Koshi Barrage is a popular hangout for travelers, both Nepalis and neighboring Indians from Bihar
Every monsoon, the Koshi Barrage comes into the national limelight for the rising water level and possible alertness and danger associated with it. With 56 gates to regulate water, the 1150-metre-long and 10-metre-wide Barrage connecting Sunsari of State-1 and Saptari of State-2, has an interesting story before its construction in 1959 and operation in 1962.
As the biggest river of Nepal and its character as a transnational glacier-fed river, Koshi is an interesting topic to both Nepal and India. Koshi Barrage is also an integral part of the holy river for Hindus.
Here are some nine facts about the Koshi Barrage of Nepal.
1. One of the four major ideas to control floods in Bihar of India
Koshi is known as the 'sorrow of Bihar' as flood invites devastation in the Indian state. The barrage is a product of multiple ideas to control monsoon floods in India's Bihar State. Along with construction of the embankment, digging of canals at Nepal and Bihar and construction of a hydropower project of 12 thousand kilowatts, the Indian side conceptualized Koshi Barrage at Bhimnagar of Nepal to control floods at Bihar.
According to a Documentary titled 'Kosi' directed by Mahesh Chunawala, Central Water and Power Commission of India made a six-year-long study and approved these four ideas to 'tame' Koshi. Koshi taming was also a result of the 1953 devastating flood in Bihar.
The then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru visited the affected areas and promised to float a 'Koshi Scheme' to embank nearby 150 kilometres of the river from near the base of the Himalayas in Nepal to connect its confluence with the Ganges in Bihar, an article co-authored by Peter Gill and Bhola Paswan in the thethirdpole.net states.
A year later Nepal and India inked Koshi Agreement on 25 April 1954.
2. South Asia's biggest river project at that time
Koshi Barrage was the biggest water project at the time of its construction, stated a journal article titled 'The Bihar Flood Story' written by Dinesh Kumar Mishra, an Indian engineer, in the Economic and Political Weekly in 1997.
Mishra said technicians were taken to visit Mississippi of USA and Yellow River of China to make observations of similar projects as such projects were not found in South Asia.
3. Jointly inaugurated on 30 April 1959
The then King Mahendra and independent India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid Koshi Barrage's foundation. At the formal function, thousands of people were present at Bhimnagar, the construction site of the project.
4. One million plus people involved at the construction site
The mega project was on a mega scale in terms of human resources also. Based on the 10:36-minute-long 'Kosi' documentary, 1 million and 20 thousand people were involved at the project site. The documentary said the estimated cost of the project was 500 million Indian Rupees.
5. Use of ropeways and trams
In order to ferry a large quantity of stones and rocks, ropeways and trams were used. A tram from Dharan to Bhimnagar and ropeway from Fusre to the Railway of Dharan were operated to transfer boulders. Railway Chowk of Dharan was coined after the use of tram in the area. No trams and ropeways are found these days. However, the first use of trams and ropeway.
6. Two different agreements of Koshi
In order to manage Koshi and construct Koshi Barrage, the Koshi Agreement was first made on 25 April 1954. However, in order to amend it, another agreement was made on 19 December 1966. It was signed during the premiership of Matrika Prasad Koirala. Based on this agreement, some new provisions including a 199-year-long lease to India was inked.
7. Outlived its lifespan
There is no exact date of the expiration of Koshi Barrage in the public domain. Based on Indian media reports, Koshi Barrage has outlived its stipulated lifespan. However, the Indian media have varied dates of the barrage's expiry date. For example, in a report published in the Financial Express, it is said the lifespan of the Koshi Barrage is 27 years. But, another report published by The Times of India said the lifespan of the Koshi Barrage is 30 years. Whatever the reports, the 58-year-old Koshi Barrage has outlived its lifespan.
8. It can withstand the destructive and large silt-carrying river Koshi
Some researchers say the Koshi River has shifted 115 kilometres west in the last 200 years. Likewise, the erosion rate of Koshi is also high. According to a journal article penned jointly by authors trio- K.R. Kafle, S.N. Khanal and R.K. Dahal for the Kathmandu University's Journal of Science, Engineering and Technology, which was published on August 2015, erosion rate of Koshi at Barahakshetra area is 169 ton/ha/yr. On August 2008, there was embankment breach at Kusaha of Sunsari causing heavy floods to southern Sunsari of Nepal and northern Bihar at a time when the water volume was just around 148,322 cusecs. The volume of Koshi waters during monsoon goes 5 to 10 times higher than during the dry-season, says reports.
9. A hub, highway and hangout
Koshi Barrage is not limited to flood regulation. It is also a hub on the national highway and a popular hangout. The East West highway passes through this barrage. Despite the construction of New Koshi Bridge located 52-kilometres upstream, the barrage is still a busy section of vehicular movement of the East-West Highway.
Besides its importance as part of Nepal's national highway, Koshi Barrage is a popular hangout for travelers, both Nepalis and neighboring Indians from Bihar. Daily, dozens of people frequent this place to click pictures, make videos and have fun, with the local fish enjoyed at nearby eateries around the barrage area.