Translating Koshi Basin Programme research into actionable policies

Professor DM Diwakar, former director of ANSISS, presents key findings from the field survey.

Discussions on the preliminary findings of a recent socio-economic survey conducted on 1,600 households in 11 districts around the Koshi embankments were held at a workshop in Patna, Bihar on 26 September. The embankments were built in the 1950s to retain the Koshi River during flooding. 

The workshop was organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies (ANSISS). Over 100 participants attended the workshop. Participants included representatives from ANSISS, ICIMOD, and the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), as well as state-level policymakers and implementers, civil society, and the media. 

Beginning in 2013, ICIMOD’s Koshi Basin Programme partnered with the ANSISS to understand the relationship between issues in water management and agriculture, food security, and livelihoods in the Bihar part of the Koshi basin. Every year, communities and local governments in the region face a variety of water-related issues, including flooding and droughts. The research, now in its third year, analyses how national, state, and local-level development planning and policies are working to reduce vulnerabilities of these hazards.

The survey found that water-logged areas increased after the introduction of the embankment, and which affected agricultural production and other livelihood factors. Indicators suggest that communities within the embankments faired worse than those on the outside, as they remain relatively protected. The survey also found that water-logged areas had high levels of seasonal migration due to difficulties in sustaining a livelihood locally. Results showed that 90 percent of households in the area were classified as marginal land holders, and 93 percent of households existed hand-to-mouth. 

Policymakers at the workshop took interest in the preliminary results from the survey, and plan to incorporate findings into future agricultural-related policy. The results suggested that local governments should work to create location-specific strategies – such as the promotion of drought-resistant crops in some areas and fisheries in others – which may help to ease levels of seasonal migration. 

Shri Viyas Jee, a representative from Bihar’s Disaster Management Department, noted that the department had recently drafted a 15-year disaster risk reduction (DRR) roadmap for Bihar, and it would be beneficial to include ICIMOD and ANSISS’ research in the plan. Based on the programme’s recent work, ICIMOD sent suggestions for the roadmap at the beginning of October, including bolstering upstream/downstream cooperation around disaster concerns, creating a common data-sharing platform, and strengthening research on hydrological dynamics in the basin. 

The workshop paved the way for further research, which ICIMOD and ANSISS hope will continue to aid policymakers and implementers translate research into actionable policy in the future.