Silt deposits at Kosi Barrage need to be cleared immediately: Engineers

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Kosi Barrage, Sept 5 : Engineers working at the Kosi Barrage in Nepal have said that the river would continue to change its course if heavy silt deposits are not removed.

A dam on the river in Nepal breached earlier this month causing the Kosi to change its course, swamping hundreds of villages in Bihar and destroying more than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of farmland.

Till date, the river has breached its embankment 8 times in a span of just 50 years and government officials as well as the engineers are being blamed for the catastrophe said to largely manmade.

Over the last 250 years, the river has shifted its course over 160 kilometres from east to west.

Engineers said that the river through its course collects marbles and other such materials that cause heavy silt deposits in the plains.

"If this silt is not removed, then the river bed will rise every year. The silt deposits will force the river to change its course also. It has changed its course. It will change again and go somewhere else," said Virendra Prasad, Engineer, Kosi Barrage.

Experts say that the annual load of 55 million tones of silt against embankments over the past 25 years is something that no embankment can take and clearing the silt deposits is very important.

Kosi Barrage and embankments were constructed in 1964 under the Indo-Nepal 1954 Kosi Treaty as part of the solution to tame the river and their upkeep has been the responsibility of Indian engineers.

Residents say that they have never seen any clearing of the silt-taking place ever since the Barrage has been built.

"Ever since this kosi Barrage has been made, till date they haven't removed the silt. It makes a hillock. The water hits the nose of the dam and that has resulted in breaking the dam," said Shambu Kumar, a resident.

Nepalese Government has not been happy with the Treaty saying that its areas have not benefited fully from it, while India alleges that its engineers have not been allowed to work freely. Negotiations between the two governments over the issue have not been fruitful.

The Kosi is a tributary of the Ganges and travels through the upper mountainous regions in Nepal before meeting the plains of Bihar. Given the crystalline nature of the rock and its young morphology, it carries large quantities of silt and other matter, which is not alluvial and is infertile, over the steep gradient and is deposited in the plains of Bihar.

Its large deposits of silt and the steep gradient forces the river to meander along unpredictable paths thus earning for itself the name of being the 'River of Sorrow' in Bihar.

Experts say New Delhi and Kathmandu will have to jointly workout measures to tame the Kosi, one of the most instable and turbulent rivers in the world, to end Bihar's perennial misery.

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