Each year Assam floods witness devastation caused by the overflowing of the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries. In 2019, the flooding has killed more than 100 people, displaced more than half a crore and economic losses are far from estimated.
According to the Rashtriya Barh Ayog (RBA), 31.05 lakh hectares of the total 78.523 lakh hectares area of the state is prone to frequent floods.
Causes of flooding in Assam-
- Dynamic and unstable nature of Brahmaputra river-
- Frequent change in course
- Steep slopes
- Siltation/ sedimentation
- Habitation– change inhabitation patterns like concrete structures near the river banks.
- Population settlement in the catchment area- the catchment area is being converted into colonies.
- Rainfall– the N-E usually faces high rainfall.
- Bank erosion
- Earthquakes and Landslides– these causes sedimentation of the riverbed.
- Climate change– the rising temperature has accelerated the pace of glacier’s melting, adding the water in the river.
Impact of frequent flooding-
- On Agriculture- inundation of vast area causes crop failures and crop diseases leading to a reduction in production.
- On Environment– affects the forests and thus the habitat of animals, displacing them.
- On Society– Lakhs of people each year has to abandon their homes due to vast flooding and many losses their lives.
- On Economy– the shutting down of industries, damage to products often cost much to the economy.
- On Infrastructure– the structures like bridges, buildings near river banks get damaged.
Governmental steps on Assam Floods-
- Brahmaputra Board– to monitor the policies regarding the Brahmaputra river.
- Building embankments– small embankments are being built to prevent the river water from entering the nearby areas.
- Dredging– The government frequently de-silt/ dredge the riverbed to deepen the river.
Floods and Disaster Management Act, 2005-
- To minimize vulnerability to floods and consequent loss of lives, livelihood systems, property and damage to infrastructure and public utilities.
- Establishment of National Flood Management Institute, NDMA, SDMA, NDRF and SDRF.
- Recommends embankments, dams, channel improvements, dredging, de-siltation, Anti-erosion works, Floodproofing etc.
Floods and Kaziranga National Park-
- The constructions around Kaziranga National Park has reduced the area for the movement of animals and also blocked several animal movement corridors. So in times of flooding, the wild animals tends to enter these residential areas around the park endangering their lives as well as the residents.
- Floods have also left as many as 187 animals dead, including 16 rhinos, in the Kaziranga National Park, in 2019.
- Integrated basin Management– to develop the basin area keeping in mind the natural flow of the river.
- Flood-plain Zoning– to classify areas based on vulnerability.
- Diversion of floodwaters
- Channel improvement– dredging of the riverbed, preventing bank erosion, etc.
- Flood warning system
- Role of Wetlands– the wetlands plays an important role in absorbing water from nearby rivers and also surface runoffs.
- “The nature of rivers is such that there is no way one can flood-proof whole of Assam so one has to keep it in mind that floods will happen,” says an expert.
- As the research scholars point out, studying the river and the impact of climate change is a must to understand why the state gets flooded every year.
- As line in a famous Assamese song goes: “Luitar parore ami deka lora; moribole bhoi nai (We are the youths from the banks of the Luit [Brahmaputra]; we are not afraid of death),” people in the Valley seems to be living by the same spirit.
Years have passed but the Brahmaputra River’s flood remains a curse to Assam. Why it is prone to frequent floods? Also suggest mitigating measures.