This Article is From Aug 31, 2014

Will Assam's Special Panel to Fight Floods Bring About A Change?

This year Assam faced the first wave of flood on May 15.

Dhemaji: Ravaged by floods every year, Assam has now decided to constitute a Flood and Erosion Protection Authority to strengthen the existing embankments and build new ones along the course of river  Brahmaputra. But given that nearly 16 lakh people in the state remain affected with more than 1000 villages cut off, will only mending embankments help?

This year Assam faced the first wave of flood on May 15. It lasted for a fortnight. But before the water could recede, the second wave struck in mid-August wrecking havoc.

For the past three days, with no heavy rain, there has been some respite. But the damage is enormous.

In the worst affected district, Dhemaji, nearly 188 villages are still submerged with at least 40,000 people still in relief camps and around 25,000 hectares of crop land damaged. Dhemaji is one of Assam's most underdeveloped districts on the northern bank of the upper reaches of Brahmaputra, and argiculture is the main pillar of livelihood here.

While the embankment remains breached, most roads leading to the villages are damaged, and the paddy fields most likely have tons of sand sediments that would render it useless for agriculture for years to come.

The Assam government has decided to earmark Rs 1,000 crore for taking up long-term anti-erosion measures including dredging of the tributaries of the Brahmaputra river.

The flood victims in Dhemaji feel that infrastructure development for mega hydro power dams in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, the country's longest rail-road bridge being built on the Brahmaputra to link Dhemaji to Dibrugarh on the south bank and other engineering interventions have resulted in change of flow pattern of the rivers, and inundating the north bank.

Civil society across the state have been involved in community consultative meetings and they fear that the change in the annual flood patterns could be a result of climate change.