Muddy Waters In Brahmaputra Threaten Livelihood Of Boatmen, Fishermen

The rapid increase in turbidity in the Brahmaputra river can lead to more sedimentation, which is a boatman's nightmare.

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The water in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra is increasingly turning muddy and extremely turbid.


Dibrugarh, Assam:  In Dibrugarh, Assam, the lives of thousands of residents has run into muddy waters. Every day, passenger boats ferry thousands of people from Silapathar in the northern bank of the Brahmaputra to the southern bank's tea city Dibrugarh for work, health services and education. But with water levels already decreasing, the increasing turbidity of the river poses a challenge for boatmen and fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the river.

The rapid increase in turbidity can lead to more sedimentation, which is a boatman's nightmare. Bhaikon Gam, a boatman, says "The water level is already decreasing and this water has turned muddy thus we are finding it difficult to ply out baits and sometimes at even night we need to ply medical emergency cases, it seems that will be difficult."

But difficulty in navigating boats is not the only effect the increasing murkiness is having on the people. Dhananjay, another boatman, says that they have observed something unusual over the last few weeks.

"We live and work on the river. We use the river water for everything but now we are not able to use. Some people are complaining about skin diseases after using this muddy water" he said.

The water in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra is increasingly turning muddy and extremely turbid. A recent test conducted in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra showed a Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU) - a measure of the concentration of suspended particulates in a liquid - of 404, while the turbidity in the middle reaches near Tezpur was measured at 195 NTU. The permissible level for human consumption, in comparison, is 5 NTU.

The Assam government has already issued an alert and is now testing water samples even in middle and lower stream of Brahmaputra.

The rising turbidity has had a direct effect on fishermen and their livelihood, as their catch has gone down as a result of murkier waters. A visit to the Rahmaria fishing village reveals gloomy faces.

"Earlier we earned a lot during winter fishing season, but in a fortnight the water has turned muddy, and we have lost over Rs 50 thousand and our livelihood is at stake. The water is turbid and it's like cement laden, muddy" Madhabdev Das, a fisherman from Rahmaria told NDTV.

While boatmen and fishermen, whose livelihoods depend directly on the water, have been affected, even a few cattle in the area died from consuming the brackish water of the Brahmaputra.

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