Integrated Flood-Control Measures Needed For Assam
Less than a month after Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal instructed the officials during a flood preparedness meeting held on April 29 to take necessary measures in flood-prone districts, including completion of embankment construction works before the onset of monsoon, heavy rains swelled up the Brahmaputra River and floods have been wreaking havoc in the state ever since. As on July 23, the flood is said to have killed 93 people, more than 100 animals have died with nearly 90 per cent of the famous Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve reportedly inundated and millions of people from 26 districts affected. The situation continues to be grim as embankments are breached, submerging habitations and rendering thousands of people homeless. This year, the state administration’s flood preparation works could be disrupted by the ongoing health crisis, but then, rain-induced natural calamity is not something new to the state as it experiences floods almost every year during the monsoon – the only difference being the severity and extent of destruction. From the part of the Centre government, an amount INR 346 crore has been announced to tackle the current situation in the state. It may mitigate the sufferings of many affected by the nature’s fury, yet it is momentary. What Assam needs is pragmatic steps that will permanently solve this recurring issue instead of piecemeal measures. For this, both the central and state governments have to draw a long-term plan even if it takes time.
Some of the flood-controlling measures that have been introduced in Assam over the decades include construction of embankments and dredging of the Brahmaputra River. The measures do help but it is clear that the central and state governments are yet to find ways to contain the raging waters. It is also clear that the authorities have to come up with measures other than the existing ones that have been implemented for decades now without of much help. Besides maintaining the existing embankments, which the state heavily relies on to control floods, it is important to understand that a lot of natural calamities are connected to irresponsible behaviour of humans. While encroachments of low lying areas and habitation along the banks forces river waters to spill over, man-made problems like construction of dams and deforestation have caused permanent damage to the fragile ecosystem. As climate change amplifies the risk of natural disasters, one can only expect more and harsher nature’s fury in Assam and other places in future if pragmatic measures are not taken on a war footing. It is necessary to go beyond the state to mitigate the issue which has turned into an annual affair. It is imperative to bring all the states and countries like China, Bangladesh and Bhutan that share the Brahmaputra basin on board and draw an integrated plan to solve these perpetual floods issue in Assam. Flood-controlling measures without the involvement of basin-sharing countries will be short-lived. Tree plantation drive also needs to be initiated in the catchment areas not only to restore the lost forest but also to provide shelter to hundreds of animals that escape Kaziranga National Park and other reserved forests during floods.