By Samad Abdul Israr from Jamia Millia Islamia
While the mainstream media of the nation is busy with the news of the Indo-China issue, Rajasthan Politics, Bollywood Nexus, Vikas Dubey, Bachchan family, Rafale Jet, etc., the situation of the largest North-Eastern state is worsening every day. Over 70 lakh people have been affected and more than 120 people have been killed by the flood in Assam in 2020. But the mainstream media remained focused only on the buzz creating issues. The complete isolation of Assam from Indian Media is nothing but an absolute shameful act from the fourth pillar of democracy.
ASSAM FLOODS 2020
Seems like the year 2020 is filled with disasters. With one disaster after another threatening the civilization, life is now all about ‘just surviving’. While entire India is battling the constant increase in Covid-19 cases, heavy rainfall has joined hands in doubling the challenge by wreaking havoc in some of the states. Assam is one such state where situation is worsening every day. The rainfall that began on July 12 has flooded the Brahmaputra, which in turn inundated around 26 districts thereby affecting more than 70 lakh people all across the state. As of July 15, the 30 Assam districts that are hit by floods include Hojai, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Sonitpur, Udalguri, Darrang, Baksa, Nalbari, Barpeta, Chirang, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, South Salmara, Goalpara, Kamrup, Kamrup Metropolitan, Morigaon, Nagaon, West Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Karbi Anglong, Cachar and Charaideo with Goalpara the worst hit district with over 4.53 lakh people affected, followed by 3.44 lakh people in Barpeta and 3.41 lakh people in Morigaon.
While we know that floods are common in Assam, they are also essential for the state. Floods make their land fertile and rejuvenate the Kaziranga grasslands. But in the past few years, these floods have become a curse than a boon.
According to Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), more than 3000 villages are affected, 1.28 lakh hectares of agricultural land submerged and it forced 1.18 lakh people to live in 496 relief camps. Forest department and Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) officials also said that at least 116 animals have been killed in floods and 143 animals rescued even as 90 per cent of the world famous Kaziranga National Park, home to more than 2,200 one-horned Indian rhinoceros, remained flooded. In earlier days, if there was a flood then the animals would shift to higher ground in Kaziranga, but today, when the floods come, they submerge even the highest level.
The major reason for the floods in Assam is the river Brahmaputra, a huge and one of the largest rivers in India and its tributaries. The Brahmaputra river divides the states of Assam into 2 parts and also carries a large number of sediments in it especially during the monsoons. It’s so big that it’s even visible from space, and because of its components, it’s really hard to control the river. It contains not only water but also a combination of soil, clay, and nutrients. It carries around 2.12 tons of sediment per day during monsoon. However, floods are a part and a requirement of the ecology of Assam. The sediments carried by the floods make the soil very fertile and ideal for the varied crops being planted. But in the last few years, the frequency and the intensity of these floods have been increased which makes them nothing but a devastating natural disaster for the human as well the animal population.
There are some major reasons for these floods:
1. Climate Change
First of all, Climate Change is REAL.
And we are making it WORSE.
River Brahmaputra originates in the Himalayas, before making its way across India. As the glaciers are melting faster due to global warming, this combines with the monsoon downpour and intensifies the downstream flow hence intensifying the floods and so the damage caused.
In the name of urbanization and development, construction is being done on the floodplain. Floodplains are the area adjacent to the river which holds sediments and flood water. As a result of urbanization, a large area of forests is being cut down.
In this process, some very important wetlands have also been destroyed. These wetlands were connected to the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries which used to hold excess water during the times of floods and prevent the water to enter into the residential areas, hence saving from the loss.
Wetlands have numerous advantages which are generally ignored during the development process.
Embankments are structures built along the river to confine them, raise higher, and flow faster. The role of the embankment is to prevent the area from flooding but improper construction leads to severe problems like in the case of Assam.
Now, since Bhramaputra carries a high amount of sediments with it when these sediments do not get distributed properly, they gradually build up. If these embankments are not cleaned up regularly, the level of water increases, and then there will come a time when the river will flow outside the embankments. Thus, these embankments will be a waste.
It has also been observed that while the areas protected by the embankments are safer from flood, those outside the embankment’s limits take a major hit. Once the flood strikes, the water is channelled in greater volume and intensity towards areas outside the embankment limits.
There are about 450 embankments built along various rivers in Assam and at least 180 embankments have breached.
4. Poor construction
When any engineering work is done near the river, one should know the nature and geography of the area and river.
Poor construction strategies lead to embankment breaching, which could be a result of a lack of embankment maintenance or constructions without proper study of the nature of the river.
In the case of Assam, one should know that you cannot and should not tame Bhramaputra or for that matter any river. Particularly this one is huge and very unstable. Therefore, before any kind of construction one should study the subject in detail.
5. Political issues
Improper construction can also be a result of politics, like, corruption.
Some journalists say that during these floods some contractors are in profit who build these embankments. When floods arrive, poorly constructed embankment breaks, the contractors get another contract after the floods for rebuilding and hence they earn money.
Every year these floods kill lakhs of people, thousands of animals, destroy their homes. Frequent floods cause residential disturbances. People have to move every time the place is hit by a disaster. In the coming years, the floods will become more intense and hence it will create more chaos if proper actions are not taken.
A few easy ways that can be implemented immediately to tackle the floods, and are budget-friendly: an integrated approach, using community knowledge to practical solutions, employment approach for the local community, early warnings, no more embankments, banning constructions on floodplains.