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The Kosi Disaster: Millions Flooded Out

683 words - 3 pages

The Kosi Disaster: Millions Flooded Out
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Photo: Chandan,
Photo: Chandan,
Just as Hurricane Katrina caused levees in the Mississippi Delta to breach in August 2005, flooding large parts of New Orleans, this year's monsoon has breached embankments on the powerful Kosi River, flooding out three million people and killing at least 2,000 in Bihar, India and in eastern Nepal. After breaching its embankments on August 18, the Kosi took a path it had abandoned 200 years ago, 100 km from its channeled course, drowning hundreds of villages and fields in its way.
Experts note that this year's monsoon was not especially ...view middle of the document...

The floods from the Kosi embankment failures were more powerful than floods caused by unconstrained rivers, because the embankments have increased the speed and power of the river's flow.

The Kosi River disaster is unfortunately not an isolated incident. Says Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People: "Over the years, India has seen its flood damages increase, at the same time that the total area supposedly protected by flood-control engineering projects has grown. It is noteworthy that most these high flood events occurred after the flood control projects were in place."
Better ways to deal with floods
The breaching of embankments and dams cause extremely destructive floods because they usually happen without warning and create fast-moving flood waves. In contrast, "soft-path" flood risk management emphasizes preparedness over "flood protection" engineering of rivers, and seeks to reduce damage from any size of flood. Flood risk management assumes that floods will happen and that we need to learn to live with them as best we can, reducing their speed, size and duration where possible and doing our best to protect...

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