Politics in flood


When it comes to water resources, relations between India and Nepal have never been easy. This year, floods have been wreaking havoc in the region. Hundreds have been killed in Nepal and India and more than three million people have been displaced in north and north-eastern India.

More than 6,000 rivers and rivulets flow down to northern India from Nepal and they contribute around 70% of the flow of the Ganges river during the dry season.

So, when these rivers overflow, floodwaters devastate the plains of Nepal and India. In the last few years, there has been palpable anger on the Nepali side of the border in particular.

Nepal blames dyke-like structures along the border that it says block the floodwaters from flowing south into India.

The two countries have been holding meetings on the issue for years now but nothing much has changed. A meeting in May between Nepali and Indian water management officials acknowledged the "ongoing constriction of roads and other structures" along the border but said this should only be discussed through "diplomatic channels".

Nepali negotiators and diplomats have faced criticism in their country for not being able to raise the issue effectively with their Indian counterparts.

Many of Nepal's rivers flow though the Chure mountain range that has a fragile ecology and is already severely threatened. These hills once checked the flow of the rivers and minimised the damage they could cause, both in Nepal and across the border in India. But deforestation and mining have destabilised the hills.

A high-profile conservation campaign was launched a few years ago but it fizzled out and the plundering of natural resources has now reached alarming levels.

The region's ecology is crucial not just for the future of Nepal's plains, known as the country's breadbasket, but also for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Nepal faces criticism from India for failing to control deforestation and mining.

Now, as climate change makes the monsoon itself erratic, experts fear that the issues between the two neighbours could become far more complicated.

Politicians have been taking the flood to blame opposition and some elements are taking flood to fan nationalism. Officials are pursuing enhancement of rescue capability and capacity.

However, people need remedy and people need the protection from the flood. They don't want to see loss of life. For this, countries have to start talking on geography keeping aside the petty political issue.

Flood and rain do not have anything to do with politicians. Floods do not come to make a politician nationalist. This is neither an issue of India bashing nor Nepal bashing. Flood and rain have their geographical dynamics which has nothing to do with politics or political boundary. Flood and rain are part of the nature, the entire geography of the region existed with this reality. To minimize the effect, the experts need to sit together for minimizing the damage and human suffering.

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