It’s a sigh of relief when the first showers of rain bless us, but monsoons also wreak havoc in the country. Last year, Kerala floods caused destruction in the state and the nation rallied together to help the state recover from the loss. This year, Mumbai is in the news (like every year) due to the heavy downpour that’s impacting everyday life. In news is also the North, which hasn’t received the predicted rainfall.
Amidst all this, a state in India has been suffering tremendously. Incessant torrential rainfall and the subsequent overflowing of River Brahmaputra has resulted in floods devastating the state of Assam. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on July 15 declared a red alert as the flood situation turned critical--the water level in the Brahmaputra crossed the danger level in Guwahati on Monday. The Central Water Commission (CWC) said the water level is rising by two-three centimetres per hour, which can be a "danger for the city".
A total of 28 people have already lost their lives. While residents struggle to move to safer areas, rescue operations are underway to manage the calamity. As of now, 30 districts, 4,175 villages, with 46.28 lakh people have been affected.
In addition to Assam, the state of Bihar is also flooded, with 67 people killed and 46 lakh people affected. It is reported that the water levels are receding, and the officials are now working to control outbreaks of diseases. Meghalaya and Mizoram are also impacted by the rains and relief camps have been set up to offer assistance to those displaced.
Homes and roads are flooded, lakhs of people have been displaced, and animals in the Kaziranga National Park (which is 90% underwater now) are dying every day. However, the national coverage of these floods is bare minimum right now, compared to what it was during the Kerala floods last year, and the country has once again turned its eyes away from the northeast.
The death toll has already reached 28. Nearly 46 lakh people across 30 districts have been affected by the floods so far. The worst-hit district was Barpeta, with as many as 7.35 lakh people facing the brunt of the monsoon, followed by Goalpara, Morigaon, Nagaon and Hailakandi.
Over 90,000 hectares of crop areas have been damaged so far--many of these fields had standing crops on them. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority has reported that embankments, roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure has been damaged at various places in Sonitpur, Golaghat, Jorhat, Baksa, Dibrugarh, Nalbari, Hojai, Morigaon, Lakhimpur, Darrang, Nagaon, Kamrup, Barpeta, Dhubri, Majuli, Karimganj, Sivasagar, Hailakandi, and South Salmara districts.
However, the extent of the damage has not been limited to just human life and property. About 90% of the Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the Great India Rhino, tigers, and large populations of elephants, buffalos and deers, has been inundated. This has affected around 10 lakh animals, and authorities are scrambling to clear the path of animals as they escape to higher land. At least 50 animals have reportedly died (including five endangered rhinos) and herds of animals have been seen escaping the flooded areas.
Around 100 additional forest personnel have been deployed to protect animals as they cross the National Highway 37 and relocate to higher areas in the hills of Karbi Anglong. A special rhino-protection force has been deployed in especially vulnerable areas.
The floods in Assam cause devastating damage year after year; however, very little is done to effectively manage the situation. Besides the obvious reasons of excessive rainfall and the flood-prone natural topography, according to a report in Mint, floods are caused by human intervention--namely, the encroachment of river banks and wetlands, lack of drainage, unplanned urban growth, hill cutting and deforestation.
Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP- a network of organisations and individuals working on issues related to the water sector with a focus on large dams), said, "Brahmaputra is the largest water carrying river of India and the second-largest silt carrying river in the world. But the way we deal with rivers is further accentuating the disaster faced by the region."
He added, "The dams that are being built are further creating disasters. Not just that, the wetlands forests and local water bodies are being systematically destroyed which in turn is adding to the disaster vulnerability of the area."
At least 15 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), consisting of 380 personnel, have been deployed in the state to deal with the situation. About 83,000 people have been evacuated from flooded areas as of Tuesday, and authorities are running 327 relief camps and distribution centres in 24 districts, where around 17,000 people have taken shelter.
“Flood control mechanisms, including control rooms, have been put to service with state government officials manning them round the clock,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said. “The veterinary and animal husbandry department has also been directed to help marooned animals,” he added.
The Assam flood situation was also brought up in the Parliament this week, and Congress parliamentarian and Assam Congress Committee President Ripun Bora gave a Zero Hour Notice over the flood situation in the state.
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has reportedly donated Rs 1 crore each to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and Kaziranga National Park to aid rescue and rehabilitation of those affected by the floods. Indian sprinter Hima Das (who recently won four gold medals for India) has contributed half of her month’s salary to the relief funds and has appealed on Twitter to help the state.
Featured Image: Twitter
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