Bihar wants Farakka barrage to be decomissioned

Press Trust of India New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on February 19, 2017

The Nitish Kumar government has held the Farakka barrage in West Bengal responsible for heavy floods in Bihar and asked the Centre to decommission it to desilt the heavily loaded upstream of the Ganga river.

The state has made the recommendation, observing that the dam is the “genesis of severe floods” and responsible for “alarming” silt increase upstream.

‘Severe harm’

The Nitish Kumar dispensation has made the demand before an experts’ committee formed by the Centre to work out guidelines for desilting the Ganga following last year’s devastating floods, sources told PTI.

The Farakka barrage was constructed in the early 60s with the main purpose of helping flush out sediment deposition from Kolkata Port, besides addressing drinking water requirement in West Bengal.

“The barrage is the genesis of severe flood consequences and responsible for progressive silt increase in the upstream of the Ganga between Patna and Bhagalpur (in Bihar),” the state government has told the committee, according to sources.

“Decommissioning the barrage will help automatically desilt the heavily loaded upstream, allowing silt to move to deltas before the sea,” it said.

Such a move, the state has said, will further help in restoration of deltas and its ecosystem, which is also getting adversely affected by this barrage.

To buttress its point, the state government has referred to Kolkata Port Trust’s data, which suggests that silt dredging at the port has increased from 6.40 million cubic metres annually from pre-Farakka days to four times, i.e. at 21.88 MCM annually, during 2003. The dam became operational in 1975.

“So the barrage is of no help... Functioning of the barrage is itself giving rise to flooding,” the state has said in its submission.

‘Threat to aquatic species’

Among others, the government has blamed the barrage also for constricting “severely” movement of habitations and normal cycle of aquatic species, mainly fishes like Ilish (Hilsa) and Chingri.

“Their migration, reproductive cycle and survival have been affected to the extent of being extinct. It also has adverse impact on dolphin sanctuary at Bhagalpur. The number of dolphins there is decreasing, which can be estimated from their frequency of sighting,” the sources said.

The state government has also recommended to the panel to come up with ‘National Silt Policy’ to address the problem. Bihar faced one of its worst floods as the Ganga swelled in August last year, claiming lives of over 20 persons and affecting 20 lakh people.

Published on February 19, 2017
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