Assam floods: Though aging, but the news is here to stay.

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Assam is home to over 3 crore people making it most populous among the streak of North Eastern states. The state is blessed with enormous natural resources, just to put things in perspective, Assam has 18 wildlife sanctuaries, 5 national parks and numerous protected forests.

Times of India headline in 1969 covering Assam Flood in a far right corner

But almost every year, it faces wrath of downstream of the Brahmaputra, one of the major rivers of India. Ironically, the river which has been widely celebrated by the Assamese throughout the year as it contributes significantly to the crop and vegetable cultivation brings down havoc for the residents during monsoon.

The infamous 1950 earthquake set the stage for worse floods in the decades ahead by making the Brahmaputra river more unstable and leading to greater soil erosion on its path. The quake changed the region’s topography and made the Brahmaputra valley more susceptible to a deluge.

Since then, hundreds of embankments are erected to control the flood of Brahmaputra but couldn’t restrict it from becoming an annual affair. According to an estimation, due to flood, Assam lost almost 3800 square kilometers of land, which is more than double the size of capital city Delhi.

Due to flooding, Assam suffers a huge financial loss every year. In the heads of relief, rehabilitation and restoration, the tea state spent crores further widening its fiscal deficit.

Over the years, all the talks of countermeasures mainly revolved around digging of river bed but it couldn’t gain much pace due to the narrative that it may result in a futile exercise owing to the fact that the river brings a vast amount of sediments from the top every year.

Many are of the opinion that rather than making new dams that have potential of various biological hazards and high chances of submerging low lands during the release of water, efforts should be given to repair the existing dams and upgrade its capacity.

Though advanced various solutions, experts are in unison accepted that its quite impossible to completely eradicate the menace but by deploying advanced forecasting tools, ‘flood-plain zoning’- where depending on the vulnerability of the area, areas can be categorized, and impose a ban on certain activities like farming, building a house, etc can certainly minimise the extent of the damage.

The writer holds a degree in management, a social activist and a blogger.

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