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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 12 July, 2022

  • 10 Min Read

ASSAM FLOOD: EXPLAINED

ASSAM FLOOD: EXPLAINED

Assam is facing the second wave of flood in July after the first wave of flood in May this year. Almost every year its face 2-3 wave of a flood through the Brahmaputra River system, which affects most of Assam. More than 35 lakhs of people are affected in 26 districts of the state with heavy loss of life and the submergence of major parts of the Kaziranga National Park.

The Brahmaputra is also critical to the Kaziranga National Park as it is bounded by the river on one side.

The reason behind annual flooding in Assam

  • River Brahmaputra originates in the Tibetan plateau, where the temperature is rising every decade which increased the melting of glaciers and snow caps. This has resulted in a larger flow of water downstream. Assam is located downstream of the river and is more affected by the flood.
  • Brahmaputra river takes a sharp turn at Goalpara village, causing maximum red alerts and flooding in that area.
  • Human settlement and the construction in the flood plains of river Brahmaputra and its tributaries have causeobstructednatural flow of water, in the flood-prone regions.
  • Highways and railway lines have been constructed parallel to the Brahmaputra River, to act as a bund for preventing excess water from flowing inland which also prevents the outflow of water from the inland area into the river, causing localized, rainfall-based flooding.

Reason for the recurring floods in Assam

  1. Climatic condition- With a tropical monsoon rainforest climate, Assam, a temperate region experiences high rainfall and humidity. Typically, the South-West monsoon causes heavy rainfall from June to September.
  2. Widespread jhum cultivation practice-The traditional slash-and-burn cultivation in hilly areas of Assam also known as jhum or shifting cultivation, removes the upper protective layer of soil from the land, making it more prone to erosion by rain and less porous to absorb water. A huge amount of soil and dead materials of the plants flow and get deposited into the river basin.
  3. Brahmaputra factor- The Brahmaputra River flows through Assam over a length of around 650km with an average width of 5.46km, making it the principal river that crisscrosses the flood plains and narrow channels, heavy siltation and shifting the river beds create natural reasons for floods in Assam.
  4. Climate change- Rising temperatures have caused increased rainfall and flash floods in the last few years. High rain has decreased the water carrying capacity of the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries.
  5. Construction of Embankments- Embankments are constructed to confine the course of a river. However, this solution has evolved to be an added challenge over time in Assam. The construction of embankments first started in Assam in the year 1960 to control floods.
      • But most of these embankments have either outlived their utility or are in very bad condition. Many others were washed away.
      • Every year, as floods follow monsoon, river water breaches these barriers and inundates houses and land.
      • Successive Governments in Assam have spent more than Rs 30,000 crore on building embankments over the last six decades.
      • Embankments led to encroachment of river banks with an increasing number of people building houses and setting up establishments close to the river.
  6. Population Boom- The population boom in the State has put more pressure on the State’s ecological system. Brahmaputra valley’s population density has increased from 9-29 people per sq. km. in 1940-41 to 398 per sq. km in the plain areas of Assam as per the 2011 Census.

How does flood affect Assam?

    • Effects on Infrastructure

Train services got disrupted as water affected the railway tracks at several places.

All modes of transport went on halt except waterways, which have increased the fare in some areas to make up for their inability to fish or ferry people to rivers for a living.

Food and potable water are not easily available to the majority of people.

Roads and bridges have suffered huge damage. The flooding damaged the electricity supply in various districts.

  • Effects on Common Lives

More than 5,000 villages and croplands have been inundated, with the Brahmaputra River breaching its embankments due to incessant rainfall.

    • Heavy rain has caused landslides in Cachar, Dima-Hasao, Goalpara, Hailakandi, Kamrup (Metro), and Karimganj districts, throwing normal life out of gear and delays in the provision of relief and rehabilitation.
    • The destruction is not limited to humans only. Some 60,000 animals have been washed away and around more than 36 lakh were affected in the current wave of floods, according to the ASDMA report.
  • Impact on Kaziranga National Park

More than 15% of the Kaziranga National Park has been damaged with the Brahmaputra flowing above the danger level.

At least five animals, including a leopard, have been killed in floods in the national park so far this year.

Although, excessive water is considered beneficial for the park as it would:

  • Help to replenish Kaziranga’s water bodies and maintain its landscape.
  • It functions as a breeding ground for fish.
  • It helps to get rid of unwanted plants such as water hyacinth.

However, large frequent floods have started creating problems for the national park.

  • NH-37

When the flood water hits a certain level, the animal moves towards safer, higher ground in the Karbi Anglong hills. However, they have to cross NH-37 which cut across the park and leads to the killing of many animals in road accidents.

Animals are also killed by poachers who take advantage of their vulnerability for their interests.

  • Human-animal Conflict

Animals also move toward villages in floods, which leads to a rise in human-animal conflict.

Solutions

  • Appropriate meteorological forecasting: to enable an early warning system for predicting the intensity and scale of floods so that rescue measures can be planned accordingly. It will help to dissipate more credible information so that preparedness can be improved and residents can be alerted.
  • Integrated flood management program: by the government of India, State Government of Assam, and local authorities.
  • Monitoring and mapping of changes in the river course using satellite imagery.
  • A Center for disaster management should be established in Assam to carry out studies for the effective implementation of measures.
  • Social infrastructure like hospitals, schools, and community centres need to be located at a safe distance from flood-prone regions.
  • Vegetation should be encouraged in the wetland and near the river bank to act as a barrier against the flood.

Source: The Indian Express


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