Indian Dams Caus­ing Death & De­struc­tion Through Floods

People's Review - - LEADER - BY PRABASI NEPALI

Indian Dams & Em­bank­ments Caus­ing Death & De­struc­tion through Floods India's Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi called Prime Min­is­ter Sher Ba­hadur Deuba last Fri­day and ex­pressed deep grief over the loss of life and prop­erty due to re­cent floods and land­slides. Modi also pledged to pro­vide Rs 250 mil­lion as­sis­tance for flood vic­tims. Modi also tweeted: “India stands shoul­der to shoul­der with the peo­ple of Nepal & is ready to pro­vide all pos­si­ble re­lief as­sis­tance.” How­ever, the fact of the mat­ter is that such help and as­sis­tance is mean­ing­less if the root cause of the prob­lem is not con­fronted, and that prob­lem is India it­self. Ev­ery mon­soon sea­son, the peo­ple of the en­tire Tarai re­gion from east to west are tor­mented by the flood wa­ters di­verted from bar­rages, dams and em­bank­ments con­structed by India. Ac­cord­ing to Ja­gadish Ba­hadur Singh, a spokesman of the “Lax­man­pur Dam Vic­tims Strug­gle Com­mit­tee” (Banke District): “The Indian gov­ern­ment has con­structed dams and em­bank­ments near the Nepal-India bor­der in con­tra­ven­tion of in­ter­na­tional law, cit­ing se­cu­rity and pro­tec­tion of its own land for do­ing so. This has been a huge dis­as­ter for Nepal as we face floods and in­un­da­tion ev­ery mon­soon… We Nepalis are help­less as our gov­ern­ment has re­mained a mute spec­ta­tor” [quoted in Repub­lica, Au­gust 17, 2017]. Thus, Banke district has been se­verely af­fected by the Lax­man­pur dam and the Kal­ka­lawa em­bank­ment. Around 2,500 bigha of land have been de­stroyed so far while about 4,000 bigha of arable land has lost fer­til­ity. How­ever, the Banke dam is not the only struc­ture caus­ing se­vere flood­ing in Nepal. India has con­structed about 18 [!] dams and em­bank­ments along Nepal's south­ern bor­der. Ac­cord­ing to bor­der/river ex­pert Bud­dhi Narayan Shrestha, India plans to di­vert 37 ma­jor rivers into smaller ones through 30 long canals. Fur­ther­more, “India di­verts rivers from Nepal through big dams to­wards these canals. It has ob­structed the nat­u­ral flow of rivers, caus­ing huge dis­as­ter ev­ery mon­soon.” In a heinous man­ner, Indian au­thor­i­ties refuse to open the flood gates of the dams to ease the in­un­da­tion on the Nepalese side and which re­sults in havoc. Flood­ing has also se­verely dam­aged 135 ma­jor ir­ri­ga­tion projects in the coun­try. These in­clude 15 ma­jor ir­ri­ga­tion projects such as the Bag­mati Ir­ri­ga­tion Project, Narayani Ir­ri­ga­tion Sys­tem and Nepal Gan­dak West Canal, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Ir­ri­ga­tion. The min­istry's pre­lim­i­nary dam­age as­sess­ment puts the to­tal loss at Rs. 2.42 bil­lion. Ex­perts and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have also blamed the hap­haz­ard and whole scale ex­ploita­tion of the Chure Hills in the south for the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of the mon­soon-in­duced havoc in the Tarai. Ac­cord­ing to the Chure Hills ex­pert, Binod Bhatta, the en­tire Chure range is un­der threat due to un­con­trolled min­ing of sand, gravel and lime­stone, stone quar­ry­ing and in­dis­crim­i­nate con­struc­tion of phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­tures like dams and em­bank­ments. Bhatta also pointed out that sev­eral other fac­tors in­clud­ing cli­mate change and sys­tem­atic de­for­esta­tion have cre­ated such man-made prob­lems. It is now high noon that the gov­ern­ment ap­points a spe­cial panel to for­mu­late and ex­e­cute a mul­ti­pronged strat­egy to pre­vent such land­slides and floods. A start can be made by Deuba to ap­praise Modi with the prob­lems of Indian dams and em­bank­ments. In the com­ing pro­vin­cial and na­tional elec­tions, the present gov­ern­ment will have to an­swer for its (mis) deeds. War Games in the Korean Penin­sula The United States and South Korea have started their an­nual joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises this Mon­day, called the “Ulchi Free­dom Guardian” which will last un­til Au­gust 31. These have a his­tory go­ing back to the 1970s. This year these will in­volve 17,500 Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers and 50,000 South Korean sol­diers. Last year about 25,000 U.S. troops par­tic­i­pated. An of­fi­cial from US Forces Korea clar­i­fied that the num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing