Strengthening the Institutional Framework for Flood and Water Resources Management in Bihar: Developing a Strategy for Reform (Phase 1)

For centuries, great civilizations of the world have been humbled by the devastation of floods. Floods, ever unpredictable in the magnitude of their impacts and frequency, are a recurring phenomenon throughout the globe. Often the very factors that determine the rise and fall of nations are closely tiedto the abundance or scarcity of water. Analysis of global data sets also reveals a statistically significant relationship between greater rainfall variability and lower per capita GDP. The civilizations of Asia are no exception as the rivers of the greater Himalayas are the most flood-prone of all. Floods, therefore, are a devastating fact of life in much of South Asia. In India, floods tend to wreak havoc on a recurring basis, particularly in the state of Bihar. Bihar is one of the five most flood prone states in India. Floods in Bihar result in significant human and financial losses for the state on an annual basis. This also has a direct economic impact as recovering from flood losses takes a toll both on individual households and state agencies. Therefore, the management of floods in Bihar is an area of priority for the state government. Although this topic has been researched and discussed in the context of Bihar for many decades the study, Strengthening the Institutional Framework for Flood and Water Resources Management in Bihar: Developing a Strategy for Reform, was designed to investigate an area of flood management in Bihar that has been relatively under studied; the institutional management of floods. Though many scholars have pointed out that institutional dysfunction and governance deficits are the source of major flood disasters in Bihar such as the Kosi floods of 2008, an investigative study on the performance of key institutions that are engaged in flood management activities in the state has rarely been conducted. Thus policy makers in the Government of Bihar have limited understanding about the types of institutional challenges that are undermining the ability of Bihar to cope with annual floods and which policy measures need to be adopted to address them. Therefore, this study attempts to address this gap by investigating the institutional challenges hindering optimal performance and aims to identify priority areas of reform for improving the management of floods in Bihar. This project aims to shape policies related to the institutional framework of flood and water resources in the state of Bihar. Based on the analysis and recommendations made, we aim to reduce the adverse impacts of these events on the population, businesses and industries located in flood-prone areas within the state, thus potentially making a significant contribution to the overall sustainability and growth of the state’s economy. Allied to this, the project aims to influence development and investment programs by the Government of Bihar and international and bilateral funding agencies in the flood and water resources management sectors.

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