Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday expressed grave concern over receding water flow in river Ganga and highlighted the growing silt deposit due to Farakka barrage causing floods in the state every year.
Kumar also raised concern over proposed construction of reservoir at Buxar and some others in Uttar Pradesh enroute Allahabad-Haldia National waterway.
He was speaking after inaugurating an International Seminar on Ganga in Patna.
The two-day seminar organised by state’s Water Resources department titled “Incessant Ganga” is attended by a host of people working for environment and water management in the country and also abroad.
They include Magsaysay award winner “Waterman” Rajendra Singh, Environmentalist and Chipko Movement leader Vandana Shiva, environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhat, Punjab’s environmentalist Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, economists Bharat Junjhunwala and Jayant Bandopadhyay.
Some experts from Germany, Nepal and Bangladesh are also participating in the seminar.Kumar highlighted the problems due Farakka barrage which is causing floods in Bihar every year due to heavy silt deposits.
Kumar has in the past demanded decommission of Farakka barrage which he said has little utility and responsible for flood in Bihar annually.
He, however, made it clear that the present seminar was not meant to push the demand for decommission of Farakka Dam.
“This seminar is not meant to push demand for decommission of Farakka barrage but to discuss in length how to remove impediments in Ganga to ensure incessant flow of water,” Kumar said.
Kumar, who is also JD(U) National President, also raised the issue of proposed construction of barrage at Buxar and some others in UP as part of development of Inland Waterways from Allahabad to Haldia in West Bengal and reiterated that the state would not allow any such construction.
In an oblique dig at rival BJP leaders who citing some “unauthenticated” papers of Inland Waterways Authority to say that there is no proposal to construct any barrage between Varanasi to Farakka, he asked “do they mean to say that barrage would be built in between Allahabad to Varanasi?”
Kumar said he has read statement of Union Surface Transport minister Nitin Gadkari on proposed barrage at Buxar and on some locations in UP as part of Inland Waterway I.“These (BJP leaders) are quoting a senior official of the Waterways Authority who is spreading confusion through false assertions,” he added.
Kumar reminded of PM Narendra Modi famous statement during 2014 general elections in Varanasi, “Maa Ganga ne mujhe Bulaya hai” (Mother Ganga has called me).
“When I recently visited Varanasi people told me that mother Ganga is searching for her son,” he said.
Kumar said his concern for Ganga was not political but personal and from Environmental point of view.
“I have grown in an area (Bakhtiyarpur) on bank of Ganga and studied in Institute (NIT now in Patna) also near Ganga and have grown watching the mighty river and thats why I have been raising concern for it at every platform,” he said.
Kumar said he has been raising concerns for Ganga and drawing attention of the Centre on problems from Farakka dam to both UPA and present one of BJP-led NDA but to no avail.
“During UPA rule of Manmohan Singh, the state government had facilitated an aerial survey of the then Water Resources minister Pawan Bansal from Buxar to other parts of Bihar to show him bad in condition of Ganga...but after this he (Bansal) said suggest any other option than doing away with Farakka barrier,” he said narrating past experience.
“After current PM talked to me over flood in Bihar last year I met him later and drew his attention that the Farakka dam is causing heavy siltation in river Ganga which is a major reason for heavy floods every year in Bihar,” he said.
“But, our concerns have not yielded any results so far. We hope the present seminar would pave way for a national debate on Ganga to protect the holy river,” he added.“Sone river has already lost its water flow and I am afraid that Ganga do not meet the same fate,” he said.
Kumar laughed away arguments coming from some rival parties that silt deposits in Ganga from Bhagalpur to Farakka was due to banana cultivation on its shore.West Bengal is also affected by Farakka barrier, he said.
“The West Bengal origin engineer Kapil Bhattacharya involved in construction of Farakka barrage had opposed it and after facing all sorts of abuse like being dubbed a ‘Pakistan agent’ he left the job,” he said adding “but today his concerns are found true seeing poor condition of Ganga.”
He said the Union government’s famed “Namami Gange” programme focuses on cleanliness leaving the question to ensure incessant flow of water in the mighty river.
Kumar stressed on national silt management policy without affecting environment and delta basin.
Bihar Water Resources minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan drew attention towards ills of silt deposit due to Farakka.
“Waterman” Rajendra Singh opposed construction of barriers enroute Allahabad-Haldia Waterways and urged Kumar not to allow this in Bihar.