–Kakali Das |
There are floods in Assam that have affected over 32 lakh people; have claimed 76 lives – 50 people lost to floods, 26 lost to landslides; 13 rivers in the state including the Brahmaputra are flowing above the danger level; the Kaziranga National Park is completely inundated with flood water according to the news; nearly 28 districts, 3,371 villages have been affected, 19 thousand people have been rescued by the NDRF, the SDRF, the local administration, in the last 24 hours. 1.38 lakh hectares of crop area has been destroyed so far. The number of relief camps have gone up to 517, comprising of 44,108 inmates in it.
Whenever there is a flood situation in Assam we continue the repetition of the same narrative each year. Since the year 1953 the same story has been in continuation; it aggravates each year. The rain is erratic in nature; when there are inconsistent rains in the upper reaches in Arunachal, Bhutan the river overflows the entire Brahmaputra Valley; the embankment shave outlived their span resulting in the breaches of them, bridges have been washed away,therefore the communication has been disrupted.
In Assam, the mighty Brahmaputra has wiped out more than 4 thousand square kilometres of land out of 78 thousand sq. km. 80 square kilometre of precious land has been wiped away each year. Lakhs of people are rendered homeless, an impact of about 1 lakh crore has been made on the economy for the flood. The government has created a perfect rejuvenation plan for the Ganges with a package of around 25 thousand crores. In case of Assam, we face the wrath of flood every year, people get dislocated, government provides some amount from the National Disaster Fund (NDRF) each time in the name of providing an aid and get away with it. There has been no serious attempt by the government of Assam or the Central government to address the issue of flood in the state. Even after knowing the fact that floods have severely affected the entire economy of Assam – economy to the tune of lakhs and crores have been devastated – the government has been extremely passive and unassertive in dealing with it. Before the onset of the monsoon season,some amount of repairing of the embankments commence for the namesake so that whenever there are floods, it can overturn the embankments making way for the floods to occur. Same story gets replicated each year. Since Independence, each year certain embankments get builtby the government – the state has around 4,476 km of earthen embankments. Embankments have been built, damaged, repaired and so on in the name of administering the flood situation by our mighty government. Simultaneously, the utilisation of the State Disaster Respond Fund (SDRF) is highly deficient in Assam.
The Yellow River, a viciously savage river of China has been tamed and instead of becoming ‘a source of sorrow’, has become ‘a source of prosperity’ to the entire country. If China can devise a permanent solution to the river and the floods, why can’t we? In case of the river Brahmaputra, we are unable to use our river ways. During the British Raj, a ship load of coal timber used to take 8 days to travel from Dibrugarh to Calcutta (now Kolkata), but now it takes around 30 days as we can’t travel. There have been problems in the water draft – we need around 3 metres of water draft in order to sail, but it has gone down now – it can thrive during the rainy season but not during the winter’s. To be serious, the pre-independence Assam was indeed the most prosperous one because the river route was remarkable then and the frequent sailing of ships increased the river depth due to which the flood was lesser. Over the years, the lack of planning has put Assam in such a difficult position.
Flood in Assam is man-made, a situation caused by silting in our rivers, deforestation, the human intervention into Nature and the lack of adequate attention from the central government in solving it, therefore gets worse each year. There has been continuous ignorance towards North East in general which has led to this weak narrative. Had this situation been in any other parts of India, the government’s initiative would have been much different. We want an uninterrupted attention of the government of India to find a permanent solution and to talk of a permanent project for the prevention of flood in the state. It might involve dredging of the river Brahmaputra and the tributaries in order to dig out the sediments of the river bed and increase the water retention capacity of the river. It might talk about developing and strengthening embankments and a long term flood management plan. The plan might consume lakhs and crores of rupees but still lesser than the package announced for the rejuvenation of the Ganges by the Centre. Similar project must be taken up for the resurgence of the Brahmaputra as well. The mighty river needs a comprehensive solution for its recovery while addressing the roots, we need a detailed project report on what needs to be done and how– we urge for a consistent national interest on the subject. Otherwise, the river Majuli, the biggest river Island will get completely wiped out; the Brahmaputra will take away majority of Assam’s land in the next 1500 years unless it’s addressed properly. Living with floods is an option too but it requires a well-defined strategy, like the way Odisha managed during the cyclone, Fani.
Prem Prakash, Co-Founder, Sarvahitey NGO in an interview said, “We are preparing to go on-ground in a week starting with places like, Lakhimpur, Tinsukia, Majuli, Kamrup (R) and also to go for the animals in Kaziranga National Park”. He further urged people to keep some information about this situation that Assam has to go through each and every year, to sensitise them more about this issue and help out in whatever ways they can while calling out the names of few other NGO’s like North East Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses(NESPYM), Save the Children amongst many and through their platform, YOLO, they have been providing an opportunity to all these NGO’s to connect with beneficiaries. Sarvahitey, the NGO has been working for Assam Flood Relief for the last 3 years in collaboration with various district administration, Morigaon, Nagaon etc. “We basically get in touch with the district administration and that helps us in identifying a list of beneficiaries. When the water level starts receding, the disease starts spreading causing the rise in the number of deaths and as soon as the water level subsides people stop talking about it; that is when we require more and more relief operations on the ground level”, the Co-Founder said.
Paresh Malakar, Social Activist said, “After the continuation of the same situation for ages now, we have developed kind of a fatigue for the flood situation. It has been continuing because some people need the flood to make money (if I could be this blunt), otherwise they could have done something in order to prevent it on a serious note”.
Our geographical location is extremely critical in the first place, there are hills all around including the Himalayas. The government requires a holistic plan to prevent the flood and the plight of the people due to it. According to the Social Activist, “It’s not possible to control the flood, you have to develop ways which are sustainable wherein the damage can be minimised and can preserve the bio-diversity of the region and its people. Our government wants the flood to be continued as it is so as to receive extreme opportunities to make money out of it.”
We already have the pandemic, the need for people to maintain social distancing, children are facing disruption,both physical and cerebral deterioration of the people have been prominent.With the floods alongside, it has cost the state in actual physical land, it has cost the state in its economic and physical pow