After the flood-situation stabilised in Assam for a while on July 21, it again worsened after heavy rains ensued in the state, killing at least two more people. The death toll has reached a tragic 68. About 28.01 lakh people in 19 of the 33 districts have been affected by the floods.
While the whole machinery is at work to mitigate any possible further damage, an interesting approach has been adopted. ‘Friends’ across the Assam-Bhutan border are exchanging flood alerts over WhatsApp.
Flood Alerts On WhatsApp
Messaging app WhatsApp has been in the news for all the wrong reason lately. It has been held responsible for relaying fake news wide and far, resulting in horrific repercussions.
However, in this case, WhatsApp has emerged as a saviour.
“Hi gud mng bro. Please caution your communities who are vulnerable to swollen river disaster. There is heavy flooding all over Gelephu and her peripherals,” reads a WhatsApp message, a recent alert from a Bhutanese villager to his counterpart in Assam.
About 56 rivers, both big and small flow into India from Bhutan, via Assam. The villages in Bhutan are in the upstream while the villages on the Indian side are in the downstream. Hence, these villages are often at the receiving end of nature’s fury.
This system of exchanging alerts over WhatsApp was devised by Bhutan-India Friendship Association (BIFA) which collaborated with an Indian NGO, North East Research and Social Work Networking (NERSWN), based out of Kokrajhar.
NERSWN executive director Raju Narzary, while speaking to The Logical Indian, said, “This system is out of the friendship between India and Bhutan, through an organisation, BIA. Earlier BIA was concerned with cultural exchanges between the two countries to promote friendship, but now, NGO like ours and BIA has come together to help in times of disasters like flood.
“We have created WhatsApp groups, where our friends from Bhutan share things like swelling of rivers and weather alerts. Bhutan is in the upstream and Assam in the downstream, so in case of torrential rains, we get floods here in Assam. The instant information is relayed to a large group of people. We even provide information to government agencies,” Narzary said.
These are not just text messages, but also audio-visual clippings. Efforts are now being made to reach people beyond, upto Bangladesh.