The repair work of embankments along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar has been adversely affected as barricades put up by the neighbouring nation is hindering personnel from crossing over to complete work, Water Resources Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha said on Monday.
Barricades were put up along the border by both sides during the COVID-19 lockdown period, he said.
"We have learnt that many parts of Nepal are still under lockdown. However, we are not sure why exactly they have suddenly raised problems about our repair works which have been going on for long," the minister said.
Mr Jha, who is a close aide of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, expressed bafflement over the "unprecedented" development.
"The Gandak Barrage has altogether 36 gates, half of which fall on our side. Repair of these has been completed by our engineers and their helpers. However, when they tried to cross over to the other side for doing the needful for the remaining 18 gates, maintenance of which is carried out by us, they found the barricades," the Bihar water resources minister told PTI.
Mr Jha asserted that there is "no immediate danger" to the flood-prone districts of Bihar because of this development.
However, it is essential that the work is completed for all 36 gates, as the state is situated downstream and could be adversely affected if the embankments are breached because of heavy water-logging in catchment areas in Nepal, he said.
"I am going to write a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seeking its intervention in the matter. Access is also being denied to a 500-metre-long stretch on an embankment on the Lal Bakeya river. Nepalese authorities are contending that it falls in a no man's land. But the mud structure has been around for three decades," Mr Jha said.
The minister said officials from Bihar are also being prevented from completing repair work on an embankment on the Kamla river.
"All these hiccups may not cause a problem immediately. But vulnerability to floods will remain in place for four months. If this situation persists, the state may have to suffer," Mr Jha said.
He also said that "our district magistrates concerned are in talks with authorities in Nepal and are trying to reason out with them so that the impasse is resolved amicably". "Nonetheless, updates about the embankments on the border are being regularly shared with the MEA and the Jal Shakti ministry," the minister said.
The development comes at a time when relations appear to have been soured between India and Nepal in the wake of a dispute over areas along the border falling in the hill state of Uttarakhand.
Recently, the Indian ambassador to Nepal was summoned and served with a note in protest against construction of a road that would connect the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula town in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district.
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