Grim Situation in Assam Following Floods

    EnvironmentDisaster risk reductionGrim Situation in Assam Following Floods
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    Grim Situation in Assam Following Floods

    54 lives have been lost due to the floods across the state since the monsoon season began on 6 April. Assam’s Brahmaputra valley is one of the most hazard-prone regions of the country, with more than 40 per cent of its land susceptible to flood damage.

    The flood situation in Assam during the second wave since 14th June 2022 turned critical by 20 June in Assam, and continues to look grim. As on June 17, eight rivers are flowing above high flood level and three rivers are flowing above the danger level, Sphere India, a coalition of humanitarian, development and resilience actors in India says, quoting data from the Central Water Commission.

    54 people have lost their lives due to flooding and landslides across the state since the monsoon season began on 6 April 6. 112 Revenue Circles and 4,941 villages have been impacted by flood incidents. These villages are home to some 54 lakh people, almost half of whom are presently sheltered in relief camps. At least 11,292 people and 27,086 animals have been evacuated by agencies engaged in rescue operations, as reported on 22nd June 2022.

    River Kopili, a major tributary of the Brahmaputra, is flowing in “extreme flood stage” at Kampur in Nagaon district of central Assam. Barpeta is the worst-hit district with 12.76 lakh people marooned. 96 Revenue Circles and 2,930 villages have been impacted by flood incidents, including approximately 1.9 million people, over 100,000 of which are taking shelter in 373 relief camps.

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    The embankment of the big rivers like, the Nowanoi, Nanoi, Saktola, and Kulsi, breached at several places and the resulting damage to roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructures that have made the flood worse. Communities are difficult to access due to landslides in Dima-Hasao, Goalpara, Morigaon, Kamrup and Kamrup (M).

    Flood waters cover new territory

    Many of the badly affected places by this year’s flood were not known to be flood-prone areas. “The flood intensity of this kind (this year) has never happened before,” says a report published by the coalition on Sunday. It says that as a result, the people are suffering, especially because they lack coping mechanisms.

    Business establishments were unprepared for the overnight rising water levels inundating shops and warehousing facilities.

    Movement of vehicles on the national highway has been closed from the 16th of June, due to over-flooding at several places.

    Humanitarian agencies have set up 1871 relief camps and distribution centres across the affected districts, meeting urgent needs, especially food and safe drinking water.

    Most displaced people are living in small, crowded spaces in camps or on makeshift boats, with little food and other supplies. Health and hygiene have been major concerns for children, who are also victims of malnutrition. Issues of maintaining fires in the continuous wet weather and areas for excretion, among others, are cropping up. Even finding clean drinking water has been a big issue, as most of the drinking sources are now covered by the floodwaters

    Oxfam India, in a collaboration with UNICEF, has reached people in Silchar district in South Assam’s Barak Valley with boat-mounted water treatment units to provide life-saving water. Most of the district has been submerged even 48 hours after an embankment breached and people in the region are faced with a shortage of food and drinking water. Electricity too have been cut off.

    Doctors of the Morigaon civil hospital have organised health camps in different places of the district and humanitarians say that the immediate impact and challenge of the flood will be known as the water begins to recedes.

    Historically flood-prone

    Assam’s Brahmaputra valley is one of the most hazard-prone regions of the country, with more than 40 per cent of its land (3.2 million hectares) susceptible to flood damage. This is 9.4 per cent of the country’s total flood-prone area. About 7 per cent of land in the state’s 17 riverine districts has been lost because of river erosion over the past 50 years.

    The important cause for frequent occurrence of flood in this region is the extremely dynamic monsoon rainfall regime and the unique physiographic setting. The water yield of the Brahmaputra basin is among the highest in the world. This, together with the limited width of the valley and the abruptly flattened gradient, leads to tremendous drainage congestion and resultant flooding.

    Human activities like deforestation, accelerated change in land use, filling up low lying areas for the construction of buildings, urban development and temporary flood control measures are some changes which have contributed to the overall vulnerability of the state to floods. The reliability and effectiveness of the embankments from the Brahmaputra flooding are generally insufficient because of structural deterioration and ongoing riverbank erosion.

    River bank erosion event dominate the larger disaster picture and those impacted by the events on a frequent basis suffer more due to repeated phenomenon.

    According to ISRO’s Flood Hazard Atlas of Assam published in 2011, approximately 28.31 per cent 22.21 lakh hectares) of land in the state was affected by floods between 1998 to 2007.

    Apart from the geo-climatic setting, high rate of population growth in the form of high birth rate and immigration from border countries has led unplanned settlements.


    Image: Oxfam’s boat-mounted water treatment units provide life-saving water.

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