Assam struggles to fight floods

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People use rubber boats provided by the district administration to commute in the waterlogged Rajgarh area after heavy rains in Guwahati on Friday. (PTI photo)
Floods in Assam and in north east India has been recurrent phenomenon and is something we read in newspapers almost every year, with little done on the part of the Government to device strategies to manage it. The recent flash floods followed by torrential rains in Guwahati and four districts in Assam have brought the economic activities to a hault, hence affecting over all growth of the state. Several people have been forced to flee from their homes as most part of the city is sub-merged under water. Latest news reports states that nearly 25,000 people have been affected in the first round of floods in four districts of Assam.

These flood situation is not new for the Tarun Gogoi Government who have not been able to control the damage and devastation caused due to floods.

Several expert Committees have studied the problems caused by floods and suggested various measures for their management to the Government. However, despite that it remains a challenge infront of the Government to prevent loss of lives and infrastructure.

Infact, Assam received Rs 11,000 crore as flood relief funds in 2013 but unfortunately the situation in the state has remained the same ever since the 2011 floods. There was no difference in the lives of people effected by flash floods neither was any flood relief measures. The Human Rights Commission even ordered an inquiry into alleged misuse of those relief Funds meant for flood relief in 2012. A Right to Information(RTI) document shows that not less than Rs 11,000 crore has been spent between 2005 to 2011 on relief and maintenance operations.

Assam received Rs 11,000 crore as flood relief funds in 2013

"Starting from 2005 till 2011 an astronomical amount has been given to the Government both by the Centre and the state but that amount has been misused as per the reports by Assam Water Resource Department. Due to that misuse lakhs of people are suffering," Assam Human Rights Commission chairman Dr Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia said in 2012. "All (embankments) are inappropriately designed with poor material and the amount of Money spent in my personal opinion is misused," Retired professor university of Alaska Dr Arvind Phukan, who is a flood control expert, said.

As the flood situation remains serious in Assam, the famous World heritage Site, the Kaziranga National Park is also under threat from flood waters. The national park is famous for its one-horned rhinoceros and many species may perish if proper measures are not taken by the Government.

Other north east states like Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Meghalaya, parts of West Bengal are too reeling under flash floods. Bihar is another flood prone state with almost 76 % of the population living under the threat of floods. Lately, Uttarakhand floods which was referred as the man-made disaster(caused due to illegal contruction of multi-storey houses, hotels in the ecologically fragile area), followed by deforestation was worst of the times and the Government has learnt little lessons from it.

The current Assam situation is nothing better and inspite of several management measures suggested little has been done by the Tarun Gogoi Government. This region consists of the rivers Brahmaputra & Barak and their tributaries covering seven states Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nothern parts of West Bengal, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland. The catchments of these rivers receive incessant rainfall from May to September. Hence, the floods in this region are severe and quite frequent which needs to be managed.

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