India’s road project raises flood concerns in NepalNepali officials say several villages in the Tarai at risk of inundation
Kamal Dev Bhattarai
Just as several parts of the country are facing flooding after heavy rainfall in the past few days, concerns are growing across the Tarai regions, as many villages on the Nepali side are staring at flood risk, largely due to roads built by India along the border.
Nepali authorities have expressed their serious concern about possible inundation in several Tarai regions.
According to Nepali officials, several parts of Banke, Bardiya, Mahottari, Kapilvastu and Kanchanpur have become vulnerable to floods with the start of rainy season due to roads constructed on the Indian side.
India is rapidly constructing roads running parallel to the 1,751-kilometre Nepal-India border.
Southern parts of Kapilvastu and Bardiya districts endured huge floods during monsoon last year.
Spokesperson at Ministry of Home Affairs Yadav Prasad Koirala said Nepal is collecting details of vulnerable areas through chief district officers. “The more roads India constructs along the border, the more vulnerable Nepali territory will become to floods,” said Koirala, adding that there is an urgent need of bilateral meeting to discuss the issue.
The Nepali side had raised the issue also during the Joint Technical Committee meeting that was held in May. The Nepali side has repeatedly asked India to stop road construction, Nepali officials said. An official at the India’s Ministry of External Affairs, who declined to be named, said New Delhi is ready for a joint inspection of border areas to find a solution to the flood crisis.
“The Nepali side indeed has repeatedly raised the issue with Indian officials, but no substantial progress has been made so far,” he said.
Earlier, India had sought specifics from Nepal as to which areas have become vulnerable due to road construction and which parts were facing inundation. Nepal government though had agreed to provide the details, it is yet to do so. India also has agreed to provide the details of its road construction project along the Nepal-India border.
“But none of the sides has worked on the issue so far,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
Nepal has been saying that India must ensure adequate drainage works with a proper design while constructing roads. The Indian side, however, is of the view that cross-drainage systems and culverts have been put in place in sufficient numbers along the alignment of every road. India has also said that it is ready to resolve the issue and that it does not intend to cause flooding on the Nepal side. “We are ready to conduct a joint investigation of the sites whenever Nepal proposes,” said a senior official from the Indian government. Nepali officials say since many rivers flow from Nepal to India, the Indian road project could obstruct the natural flow of these rivers, causing floods on the Nepali side.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 had directed government agencies to speed up road construction along the Nepal-India border in order to facilitate trade and movement. However, Nepali officials say even the no-man’s-land has been encroached upon in several locations. “Raising the issue at bilateral talks will not be sufficient; diplomatic efforts at the highest level must be initiated,” they said.