This story was originally published in April 2011.
Dhiraj Singh documents the havoc caused by one of the most disastrous floods in the history of the state of Bihar, through the travails of one of the victims—Rubi Devi.
River Kosi, a transboundary river that flows through Nepal and India, changed its course in mid-August 2008 and flowed across three new districts in the state of Bihar. This change, of course, resulted in a disastrous flood, affecting as many as 30 million people.
One victim of the flood was 22-year-old, eight-months pregnant Rubi Devi. She was marooned in her village for over 15 days without proper drinking water, sanitation or food. By the time help arrived, she was already suffering labour pain. After a failed attempt at delivering her baby on a road next to the rescue landing, she was ferried to a hospital and then to another one, 120kms away. She was denied admission in both.
She was eventually admitted to another hospital that was even further away. By the time a doctor could visit her after two days, she required three bags of B-Negative blood to survive. Sunil Yadav, her husband, after running between Red Cross and relief NGOs for over three days, managed to fetch just one bag of blood. Four days after the ordeal began and around nineteen days after the floods hit the state, Sunil Yadav was still looking for two more bags of blood. Ultimately, the child was born—only to be alive for four days.
About Kosi river
- Kosi, also known as Koshi and Saptakoshi in Nepali—for its seven Himalayan tributaries—flows through Nepal and India.
- On 18 August 2008, a major breach in the eastern embankment of Kosi River in Kusha (Indo-Nepal border) occured. This inundated hundreds of villages in the districts of North Bihar.
- More than 1.4 million people in 13 districts were affected and over 2,25,000 houses were destroyed.
- The death toll was underplayed by the government, but it was feared that the toll had touched the 2000-mark.
While Documenting a Natural Disaster
Believe in your instincts and follow them. Sometimes, they work and sometimes do not. But never give up. Once you have taken up a subject, see it through till the very end. Do not abandon a project in the middle.
Dhiraj Singh is an independent photographer based in Mumbai. A graphic designer by profession, he turned to photography to explore the world around him. Working since 2007, he began by focusing on stories from India. His work has been published in various international magazines and showcased in galleries across the world.
Tags: better photography, bihar, dhiraj singh, documentary photography, documenting natural disaster, floods, india, indian photographer, indian photography, Kosi river, Mumbai, natural calamity, natural disaster, Nepal, Photo Essay, rubi devi