for compensation. He too was left empty-handed. He died in 2006 on the age of 87.
Having misplaced each his grandfather and father, Thapa is now main his household’s battle for compensation.
The river has a historical past of floods that displace hundreds yearly, so the distress of communities continues to develop.
According to the Barahakshetra municipality in Sunsari, which collects information on flood victims, 2,743 households have been affected by the Koshi river, as much as the 2020 monsoon.
Kamala Magar, the deputy mayor of the municipality, stated that “13,605 people of our municipality have been identified and verified as Koshi victims so far.” She added, “The whole space affected by the Koshi river is 3,166 bighas, 19 kattha and 18 dhur [about 2,617 hectares] of personal land.”
“Every time I see Koshi waters in my ancestors’ lands, I get emotional and sometimes cannot control my tears,” Thapa advised The Third Pole.
This sentiment is shared by many others who survived the 1968 flood, together with Ganesh Kumar Limbu.
Limbu remembers even the 1954 Koshi flood, however stated 1968 was extra tragic because it destroyed ancestral property.
“My father, Sher Bahadur Limbu, could not be compensated. I am now 81 and have little hope that my grandchildren will be compensated,” stated Limbu.
Limbu stated residents from the district have approached “all leaders and prime ministers” of Nepal and “even the president and former kings of Koshi” for compensation.
“We have elected two prime ministers [Girija Prasad Koirala and Man Mohan Adhikari] from our constituency but they also failed to live up to their promises to compensate us,” stated Limbu.
“The course of the Koshi is not constant, it keeps changing,” stated Magar, a resident of Dharahara Tapan, a settlement which can be affected by Koshi inundation, erosion and flood. She added, “It can inflict further damage and destruction in the years ahead. Since it is an international problem, Nepal and India must address this problem at the earliest. Local government alone cannot solve it.”
The hassle, victims say, stems from the Koshi Agreement signed between Nepal and India on April 25, 1954, and the following development of the 1,150-metre-long, 10-metre-wide Koshi Barrage in 1962.
The river flooded in 1968, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984 and 1986 in quick subsequent a long time, destroying settlements and fertile farmland.
Joney Limbu, the vice-chair of the Koshi Inundation Victim Struggle Committee, stated 12 bighas (round eight hectares) of his household’s land have been swallowed by the river within the 1982 flood.
“Based on the Koshi Agreement, we are supposed to get compensated by the Indian government,” stated Limbu. “Tragically, neither the India nor Nepal governments did enough to address our woes.”
Hundreds of Koshi victims like Limbu staged sit-ins and starvation strikes in August 2019 to attract the authorities’ consideration to their plight – with little influence.
The victims say the scenario continues primarily due to unwillingness on the Indian facet and a scarcity of robust lobbying by Nepal.
Santosh Limbu is the Liaison-cum-Land Acquisition Officer and Nepali consultant for the Koshi Project. In 2012, he stated, Nepal and India collectively carried out research on land in two Nepali districts, Udayapur and Saptari, verifying 7,663 bighas (5,190 hectares) owned by round 10,000 individuals had been inundated. Land in Sunsari was not verified.
“There was provision to compensate individuals with 1 lakh 5,000 rupees [USD 880] per bigha of land,” stated Limbu. He stated verification of different inundated areas and the cost of compensation for verified lands are each pending, primarily because of unwillingness from India.
Limbu additionally claimed that India has not paid tax for 3 years for its Koshi Project works, amounting to round NPR 140 million (USD 1.2 million). He stated, “They are even unwilling to pay a tiny amount of tax. How can we expect huge sum of compensation easily?”
The Third Pole contacted Prakash Das, the chief engineer on the Koshi Project from India, who declined to remark. A request for remark was additionally despatched to the Bihar authorities’s Water Resources Department – the Indian company chargeable for the Koshi Project. This article might be up to date if and when a response is acquired.
Paying tax for flooded land
Despite the floods that devastate their properties, victims proceed to pay land tax to the Nepali authorities.
Ganesh Kumar Limbu owns 6.5 bighas (round 4.Four hectares) of land. “In my latest payment, I paid NPR 625.75 [USD 5.25] just to give continuity to my taxation,” he stated.
He added, “I paid the tax in the hope of being compensated one day. Without ownership of the land, we are not entitled to be compensated.”
Ananda Prashad Gutam, who owns 15 katthas (0.eight hectares), stated, “I cannot grow anything on my land nor can I collect any revenue from it. Still, I am paying tax just to give proof of ownership of my ancestral land.”
A dire scenario
The development of the Koshi Barrage meant the river couldn’t circulate naturally. This, Koshi victims say, precipitated repeated inundation, erosion and flooding to settlements.
Researchers say the river has shifted about 115 kilometres westwards prior to now 220 years. It additionally carries 100-135 million tonnes of silt on common in a 12 months, in response to ICIMOD researchers, who say the Koshi has “exceptionally high sediment carrying capacity”.
For the previous half century, Prahlad Thapa stated, Nepal and India haven’t paid consideration to the misery of Koshi victims.
“The compensation to the latest flood and erosion of 2008 is given to almost all victims,” stated Thapa. “Yet previous flood victims from 1968 with verified documents are still unpaid.”
He stated Koshi victims’ demand is for financial compensation or the final adjustment equal to the misplaced land. He warned, “The more it is prolonged, the more severe it is for both the government and people.”
Birat Anupam is a senior English-language reporter at Nepal’s National News Agency. He relies within the metropolis of Itahari in east Nepal, which is near the Koshi river, and tweets @birat_anupam
The Third Pole is a multilingual platform devoted to selling info and dialogue concerning the Himalayan watershed and the rivers that originate there. This report was initially revealed on thethirdpole.internet and has been reproduced right here with permission.
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