Flood situation continues to be grim in Assam

Syeda Ambia Zahan | Sep 14, 2017 | 6 min read


Floods ravage Bihar, NE India; 212 lives lost so far

By Team 101reporters

Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar:

Intro: Lakhs of people affected in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar as river embankments continue to give way. Expert blames flood on rampant industrialisation

Torrential downpour in the eastern part of the country over the past week has resulted in many rivers flowing above the danger level and causing flood along their course. While the flood situation in Assam is said to be the worst in 13 years, its neighbouring state Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar are also submerged.

In Assam, which is experiencing the third wave of flood this year, 24 of its 32 districts are under water. About 33.45 lakh people and 2,970 villages have been affected, according to a report by Assam State Disaster Management Authority dated August 16. The government has set up 304 relief camps, where about 1.39 lakh people have taken shelter. Floods this year have claimed 140 lives in the state.

Seven rivers--Brahmaputra, Dhansiri, Jia Bharali, Puthimari, Beki Sankosh, Katakhal and Kushiyara were flowing above the danger level till the evening of August 16. Everyday, instances of swelling rivers breaching embankments are coming forth. On Wednesday, four such instances were reported in the state. Earlier this week, Jia Dhol river breached an embankment in Dihiri village, in western part of the state, and submerged 22 villages.

Ruing about the flood situation, Anu Rabha of  Bamun Gaon in Dhemaji district said, “My entire agricultural land is under water. I have lost all my cattles too. I urge the government to compensate us for this loss as we suffering. This happened because the Guyekhowa embankment is breached and this is the fault of the administration.”

In eastern part of Assam, Dhemaji is worst-hit by the deluge. It lies cut off from the rest of the world since the district administration closed the Kumtia bridge. Severe erosion is taking place in Udalguri, Nagaon, Bangaigaon, and Chirang districts, affecting agriculture fields, houses and schools.

This third wave of flood hit Assam when people were beginning to return to their villages after biding time in relief camps. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the quantum of rainfall Assam has received so far this month is twice the normal, expected rainfall.

According to the disaster management report, As on August 16, more than 1.43 lakh hectare crop area was affected in Assam. The worst affected district was Bhuragaon with more than 17000 hectares of crop area under water.

Arunachal Pradesh submerged

In Assam's neighbouring state Arunachal Pradesh, heavy landslides caused by incessant rain have blocked many roads. The remote Anjaw district lies cut off as the main road connecting it to the neighbouring district has been blocked since August 8 owing to a landslide.

Some villages in the district were cut off from each other owing to the flood a week ago. Flood has isolated four districts in the state-- Anjaw, East Siang, Namsai, and parts of West Siang districts-- and submerged a part of National Highway 415, which leads to the state's capital Itanagar. After water receded, the highway was thrown open for small vehicles this Sunday after some repair work. A 400-metre-long stretch caved in past Friday owing to water logging.

Deputy chief minister Chowna Mein visited the flood-affected sites on Independence Day and remarked that the state's measures to control damage in case of heavy rain were proving to be effective. He observed that much work needed to be done to further minimise the damage. The flood has damaged many roads and bridges in the state.

Grim situation in Bihar

More than half of the districts in Bihar are under deluge as almost all the rivers that run the land are above the danger level. According to Bihar Disaster Management Authority, more than 3,867 villages in Purnea, Nalanda, Patna, Kishanganj and Madhubani districts are bearing the brunt of flood. As many as 133 villages in Madhepura, Sitamarhi and Gopalgarh were affected between Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Bihar, the number of people affected by the deluge stood at 73 lakh on August 16, according to the state's daily flood report. The flood has claimed 72 lives in the state so far, with 16 losing their life between Tuesday and Wednesday. In this period, 48 new relief camps were set up, taking the total number to 504.

Vinod Patel, a farmer from Ramgarh district lost his belonging after his house was washed away in the floods. "I found the remnants of my house a kilometre away. I am just trying to salvage whatever I can," he said.

According to a news report, the flood situation worsened in Bihar after 4.85 lakh cusec water was released on Sunday from the Gandak barrage in Valmikinagar.

Anirudh Kumar, joint secretary, Bihar Disaster Management Department, said the situation was critical in Madhubani, Kishanganj, Katihar, Champaran, Supaul, Araria, Saharsa and Madhepur. He said 48 teams of National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and the army were working round the clock to rescue people. He said 2.78 lakh people have been rescued so far and 1.6 lakh relocated to safer place.

The Indian Air Force has pressed a helicopter, two aircraft, four boats and 90 troops into the rescue operation, a senior Air Force official said.

A Supaul resident, Rahul Kumar, said streets in Kishanganj and Araria were under waist-deep water. Chief public relations officer of East Central Railway, Rajesh Kumar, said 18 trains have been cancelled and the others were running late because of the flood. He said Katihar-Siliguri rail route was closed and there was no contact with the North-East.

Kosi river, which had wreaked havoc in Bihar in 2008, is inundating villages and eroding land in Supaul.

In Pashchim Champaran district, a few blocks have seen three-four cycles of flash floods. The situation has worsened in eight of the flood-affected blocks this week. According to the locals, the district has never experienced flash floods of this severity. Vinay Kumar, secretary of NGO Water Action said half of the affected populace in Pashchim Champaran has never seen a flood before.

The flood has washed away crop on lakhs of hectares of land in all the states, causing loss of crores of rupees.

Rainfall pattern changing

Climate change experts say the main reason behind the flood is the changing rainfall pattern in North-East India.

Dr. Abdhesh Kumar Gangwar, an environment and climate change expert and the programme director of Centre for Environment Education said the global temperature has increased and this is leading to more evaporation from the sea bed and causing higher precipitation.

“Because of climate change, we are having extreme weather events. At the same time, we are having flood in some areas and drought in some other areas.  Rainfall is the same, but before industrialisation, rainfall used to be slow and gradual and we had more rainy days and the land to absorb it. Now, the same amount of rainfall comes down in a very short period of time and we have too much intense rainfall over a short period of time, which is leading to flood.”

(Syeda Ambia Zahan and Pranab Kumar Das from Guwahati, Ganesh Prasad from Bihar and Saurabh Sharma from Lucknow have contributed to the story. All reporters are members of 101reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

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