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 multi-pronged 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.
Indian Dams Causing Death & Destruction Through Floods
By Prabasi Nepali