Five years on, Kosi flood probe yet to submit report



Five years after a one-man commission was set up in September 2008 to probe the cause of an embankment breach in the Kosi river that triggered the worst floods in Bihar in 50 years, killing at least 250 and rendering nearly three million people homeless, it is yet to submit its report. The state says there is little it can do about this.

It has already spent over Rs.1 crore of public money till date on the one-man inquiry commission headed by Justice Rajesh Walia, a retired chief justice of the Patna High Court, an official said.

The victims are hoping the commission's report, when it comes, will bring them justice. Hundreds of them are still fighting for survival as thousands of acres of cultivable land flooded in the Kosi region is still covered with sand.

The government has expressed its helplessness. "The government cannot put pressure on the commission to submit its report," Disaster Management Minister Renu Kumari told IANS.

On Aug 18, 2008, the Kusaha embankment near the India-Nepal border on the Kosi river was breached, flooding five districts of northern Bihar. More than 300,000 houses were destroyed and at least 840,000 acres of crops were damaged.

The state government appointed the Walia commission after the opposition said the cause of the breach should be probed.

"It is strange that the commission, which was expected to submit its report in six months, has delayed it by five years. Even now, it is not certain when the commission will finally submit its report," Mahender Yadav, national convener of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), told IANS.

Yadav said he failed to understand why the commission was not submitting its report as the final public hearing was completed a month ago.

An official said the panel was asked to examine all aspects related to the efforts to maintain the utility of the Kosi project since its inception in 1953, particularly after a major heavy landslide in 1979 pushed the Kosi towards its eastern bund and a breach in 1991.

Besides, the panel is also expected to suggest remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of such a catastrophe.- IANS