I have been born and brought up in Assam, a beautiful state in north east India. So naturally rains have been a very important part of my life. It was raining when I was born and it normally rains on my birthday. I love rain. But rains love Assam a lot more. Every year rains play havoc in Assam. Every monsoon, the mighty river Brahmaputra, the lifeline of Assam, and his (Brahmaputra is the only male river in India) tributaries swell and spill over embankments to inundate miles of land, affecting and afflicting lakhs of people in rural Assam. And when the sluice gates are closed in order to prevent the river water entering the city, urban Assam witnesses flash floods.
Being a rain lover, I can not speak ill about rains. But it does have severe consequences when a region is ill equipped for excess rains. Unfortunately floods have become a part of Assam’s life. Every year more than half of the state’s districts, hundreds of villages and lakhs of people are affected. Every year promises are made that the state will be better equipped the coming year to combat floods, but alas. The same story of loss repeats itself, year after year.
Due to floods, rural Assam loses homes, agricultural lands, cattle, livelihood and infrastructure. Village dwellers are forced to leave their submerged homes and take shelter in makeshift houses on the national highway. Post floods, disease and hunger plague them. Homes and livelihood require to be built up again. Farmers venture out to the nearest city/town in search of work. Most of them end up working as construction workers.
Plight of the wild animals follows a similar storyline. Flood waters in the wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests force animals like the rhinoceros, deer, elephant and wild hog to seek highland normally the national highway. Many of them end up getting injured or killed by speeding vehicles. Ruthless poachers also have their way with these vulnerable animals.
The story of the city dwellers is slightly different. The low lying areas of Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, also called the gateway to north east India, are consistently flooded each rainy season. Gutters and drains overflow as rain water has nowhere to flow out. In the recent years many of the natural water bodies have been filled up to make way for real estate development. As a result the rainwater flowing down the hills and other higher areas of the city has no option but to flood the city. Plus, as the Brahmaputra is already flooded, water from inside the city can not be allowed into it. Main roads and gullies transform into raging rivers and houses are flooded with all kind of debris. There are incidents of people falling into open manholes and getting drowned. Since a couple of years cleaning drive of the drains have been undertaken but that had been a little help. But again, some effort is better than no effort. The city people has also very little civic sense. Even after all that they suffer, they continue throwing plastics bags in drains and hence suffocating the whole drainage system of the city.
The sad part is Assam floods are now regarded as the state’s basic features and left at it. Between the years 2005 and 2011, an astronomical amount of Rs. 11000 crores is said to be spent on flood relief and maintenance (http://news.oneindia.in/2013/07/09/flood-relief-funds-misused-assam-1255828.html). Every year politicians and government announces setting up of committees and funds to find long term solutions. But the reality is more the fund, more is the corruption and misuse. As long as the authorities involved are not affected by the devastating floods, they will not care for the victims. Floods are just another occasion for the political parties to secure votes by promising remedies to the victims.
Over time, there had been several suggestions as to how floods can be tackled, prevented or use to our advantage. One basic approach suggested is to convert Brahmaputra itself into a series of reservoirs (http://www.assamtimes.org/node/7397). Another is building embankments along the entire river length.But of having the expertise and affordability, nothing concrete has been done about the situation. As long as the excess rains are used to our advantage, they will continue to be a bane to the Assamese.
News for Assam floods: