Dinesh Kumar Mishra
Fellow Since 1999
Barh Mukti Abhiyan (Freedom from Floods Campaign)
This profile was prepared when Dinesh Kumar Mishra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Dinesh Kumar Mishra is mounting a grassroots movement that challenges the current, top-heavy flood control policy. Instead of relying on dams and embankments, which have become silt-laden time bombs sending tidal waves of water that routinely destroy whole villages, Dinesh opens doors to local leaders and gives them tools for managing and coping with floods. Dinesh's flood education programs are designed to help communities in river plains recapture their cultural and political ownership over rivers. The program gives them the technical, social, and historical information they need to assert local alternatives to government flood control policies. His education courses draw on pre-embankment historical records as well as traditional knowledge, and provide communities with sophisticated technical and social engineering skills. Entire communities learn of their pre-embankment identities. They study and reengineer flood control structures in their regions, reintegrate villages divided by embankments, and organize flood management strategies. Since 1992 Dinesh has been working in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins in Bihar state, India's most flood-prone region, where he has created an umbrella network, the Barh Mukti Andolan (BMA), of over 700 rural groups of "flood historians." Dinesh plans to develop a national platform for grassroots flood campaigners, who will maintain histories of their river basins and design region-specific responses to official flood control methods in their states.