An advanced warning system across the country has to be anticipated as it would reduce the casualties and loss of properties to a great extent if it is operated affectively in the time of natural disasters.
As the people of North-East India were awaiting a pleasant autumn, when the Hindus worship Mother Goddess Durga, the last wave of flood embraced Assam and Meghalaya. Assam and Arunachal Pradesh face seasonal flood in every monsoon, but primarily a hilly State Meghalaya witnessed a massive flood out of a suspected cloud burst this year. The series of floods in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya this year have snatched the lives of over 150 persons overall affecting few million people in the region. Thousands of villages were inundated damaging vast areas of cropland and rendering many homeless to take temporary shelter in relief camps.
Assam remains the worst sufferer as the heavy rain falls in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are bound to make devastations in the flood affected State. This year while Arunachal faced a severe flood in August losing 56 people to the disaster, Meghalaya witnessed unprecedented rainfall and flood in its Garo Hills during the last week of September that killed 55 people and affected thousands of villages. But floods in both the neighbouring states had huge implications on Assam.
Assam, known for its perennial flood and erosion has lost 67 persons this year due to the flood related calamities. Other statistics revealed that Assam witnessed the submergence of 4, 446 villages directly affecting 42 lakh people and the damage of 4 lakh hectare crop areas. Around 55,000 houses were also completely damaged and over 7 lakh people were rendered homeless because of flood furies in Assam this year. The last wave of flood in lower Assam, also in western Meghalaya, started with incessant and heavy showers in the fourth week of September and it continued for over a week. While the flood left a trail of devastation in Garo Hills of Meghalaya, the disaster had affected a huge area of Assam on the southern bank of Brahmaputra.
The situation became extremely grim in the districts of Guwahati (Kamrup), Kamrup rural and Goalpara districts after heavy rush of water from Garo Hills in Meghalaya. The prime city Guwahati received continuous national and international media coverage for the misery of Guwahatians in the flash-flood. Various parts of the pre-historic city remained under water for many days adding the woes to the citizens.
Assam government tried its best to provide immediate succour to the affected populace and immediate shelter to them opening more than 800 relief camps and centres. The State Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi claimed that his government arranged for drinking water and sanitation facilities to the affected families after distribution of essential food items. Now the government in Dipsur has drawn up elaborate plans for the restoration and repair of the damaged infrastructure and affecting rehabilitation to the people. Gogoi however pointed out that it would be difficult for the State government alone ‘to meet the huge expenditure for flood rescue, relief, rehabilitation and restoration of damaged infrastructure’ and hence asked the Union government for additional financial assistances.
Recently while the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh visited Assam on October 1 for an aerial survey over flood hit western part of the State and Meghalaya, Gogoi put his proposals forward. Requesting Singh for his intervention in considering Assam government’s long-standing demand for treating the erosion as a natural calamity, Gogoi also urged the Centre for setting up of Brahmaputra River Valley Authority as a long-term mitigation measures on both Brahmaputra and Barak River basins. Flanked by two young Union Ministers namely Kiren Rijiju and Sarbananda Sonowal, both are from North-East India, Singh assured Gogoi rupees 674 crore for Assam’s State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for the year 2014-15. Of course, the Union Home Minister did not forget to remind Assam government to utilise rupees 386 crore under SDRF for the present fiscal year and also rupees 288 crore sanctioned for immediate disaster relief operations. Singh also asked both Assam and Meghalaya governments to submit the final assessment report of the extent of damages caused by this year’s flood to the Central government. After getting the reports, the Union government is expected to send an inter-ministerial team for a final assessment of the damages.
Gogoi also appealed to the Centre to consider rupees 660 crore for rescue and relief operations and rupees 6,700 crore as special assistance that includes rupees 3,500 crore for raising and strengthening of the embankments and rupees 1,000 crore for mitigating of flood problems in Guwahati. Besides Assam, Singh also declared about the Centre’s sanction and release of rupees 8 crore for Meghalaya. Earlier Meghalaya received rupees 131 crore from New Delhi. Similarly, he announ-ced rupees 20 crore for Arunachal Pradesh, which had earlier received rupees 70 crore from the Centre.
The scientists describe Brahma-putra basin as the largest river basin of India. Originated in south Tibet, the mighty river crosses Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to enter Bangladesh and finally merges with the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra basin covers an area of 5, 80,000 square kilometers (sq kms) out of which 70, 634 sq kms is in Assam.
The Brahmaputra Valley is also identified as a hazard-prone region in the country where over 40 per cent of its land (3.2 million hectares) is susceptible to flood damage. Around 7 per cent of land in Assam was lost to river erosions in the last five decades internally displacing a large number of indigenous families. The Valley, which enjoys a dynamic monsoon rainfall, experienced major floods in 1954, 1962, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004. All these floods combined with the river erosion left significant impacts on the State.
The Flood Hazard Atlas of Assam of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO, 2011) indicates that approximately 28.31 per cent (22.21 lakh hectares) of land in the State was affected by the series of flood between 1998 and 2007.
Voices are now being raised for an advanced warning system across the region as the flood situation in Assam is also dependant on the rainfall in its adjacent hilly States. It is expected that an integrated flood early warning system would reduce the casualties and loss of properties to a great extent if it is operated affectively in the time of disasters.
–NJ Thakuria (The writer is North-East based Correspondent)