On one hand, normal lives have been restrained by the catastrophic surging of the second wave of Covid-19 in the country and on the other hand, a large number of population in Assam, living in the floodplains is preparing for another annual impending disaster i.e. flood and erosion. The rainfall which can create pre-monsoon flood in low lying places starts in Assam from the second half of May although officially counted from June 1st as monsoon.
In each monsoon, Assam faces catastrophic flooding in many places affecting people in millions. The floodwater of the mighty Brahmaputra and it’s arterial tributaries bring untold miseries to the people particularly for those who live on the floodplains and the banks of the rivers. The north bank tributaries of the Brahmaputra are flashier; carry more silts and sediments in character and unpredictable in nature.
These tributaries reach the plains of Assam from the high hilly terrains of Arunachal Pradesh and some of them are transboundary rivers – partially rain-fed and partially glacial fed.
Torrential rain in the catchment areas or in upstream in Arunachal Pradesh results in disastrous floods in downstream areas. Flash floods with a high amount of debris can affect more the flood victims. The flood and erosion displace families by eroding, damaging or inundating the houses. The flood also affects livestock, agricultural lands, standing crops, education, transportation and communication; public health and sanitation, other economic activities and sometimes even claims human lives.
People have been struggling with floods for decades but no respite so far. Although the Covid-19 situation has worsened in the state and restrictions on human movement and gathering have been imposed, the people who live in the flood-prone areas still consider flood and erosion also as major disasters in the state. People in many flood-prone areas have been preparing to confront the impending annual flood.
Geographically, the districts of Dhemaji, Majuli and Lakhimpur are more vulnerable to floods than the rest in the state. According to the district administration of these three districts, the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) are ready to tackle the flood situations in the concerned districts.
Besides the government agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations and the people, vulnerable to floods have also been pro-actively working to reduce the risks of water-induced disasters.
In many parts of the Dhemaji district, people are making either new boats or repairing the old ones in villages for household uses or for the community during the flood period. Boats are very essential for them during flood periods. Boat making in villages vicinities to rivers in the district became common scenes; but strict rules, imposed due to prevailing deadly novel coronavirus situation became an impediment for them.
Although the Covid protocols are there, the flood-affected people and NGOs did a lot of works to confront the forthcoming disasters triggered by the flood. In Lakhimpur district, People’s Action for Development (PAD), an NGO with support from Germany-based organization Terre des Hommes (TDH) built three high-rise clay platforms in three villages i.e. Gongrabari, Gondhosaraiati and Kalbari on the bank of the Subansiri river under Bihpuria Revenue Circle.
During the heavy floods, people can take shelter in such raised platforms when houses and other lands are inundated. Raised platforms are also crucial to keep livestock and secure other essential commodities of a family.
Wilfred Topno, the director of PAD informs that for water resilient rice seed distribution among the farmers of the selected 10 villages, the organization has already prepared a list of 200 farmers and also ready to install high-rise tube wells in the flood-affected villages.
He adds that five medium size boats, for the use of the flood-affected communities during flood season have been built in Majuli and waiting to hand over to the communities of the 10 villages. Topno says, “Once the curve of the Covid cases goes down and the rules were loosened, we will be able to do the remaining works for the betterment of flood-affected people of our chosen villages in the district.”
On the other hand, North East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS), a Jorhat based NGO is also working to support 10 villages – Alimur Bamun Gaon, Batiamari, Kaniajaan, Hukunamukh, Sumoimari, Upper Sumoimari, Dakshinpat Das Gaon and Dakshinpat Kamar Gaon, affected by the Brahmatra flood and erosion under Kamalabari Revenue Circle of Majuli district.
As part of pre-flood activities, the organization distributed water resilient rice seeds (varieties of deepwater rice) among 100 farmers in the villages. They also supported some of the women of two villages by distributing weaving raw materials among them.
Hemanta Phukan, the project coordinator of the same TDH supported project informs that three boats have been built to provide the people of these flood-affected villages and some more activities like building high rise platform, installation of raised tube wells, training for task forces including search and rescue and first aids etc.