Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unquiet flows the Bagmati

The resolute perseverance with which Dinesh Kumar Mishra has chronicled major rivers, flowing through the flood plains of Bihar, during past three decades makes one realise if this civil engineer could have been anything but a ‘river biographer’. Meticulous with details, ranging from mythology to hydrology, the narrative weaves people as victims of hydrological madness. Multiple voices and divergent perspectives only testify what Voltaire had long said: ‘The progress of river to the ocean is not as rapid as that of man to error.’ The story of Bagmati is no different!

While the river has preserved its status of a free-flowing drain in Nepal, caging it between embankments has forced the river to roar occasionally in Bihar. Largely unnoticed, the embankments have breached no less than 58 times over last 35 years. Notable aspect of this rather familiar story across major river basins in the sub-continent is that ‘neither have lessons been learnt nor are there any intentions.’ Not surprising, therefore, that the narrative reflects author’s pain and anguish in equal measures.

Mishra’s relentless documentation on rivers may not have gone unnoticed but it has not been able to capture popular imagination as yet. Bereft of detailed prescription, the diagnostic narrative has seemingly remained restricted to researchers and academics. Being critical of structural development along river course and the consequences thereof, his books have remained on the periphery of political discourse on flood plain management. Like his previous biographies, River Bagmati may not be a game changer yet but has essential elements to challenge history.

One may well argue that the world is not at the tipping point for a change in managing our rivers yet. Should that be so, these river biographies have surely been written ahead of their times. However, the time is not far for the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario of (mis)managing the rivers to transform. It is then that wise, witty, patient, persistent and persuasive anthology by Dinesh Kumar Mishra will merit serious consideration....Link

River Bagmati: Bounties Become A Curse
by Dinesh Kumar Mishra 
PSI/SANDRP, Dehradun/Delhi
208 pages, Rs.595

1 comment:

  1. Now, they want to build embankments along the tributaries of Godavari flowing through Chatthisghar u/s of Polavaram dam to save cultivated lands and villages while drowning entire SABARI!
    Shakespearean puck looking at this hydrological folly would repeat his famous line "what fools these mortals be"! Einstein announced universal and eternal fact- "Only two things are infinite. One is the Universe and the other human stupidity". Our love for those great persons including Voltaire is so genuine, our living confirms their sayings. Udayashankar