Flooded rivers put Tarai settlements at high risk of inundationThe Saptakoshi is gaining strength as it gushes through provinces 1 and 2, eroding embankments, flooding settlements and displacing people.
Chitranarayan Sah’s house is just about 500 metres from the Saptakoshi river in Daluwa, Saptari, and his paddy field runs parallel to the western embankment. Over the last week, it has been a routine for Sah, in his mid-40s, to go check out the water levels in the river.
“It feels like the river has become angrier in the last three days. I have not been able to sleep properly,” said Sah. “My house will be washed away if the river breaches the embankment.”
A steady rise in the water levels in Saptakoshi, the country’s biggest river, over the past few days has put several settlements near the riverbanks at high risk of floods and inundation. The flooded river has been constantly eroding its embankments in several places.
“There is a high possibility of the river breaching the embankment,” said Devnarayan Yadav, chairman of Koshi Victims Society, an organisation that works for those who fall victims to the flooding and inundation due to rivers, including Saptakoshi. “We have already noticed seepage in as many as 13 places along the embankment in Daluwa alone. Throughout last year, we urged the authorities to repair the embankment before the monsoons, but in vain.”
According to Yadav, around 100,000 people of Hanumannagar Kankalini Municipality, Rajbiraj Municipality and Tilathi Koiladi Rural Municipality in Saptari will be displaced in case the river breaches its embankment in Daluwa.
Gobargadha village in Ward 13 in Hanumannagar gets cut off from the rest of the district every monsoon. A dirt road that connects the village with the nearest marketplace faces severe damage by floodwaters during the rainy season.
This year too the dirt road has been submerged, cutting off the village yet again. Floodwaters from the Saptakoshi entered the settlement on Friday night.
“The authorities are scrambling to relocate around 200 villagers to safety,” said Shailesh Kumar Sah, the mayor.
According to Bindeshwari Yadav, chair of the Ward 13, around 5o of the 200 people have been moved to a local school building.
“The village is at risk of being surrounded by the swollen river on all sides in the next few days,” said Bindeshwari. “The village has been inundated with water level about two-foot deep.”
On Sunday, officials at the Saptakoshi barrage said water flow measured at 274,365 cusecs.
“On Friday, authorities opened 39 out of the 56 sluice gates of the barrage to reduce the water level,” said Inspector Santosh Khadka of Saptari District Police Office.
The rain-swollen Saptakoshi river has also been eroding the embankment in Shrilanka Tapu, located in Barahachhetra of Sunsari and Belaka of Udayapur.
“The flooded Saptakoshi river has been eroding its embankment near Chiliya settlement in Shrilanka Tapu. The river will enter the settlement if the water flow continues to increase,” said Badri Rai, a local.
According to him, the river is eroding its western embankment near Spur No 13.
“The river has already eroded around 25 metres of its embankment. Tapeshwori settlement in Belaka will be completely inundated if the river erodes another 300 metres of the embankment in the area,” he added.
The local authorities in Chiliya moved 15 families from the area to a safer location on Sunday, fearing possible floods.
According to Shyam Limbu, chairman of Ward 6 of Baharachhetra Municipality, the displaced people are taking shelter in their relatives’ houses.
The Saptakoshi river in the Chatara area changed its course to the western embankment last year following the construction of a pilot channel.
“A red flag signifying flood threat has been hoisted in Chatara and we have urged locals to remain alert,” said Mayor Nilam Khanal of Barahakshetra Municipality.
The Saptakoshi had breached its eastern embankment in 2008, causing a massive loss of lives and properties in the area.
Another river that wreaks havoc every monsoon in the Tarai is Lalbakaiya in Rautahat district.
Various settlements in Bajaraha in Gaur Municipality are at risk of floods and inundation due to the rain-swollen Lalbakaiya river, according to authorities.
“We have asked security personnel to stay standby for rescue and relief operations in case of a disaster,” said Basudev Ghimire, chief district officer of Rautahat. “Floodwaters have started entering the riverside settlements.”
In Sarlahi, too, floods in the Bagmati river have breached its recently-constructed embankment in Kharsalghat of Barhathawa Municipality.
“The floods damaged the embankment. The course of the river has now turned west, away from the settlements but if it changes its course again, it will put many settlements at risk,” said Ratna Bahadur Giri, chairman of Ward No. 1 of Barhathawa Municipality.
In the eastern district of Jhapa, around 700 people of 172 families have been displaced due to floods in different rivers since Saturday. Kankai, Mechi and Biring rivers as well as Paliya stream have been wreaking havoc in the district for the past few days.
According to the District Police Office in Jhapa, around 500 people have been displaced as more than 114 houses were inundated in Kumarkhod.
Similarly, 150 people in Jhiljhile, 14 in Jhoda, 42 in Siddhartha Tol and 46 in Shivasatakshi have been displaced by floodwaters in the last few days.
A man was swept away by the Biring river while another went missing in the Mechi river in the past two days, said police.
In Morang, 21 families have been displaced across Biratnagar, Urlabari, Kanepokhari and Miklajung due to floods triggered by heavy rainfall. Ten houses at Simrahi of Biratnagar Metropolis-12 have been inundated.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Man Bahadur Rai said the displaced families were shifted to Bakhari Basic School.
In Mahottari, various places of Jaleshwor, the district headquarters, and several settlements in Ekdara and Mahottari rural municipalities have been waterlogged as the floods in Ratu river entered the settlement on Sunday. Settlements in Matihani Municipality were also inundated due to the floods in Bigahi stream.
(Shiva Puri in Rautahat, Parwat Portel in Jhapa, Deo Narayan Sah in Morang, Sunita Baral in Mahottari and Om Prakash Thakur in Sarlahi contributed reporting.)