Amer­i­can troops can marginally change de­pend­ing on how train­ing events are de­signed and that the lower num­ber this year doesn't rep­re­sent an ef­fort to down­grade the drills. They con­sist mainly of com­puter sim­u­la­tions aimed at hon­ing joint-de­ci­sion mak­ing and im­prov­ing com­mand op­er­a­tions. The two coun­tries also hold larger war games in the spring, called “Key Re­solve” and “Foal Ea­gle”, which in­volve live-fire ex­er­cises and train­ing with tanks, air­craft and war­ships. This year's war games have the po­ten­tial to pro­voke North Korea more than ever, given Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's “fire and fury” threats and Py­ongyang's own warn­ing ear­lier this month to launch in­ter­me­di­ate range bal­lis­tic mis­siles (IRBMs) close to US ter­ri­tory of the is­land of Guam, a ma­jor mil­i­tary base in its own right. The North suc­cess­fully flight-tested two longer range in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBMs) only in July, and these are fully ca­pa­ble of tar­get­ing the con­ti­nen­tal United States – cities in both the western and eastern coastal ar­eas. North Korea has al­ways been very ner­vous about the US-South Korean war games, and the world in gen­eral waits with bated breath. China and Rus­sia had pleaded for a can­cel­la­tion of this year's mil­i­tary ex­er­cises or hav­ing them dras­ti­cally mod­i­fied in or­der to ease the mount­ing ten­sions in the Korean Penin­sula, and then to pro­mote mul­ti­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions with the aim of ‘freez­ing' North Korea's nu­clear and mis­sile weaponry, but both Py­ongyang and the US re­jected this plan. Now the ma­jor ques­tion is whether the al­lies will keep the war games low-key or fo­cus on pro­ject­ing strength, and what, if any, will be North Korea's re­ac­tion. There is some spec­u­la­tion that the al­lies might try to keep this year's drills re­strained by not dis­patch­ing long-range bombers and other US strate­gic as­sets to the re­gion. How­ever, that pos­si­bil­ity raises con­cerns that this would send the wrong mes­sage to both North Korea and the South – as a sign of weak­ness and wa­ver­ing re­solve. In ad­di­tion, there are fears in the South that the North's ad­vanc­ing nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties may even­tu­ally un­der­mine the decades-long al­liance with the United States. Cheon Seong Whun, the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to for­mer con­ser­va­tive South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye said un­mis­tak­enly: “If any­thing, the joint ex­er­cises must be strength­ened.” Cheon and oth­ers think that the North may very well use the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises as an ex­cuse to con­duct an­other ICBM test or even act on its warn­ing to launch mis­siles into the wa­ters around Guam. He said fur­ther: “North Korea is prob­a­bly look­ing at all the cards it has to max­i­mize pres­sure against the United States, and the drills pro­vide a good op­por­tu­nity to do it.” How­ever, an­other se­nior an­a­lyst, Moon Seong Mook, a for­mer South Korean mil­i­tary of­fi­cer and cur­rently at the Seoul-based “Korea Re­search In­sti­tute for Na­tional Strat­egy” is of the opinion that the North “will prob­a­bly take a wait-and-see ap­proach to ac­cess the im­pact of stronger pres­sure from the United States and China and maybe even seek an op­por­tu­nity for talks, rather than quickly move for­ward for an­other test.” Other ex­perts sup­port this view and say that North Korea is mainly fo­cused on the big­ger pic­ture of test­ing its bar­gain­ing power against the US with its new long-range mis­siles and likely has no in­ter­est in let­ting the tense at­mos­phere es­ca­late dur­ing the ex­er­cises. If this nar­ra­tive works out, the re­gion and the world can ex­pect the usual pro­pa­ganda bel­liger­ence in state me­dia and/or low-level provo­ca­tions like ar­tillery and short-range mis­sile drills. On the eve of the ‘war games', North Korea said the US was “pour­ing gaso­line on fire.” In a com­men­tary car­ried by the of­fi­cial “Rodong Sin­mun” news­pa­per, the North warned of an “un­con­trol­lable phase of a nu­clear war” on the penin­sula. Wash­ing­ton was “mis­taken” to think that such a war would take place on “some­body's else's doorstep far away from them across the Pa­cific,” it added.

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