Flood-hit Assam grapples with diseases, animal poachers
Guwahati, July 17: It is not just ever-increasing water killing people and destroying homes and agricultural lands, flood in Assam has brought multiple problems in its wake.
The northeastern state is now fighting scarcity of safe drinking water, waterborne diseases and poachers, who have set their eyes on animals in flood-hit national parks and other habitats.
Currently, people in various places affected by floods, especially those staying in relief camps and roadsides, have no safe drinking water as most of the water bodies have been contaminated.
The scarcity of drinking water has badly hit districts like Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli, where the flood situation is grave.
Since water bodies have been contaminated, people are being forced to drink water from readily available sources. "The residents of flood-affected areas are likely to bear the brunt of waterborne diseases like cholera, hepatitis and diarrhoea, to name a few. Mosquitoes are also breeding fast in stagnant water bodies. Thus, there is a possibility of epidemic-like situation due to malaria and other mosquito-borne disease," warned a senior government official.
The state government, on its part, is providing hand pumps and water pouches to the affected people.
"Halazon (chlorine) tablets and chemical packets are also being distributed through the medical teams to decontaminate the water before consumption," informed the official.
However, people involved in rescue and relief measures say that these measures are not enough as the sources of drinking water are highly contaminated.
Due to floods, around 20 lakhs people in 21 districts have been affected. More than three lakhs people have become homeless, who are taking shelter in makeshift camps and roadsides.
"The homeless people are the most vulnerable to diseases," said the official.
According to the latest report, the death toll in Assam due to floods has gone up to 60.
In order to save animals from being targeted by poachers, which is generally the case during flood season in the state, Assam police have deployed two companies of armed personnel near the Kaziranga National Park and the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary to protect the animals, including the one-horned rhinos.
"As floodwaters inundate the forest area, the animals rush toward the highlands for shelter and poachers take advantage of the situation. Keeping this threat in mind, we rushed the company to the Kaziranga last month to increase vigil in vulnerable areas in Jakhlabandha in Nagaon district, Bokakhat in Golaghat and Rong Bong Bey in Karbi Anglong district. We stationed another company in Morigaon district to check poaching in the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary and to help the district administration maintain security during distribution of relief materials among the flood-affected," special director-general of police (law and order), Kuladhar Saikia, told The Telegraph.
The Kaziranga--the country's biggest home to one-horned rhinos--has reported the death of 78 animals this year. The park has lost at least 60 rhinos in the past three years due to poaching.
At the Kaziranga National Park, 38 per cent of the area is submerged, leaving several animals dead and some moving to nearby highlands.
Although, officials state that the flood situation in the state has improved marginally, currently, the Brahmaputra river is flowing above the danger mark in two places -- Nimatighat in Jorhat and Dhubri town.