Floods and drought

Published : Sep 29, 2001 00:00 IST

FLOODS and drought have stalked Bihar simultaneously in the past two months. With very little to fall back upon, people suffer in silence or migrate to other States in search of a livelihood.

The northern planes of the State are flooded by rivers flowing from the hilly regions of neighbouring Nepal, which received heavy rain. According to Agriculture Department officials, rainfall in 34 districts has been below the average this year. In Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga and Madhubani districts, the shortfall has been 20 to 35 per cent. But all these districts are reeling under floods, which have claimed 101 lives and damaged standing crops on one lakh hectares. The loss is estimated at over Rs.500 crores. Informed sources said over 60 lakh people in 16 districts had been affected.

After an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas, a Central government team said that the floods had caused "immense damage". The State government has sought over Rs.300 crores from the Centre for flood relief.

The situation worsened in the third week of September when the turbulent Burhi Gandak river breached its embankments in Samastipur district. Vast areas in the Bibhutipur block in the district are under water. Nearly 50 panchayats were affected in this area. Other northern Bihar districts, including Saran, East Champaran, West Champaran and Goplagunj, also faced the fury of the Gandak, the Burhi Gandak, the Adhwara Bagmati and the Kosi. In Gopalganj, Saran and West Champaran, the Army was pressed into service to provide relief. Three people were killed at Aurai in north Bihar on August 6, when the police opened fire on a group of people protesting against "irregularities" in the distribution of relief materials.

IN contrast, the spectre of drought looms large over the districts of Bhojpur, Rohtas, Gaya, Munger, Patna and Aurangabad in central Bihar where the rainfall has been 25 to 45 per cent below the average. The rains were delayed and scanty. The rainfall during June was 95.3 mm as compared to the normal of 178.3 mm; in July it was 156.5 mm, much below the normal of 316.6 mm. As a result, large tracts of land remain barren. Although the time for sowing the kharif crop is coming to an end, paddy saplings have not been planted in about half the cropped area in the State.

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