Climate Crisis in Northeast India
It appears that there will be no respite from floods and landslides in the Northeastern region this monsoon. As per latest reports, more than 350 villages are still under water and over three lakh people are living in temporary shelters in Assam. The situation is no different in other states of the region, where excessive rains are causing various natural disasters including landslides. Environmentalists argue that nature’s erratic behaviour is a result of global warming, which is no longer just a threat, but has become a reality. Experts have predicted that from now onwards, the region will become wetter and warmer. They further pointed out that there was enough time to take preventive measures, to prevent natural calamities like floods and landslides, from creating havoc. A study by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IIS-B) under the project “Capacity Building on Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in the states of Indian Himalayan Region” indicated that among Northeastern states Mizoram and Assam might be the worst victims of global warming. This monsoon the situation in the NE appears to be as predicted by the study report. The region has witnessed heavy rainfall in the shortest possible time quite frequently during this rainy season. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Assam had received 1,891.9 mm rainfall in between March 1 to June 14, which was just 347.5 mm less than the average annual rainfall experienced by the state. Excessive rainfall has caused 192 deaths and has completely destroyed 2.40 lakh hectares of farmland, worth crores of rupees. Further, on May 15 in central Assam’s Dima Hasao district, landslides triggered by heavy rainfall completely destroyed New Halflong railway station bringing train services to Tripura and Manipur to a halt for nearly two months.
To contain nature’s fury, the Northeastern region needs an effective plan to survive. The plan should be implemented together by all states of the region, as the threat is not limited to one or two states. Moreover, the Centre should contribute generously towards this plan considering the strategic importance of the region in regard to the safety and security of the nation. In the plan, prime importance should be given to the restoration of nature as rampant destruction of nature is considered to be one of the main reasons behind climate change. Further, water holding capacity of rivers, canals and reservoirs should be increased as the capacity has been lowered over the years. The impact of the hydro-electric dams should also be examined closely as such projects release water without warning. There are other steps such as strengthening of embankments, regular cleaning of water drains, etc. which should also be taken up. Along with these steps, regular communication between the authorities of the states is a must as that will help disaster management groups of various states to act swiftly in case of any eventuality. Otherwise, the future looks bleak for the region.