Debate is on for long if Assam is more blessed or cursed as because of Brahmaputra more than 40 per cent of its surface area is highly susceptible to flood damages.
Floods every year cause so much destruction in Assam and as per govt. estimates losses due to flood and erosion is around 12000 crores. According to data released by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), 2017 has been the worst of the last four years in terms of floods.
This year, about 2,450 villages have been already affected by floods and more than 1.7 million people across the districts of Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Karimganj, Kokrajhar, among others, displaced.
And the biggest worry is that two third of The monsoon season is still left to go. And whenever you visit these flood affected Brahmaputra river basin communities you only wonder on how can lives of these communities ever improve as they get destroy by floods ever year.
System is totally clueless, aimless and has no spine in checking either destruction of floodplains or encroachments in name of development and even repairing or maintenance of embankments is not a priority as a lot of money is made by the system at the time of flood relief.
Communities mostly blames dams for worsening these floods and there is hardly any warning system in place to prepare them well in advance. During monsoon many areas get inundated by the rivers and become inaccessible, when boat becomes the only means of communications.
Even these communities are so marginal, so deprived that they can hardly raise their voice against any system apathy or systemic failures as their all focus and energy is on earning a daily livelihood.
NGOs are doing a lot of good work in flood prone areas be it sponsoring of model DRR structures like raised water handpumps, toilets to trainings on resue and relief, early warning systems to continuous support in relief, rehab phases.
We have to learn from traditional coping practices of floods used by indigenous communities and push other communities living in flood-prone areas to adopt them.
In Lakhimpur flood affected district I came across many Houses near river lowland on concrete pillars with bamboo platforms. And in some cases they made this houses in such a way so that at time of flood the people can easily unbolt the bamboo structures, load on a country boat and keep them on embankments or shelter camps on high areas and reconstruct them once the flood is over.
Over the years intensity of floods has increased a lot as more area is getting eroded, more people getting affected and yet for governments its still business as usual. We need a river policy with stringent legal framework that can check on this model of unsustainable development, flood plain encroachments to culture of dams. Also communities has to manage and need to stake their claim to these scare water resources and we can’t let this corporate-government nexus to play more havoc with ecosystem.