Assam Floods – Time to Act!

Most parts of Assam are once again submerged inflood water,a recurring

event that the people of the state have been living with from even before the Independence. Year after year, it is a repeated loss of human life, damage of property and agriculture, loss of cattle and wildlife, but for how long more can we allow this to continue?

During the period of floods, relief work is undertaken by government and NGOs alike. However, this only provides short term relief to the people. Once the floods recede– the other aspects of long term flood control, it’s planning and measures – are all but forgotten. The time has come for a paradigm shift so that surplus water becomes a boon rather than a bane. This in turn will provide vast opportunities of growth and economic development when coupled with enhanced irrigation techniques.

The flood is mainly caused by the mighty Brahmaputra River, more specifically due to the swelling of its tributaries. The average water discharge of this gigantic river is 7,00,000Cuft/sec and during floods this value can rise by 5 times. The total length of the river is 2906 km, with 918 km flowing through India, which includes 640 km flowing through Assam. Brahmaputra has 41 tributaries, with 26 flowing in the North Bank and 15 in the South Bank.

In addition to the swelling, other natural factors like physiographic condition, seismic activity, and excessive rainfall also contribute to the Assam floods. These need to be checked in a scientific manner by competent authority. The Brahmaputra Board which was created to address the above problem has unfortunately failed to reach any solution of flood relief. It is high time for the government to intervene and ensure that the right people sit in the right places and bring about an effective, time-bound solution for its people.

The project of flood control must be declared a National project highlighting the feasibility of connecting rivers to enjoy justifiable distribution of water between agriculture and human consumption. Involvement of local people and their age old tradition may prove further advantageous. As an immediate policy, government must focus on problems arising due to population explosion which basically include – drainage congestion as a result of man-made embankments and human encroachment of riverine areas. These measures could be the start to the big war that the government has to undertake to battle the Assam floods!

Dr.K.K Jhunjhunwala