North Bihar Plains

Floods are generally considered damaging but this story is one where the farmers of Bihar willingly invited a flood to bless their fields!

Bihar is no stranger to floods. The high-volume, high-velocity floods caused by large infrastructure projects regularly disrupt lives and decimate entire villages. This is the oft-repeated narrative, one of a helpless population as victims.

A little less well known is the other story- the one where Biharis manage their landscape and their rivers to provide them with a successful harvest. One such instance is that of the artificial flood created in the Sugerbe river by the people of Laksena village in Madhubani to protect their harvest from the effects of drought.

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Flooded rivers may be a problem in Bihar, but diverting them is not a solution; neither is building embankments. Example: Sitamarhi.

The twin sisters:  Bihar is a land of fertile farms bearing sugarcane, wheat, rice, gram and pulses. Interspersed between the fields are venerable mango groves. Of Bihar's children, perhaps none is as universally loved as Sita. The village that she was born in -Sitamarhi- welcomed another daughter along with Sita. This was the Lakhandei, a river that flowed through the town till a few decades ago and is revered as Sita's sister.

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The Bhutahi Balan, a tributary of the Kosi may be a small river but it has caused immense devastation. Dinesh Mishra says that embankments aren't the answer to this problem.

It's been years since Bhutahi Balan, a small tributary of the Kosi river in Madhubani, North Bihar, has been causing devastation on both its banks. Dinesh Mishra in his book 'Story of a ghost river and engineering witchcraft' objectively analyses the failure of embankments, which are raised banks to contain the river's flooding.

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Eco-sanitation, or compost toilets have helped achieve nearly 100% sanitation in Rupauliya, a small village in Bihar.

When Panchamlal Mahto was a toddler, he would frequently squat and poop as the urge took him irrespective of where he was. His mother would take a handful of ash and sprinkle it over the 'gift'. The ash would absorb the liquid, enabling the whole mess to be easily swept away. Back then, Vinita was still not born. By the time she made her appearance into this world a little over two decades ago, Panchamlal was a middle-aged staid householder.

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Nature's abundance vanishes; the once amply resourced Bihar tackles the rapid depletion, the emerging water scarcity and quality.

This presentation  highlights the grave water situation in Bihar in the context of the emerging water quality and quantity issues that the world and especially developing countries will be facing in the near future.

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Nagasubramanian works for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), a non-denominational, non-government development organization working in Gujarat since 1984. AKRSP (India) works as a catalyst for the betterment of rural communities by providing direct support to local communities to enhance their livelihood and develop models for sustainable natural resource management and human resource development. Its operations in Bihar were started in mid-2008 and in this narration; Nagasubramanian shares his experience of promoting System of Rice Intensification (SRI) among the farmers in Bihar during the initial phase.

Article and Image courtesy: BodhiCommons

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North Bihar has the distinction of having an additional season in a calendar year, clearly identified by the misery, destruction and fatality accompanying it.

This season in the region is commonly referred to as – Barh (flood). For centuries local people have treated it as ‘a way of life’, and found ways to deal with it. Post independence, this ‘way of life’ gradually transformed into an assured annual devastation. The once self-sufficient communities in the flood plains have been relegated to being highly dependent on sources external to the village for their survival during floods.

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India is the largest user of groundwater resources in the world. It is estimated that approximately 230 cubic kilometers per year is used annually, this is more than a quarter of the total world consumption from this resource. It is in this context that this World Bank report looks at the reasons for this quantum of groundwater usage

India is the largest user of groundwater resources in the world. It is estimated that approximately 230 cubic kilometers per year is used annually, this is more than a quarter of the total world consumption from this resource.

It is in this context that this World Bank report looks at the reasons for this quantum of groundwater usage.

The report delves into socio-economic and political reasons and looks at policies which inadvertently promote so much extraction. The report also analyses various attempts to manage this resource. These attempts range from government and international agency efforts directed to grassroots mobilisations. Finally the report comes out with suggestions to deal with this crisis.

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Access to water is central to livelihoods. Expansion in agricultural use of water is rapidly altering the availability of the resource calling in for water productivity in agricultural systems

The paper by Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) attempts to assess and improve water productivity in conservation agriculture systems in the Indus-Gangetic basin, in which during the past 40 years an intricate mosaic of interactions between man & nature, poverty & prosperity and problems & possibilities has emerged. Rapid expansion in agricultural water use is a common theme across these interactions and access to water is central to the livelihoods of the rural poor.

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A situation analysis of water, agriculture and poverty in the Indo-Gangetic basin

The paper by the Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) - Basin Focal Project provides a brief situation analysis related to water, agriculture & poverty, water resources, water productivity, institutional aspects and opportunities & risks related to the development of the Indo-Gangetic basin (IGB). Management of IGB water resources presents some formidable challenges and, therefore, steps must be taken towards integrated management of the IGB’s water and land resources in order to ensure the future sustainability of all production and ecosystems in the basin. 

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