With the Brahmaputra and its tributaries overflowing, the state of Assam has yet again, been hit by floods since late June 2020. Over 16 lakh people have now been affected across the state and 58 casualties have occurred with a person drowning in Goalpara district yesterday. 12,597 people are still living in 93 relief shelters while 2500 of them have left the centers as the number of districts affected have come down to 22 from 25, an Assam disaster management authority said. Barapet, however remains the worst hit area with more than 8 lakh people affected. Other worst hit areas include the districts of South Salmara, Goalpara, Nalbari and Morigaon. Although the water level at Kaziranga has receded in the past 24 hours, the number of animals killed have increased from 18 to 25.
To anyone who follows the news, it isn’t new information that Assam is hit by floods every year and a lot of casualties – both human and animals occur. Hence comes the question of why Assam is so prone to floods. The north-eastern regions of India are highly prone to earthquakes which results in a lot of debris falling into the rivers and causing a rise in water levels. Bank erosion’s and damn constructions on uphill areas also contribute to the floods. Encroachment of both land and water areas for human greed is another reason on the list. Experts have warned that with all the adverse climate changes happening, the intensity of floods and earthquakes are bound to increase, too.
The Water Resources Department of Assam has undertaken many steps dictated by the National Floods Policy of the Government of India to reduce the damage the floods cause to the state. Some of the steps taken are constructions of embankments and flood walls, river training, flood zoning, drainage improvements, prior forecast and flood warnings, among many others. However, these are all short-term solutions and can be easily breached by the force of the floods.
Central government of India and The Government of Assam ‘s long term plan to control the flood situation is to dredge the river Brahmaputra. The initial amount released for the same was 4 billion rupees. Dredging is basically removing particles such as silt and sediments from underwater to ensure that more water stays inside the water body than it rushes outside. Experts and researchers say that this method is just a superficial solution as the average daily deposit of sediments into the river is around 2.12 million metric tonnes. The progress of this project, like any other government project, has been very slow and dredging is going to take years before it can be of any use to the people.
Even after all these years, our government’s flood relief strategies are very weak. A helicopter visit by the Prime Minister or the Home Minister every year during floods isn’t solution enough. Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Sarbananda Sonwal, the Chief Minister of Assam last week and assured that all the help will be provided to fight the floods and that the Modi Government stands firmly with the people of Assam. But isn’t it a better solution to form planning commissions and start working on quick and effective flood control methods than to always provide resources after the worst has happened already?
Governments may come and go, but some problems like these have still not found proper, sustainable solutions. One must also keep in mind that along with human lives, we are also losing our amazing biodiversity due to these natural disasters. It is high time the government starts thinking about how permissions like the EIA 2020 draft will further worsen these situations and pay more heed towards environmental conservation and come up with sustainable solutions for the regions and the people affected.