The August 2008 Kosi Afflux
Breach and Flood
The flooding that resulted from the Kosi Afflux
Breach in Nepal, in August 2008,approximately 12 kms upstream from the Bhimnagar Barrage, was unlike that of any flood thathas been associated with the Kosi in more than 60 years. It was unique because of the location of its epicenter and extent. For the first time, an earthen levee, located in Nepal breached, spillingwater into areas that have not experienced Kosi related floods in nearly 100 years. While theimmediate causes of the flood can be attributed to the failure of an engineered structure, theconsequences of the subsequent flood must be apportioned among the engineers, contractors,and politicians responsible for the construction, maintenance, and unrepentant commitment tothe use of earthen levees to affect flood control and protect the citizens of Bihar.
Since time immemorial, the rivers of northern Bihar, with their headwaters in Tibet andNepal, have routinely caused extensive flooding in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, and Bengal, oftenwith catastrophic consequences. More recently, the nature and scope of the flood patterns havechanged. They have become less frequent, even less predictable but more devastating. It is not achange in either the source of the flood waters or a change in the quantities – although there is variability due to weather and climatic changes in the rivers’ headwaters and catchments. Levees,cofferdams, embankments, or bunds, that have been built along many of the rivers of northernBihar are, first and foremost, the source and cause of these catastrophic floods.
The 2008 Floods – An Overview
The Kosi Floods of 2008 did not follow their normal pattern. First, breaches in the Kosiembankments typically occur within Bihar. The breach in the Kosi’s
, locally known as theEastern Afflux
or embankment, occurred well inside Nepal, approximately 12 kms north of the Bhimnagar Barrage, near the village of Kusaha.
This breach occurred on August 18th. Thefirst signs of the impending breach, however, were observed as early as August 5th. The breachoccurred within a portion of the cofferdam system supposedly controlled and supervised by theengineers of the Bihar government; and according to reports, these on-site representativesignored initial indications preceding the breach. Initially the breach was small but increased tonearly 400 meters during the first day, and just under 2 kilometers within two days.
J. Albert Rorabacher 24 February 2009
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