KATHMANDU, July 27: Amid calls from lawmakers to raise the issue of floods and inundation in the Tarai diplomatically with the Indian side, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has said that the issues of floods caused due to the illegal structures built by India would be an important agenda for discussion during the upcoming Joint Commission meeting.
Addressing an interaction on “Barrage in Nepal-India border, inundation and way forward” organized by Nepal Forum of Environment Journalists (NEFEJ) in the capital on Friday, Foreign Minister Gyawali said Nepal wants to see the problem of flood and inundation resolved permanently in such a way that it is in the interest of the people living on both sides of the Nepal-India border.
“This issue will be raised during the upcoming Joint Commission meeting. We have seen problems faced by people living on the other side of the border as well. This problem will be resolved keeping in view the best interest of the people living on both sides of the border,” the foreign minister said.
The remarks of Foreign Minister Gyawali come amid an increasing number of lawmakers calling on the government to seek diplomatic solution to the flood and inundation caused by the embankments built by India along the border. Nepal has been asking the Indian side to hold a meeting of the Joint Commission, which is an institutional mechanism between the two countries to review all bilateral issues, at the earliest possible.
While stating that India has always appreciated genuine issues raised by the Nepali side, Minister Gyawali said the problem of flood and inundation needs to be resolved diplomatically. “It is necessary to keep the issue of floods and inundation above partisan politics at home and as a common problem of both Nepal and India. Whether we are able to view this problem from that lens is important,” he said.
Minister Gyawali was of the opinion that a resolution of this problem caused due to illegal structures built along the border could help to further strengthen people to people relations between the two countries. While stressing the need to ensure the natural flow of the rivers and rivulets, Gyawali also said that it is high time both Nepal and India worked together to ensure multi-purpose use of water for the benefit of people of both countries.
Amid concerns from Nepal that the illegally built structures along the border had caused flood and inundation on the Nepali side of the border in Tarai districts, Nepal and India had agreed to form a Joint Inspection Team, which inspected all such structures along the border last year. The Indian side, after the inspection, has acknowledged that the faulty design of the embankment built along the border had caused the problem, according to Nepali government officials.
During the program, Deputy Director General of the Department of Irrigation, Pradip Thapa had shared the findings of the Joint Inspection Team about the flood and inundation caused every year due to the illegally built structures along the border by the Indian side.
Speaking on the occasion, former Nepali ambassador to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay said since the failure to properly manage water could bring disasters every year in both Nepal and India, it is important for the leaders of both countries to have a new thinking. He also said that the unilateral move by the Indian side to build illegal structures along the border had impeded the natural flow of water during the rainy season every year.
“They [Indian side] have already done what they were not supposed to do without Nepal's consent. Since those structures have already been erected, it is time to think what is next for this problem. We need to think what can be done to find a sustainable solution to the problem. India can also positively see our problem if we put forth our case with evidences,” said Upadhyaya.
Former Water Resource and Energy Minister Dipak Gyawali argued that the illegally built structures by the Indian authorities along the border have caused flood and inundation not only on the Nepali side of the border, but also on the Indian side of the border. Arguing that such structures had impeded the natural flow of water during the rainy season, he said it is in the interest of both India and Nepal to dismantle the structures that impede the natural flow of water so that large areas of land do not remain waterlogged for weeks.
Gyawali also argued that the embankment built along major rivers in Tarai districts had not helped control floods, but had aggravated the problem instead. He maintained that embankments cause the waterlogging problem in large areas of land as this obstructs the natural flow of water from inundated parts to the rivers even as rivers are at lower elevation.