July 13th, 2017
Five died in one day in Assam floods which have affected more than 17 lakh people in the state. Yesterday’s report by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) puts the number of districts affected at 24; Assam has a total of 32 districts.
Approximately 73% area of Kaziranga National Park is inundated, with two hog deer and a swamp deer killed due to drowning.
A total of 2,488 villages/localities have been affected and 1,05,860 hectares of crop area damaged.
There are 123 relief camps and 171 relief distribution centres set up across the state, housing 31,456 people. Rescue operations by locals, national disaster response force (NDRF), state disaster response force (SDRF), revenue circle administration and fire & emergency services (F&ES) are ongoing.
The report reveals 10 rivers to have overflown and till now, 44 people have died in the floods.
Assam Floods call for our immediate attention
It’s a familiar scene in Assam – tens of thousands displaced from their homes, crops drowned in water and Kaziranga National Park inundated. What happened in the previous year and the year before that and the year before that…is repeated again.
There are images of wildlife walking through the city half immersed in water and waiting for their condition to uplift. The people are not new to this, however, no one can ever be prepared for a flood such as this.
Rescue and relief operations are ongoing, but where are the long-term solutions?
Every year Assam witnesses natural disasters like flood and erosion due to the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers which have more than 50 tributaries feeding them. As per government records, 39.58% of Assam is prone to flooding, in contrast to the 10.2% flood-prone areas of the entire country.
When the statistics are such, why does the state experiences the same fate each year?
The 2012 Assam floods had reportedly affected 2.3 million people with the Brahmaputra’s course from the Himalayan range bringing in heavy sediments, thus raising its bed above plain level.
Flooding poses a major challenge for the state with the Brahmaputra having the world’s second-highest sediment transport per unit of drainage area and Assam receiving a massive amount of rain during the June-July season.
Since 2012, The Hindu reports that extensive research has been done on the characteristics of Brahmaputra – it enters Assam as a single channel, but has a wide, interweaved course later and contracts near Guwahati before expanding again near Guwahati – such high precipitation produces aggressive floodwaters.
There are long solutions that could be used as preventive measures – identifying the most vulnerable areas, framing remedies thereof, restraining from building big dams, getting a scientific evaluation of flooding phenomenon – and building government policies around them.
However, there is a lack of such solutions on the ground. In the wake of the floods, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday said that the Centre is extending all possible help. But the focus should be shifted from short-term relief and rehabilitation to long-term measures of better management. Short-term measures will have no effect – lives will continue to be lost, crops will continue to be damaged, and animals will continue drowning helplessly – if the state is not better protected.
Last year, when at least 46 people had died, and all the years before that, should have been taken as examples and the base of examining where our environmental policies are failing.
The Logical Indian community hopes that the plight of the people of Assam is soon uplifted. It is a sad reality that the state if witnessing one of the worst calamities in years and immediate government action, coupled with long-term solutions are needed.