PATNA: In his zeal to protect large parts of Bihar from the floods caused by the silt-laden Ganga, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Centre’s avowed plans to save the river.
“Kaha gaya hai ki Ganga ne bulaya hai. Lekin hum Benaras gaye to log bol rahe the ki Ganga maiya puchh rahi hai kahan gaya beta mera,” (It was said that he is the son of River Ganga, but when I visited Varanasi, I found people saying that Mother Ganga was asking where her son is) said Kumar, without naming Modi, in his address at an international seminar on the Ganga in Patna.
Kumar, who is the national president of JD(U), had recently renewed his long-standing demand to decommission Farakka barrage on the Ganga in neighbouring West Bengal, was glad as several river and water experts gathered at the seminar supported his view. Kumar also aired his stiff opposition to the Centre’s plans to build reservoirs on the river at Buxar in Bihar and some places in Uttar Pradesh in the course of the Allahabad-Haldia section of the National waterway.
“It is now confirmed by several experts that Farakka barrage has been the reason for flood water remaining in large parts of Bihar along the Ganga for much longer than earlier. The barrage has led to high deposit of silt, which has been led to flooding of more areas and for longer time,” said Kumar.
Kumar mounted a snide tirade on BJP leaders in Bihar who had claimed that there was no proposal under consideration to build any barrage between Varanasi and Farakka. “These people are citing unauthenticated documents from Inland Waterways Authority and misleading the debate… I have read the statement of Union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari about a barrage proposed at Buxar and in some places in UP as part of Inland Waterway I,” said Kumar.
“Ensuring uninterrupted flow of the Ganga, which belongs to the nation, is the most important task before us today. Experts gathered here should see for themselves the havoc caused in Bihar and parts of West Bengal due to Farakka barrage,” said Kumar.
Magsaysay-awardee conservationist Rajendra Singh, environmentalist and Chipko Movement leader Vandana Shiva, environmentalists Chandi Prasad Bhat and Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, and economists Bharat Junjhunwala and Jayant Bandopadhyay were notable among the experts who attended the seminar.
“Farakka barrage has certainly contributed to the worsening of the recurring flood situation in Bihar. There is a need for a larger debate in the country about the role of barrages,” said Rajendra Singh, who is known as “waterman”.