Recently, social media has been swept with posts about the floods in the North-East. Many are still unaware of the magnitude of damage, and lives lost over the past weeks. So what exactly is happening in Assam and the other neighbouring states?
Flood Fury in Assam
Assam has always been prone to frequent flooding due to its geographical location and geomorphic status. The Brahmaputra River Valley, on which it lies, is known for its violent floods. Excessive rainfall this year has caused the river and its tributaries to overflow. Apart from natural causes, other reasons could have contributed to the scenario. The increasing congestion in the natural drainage flow due to improper embankments could have played a major role in increasing the magnitude of damage. Whatever the reason may be, there is no denying the fact that there has been little investment in taking precautions.
Since the rivers originate in the mountainous regions, they had already crossed the danger mark before the incessant rain in the Northeast.
“As per the Met department forecast, there will be more rainfall across Assam and the water level in the Brahmaputra is likely to rise,”
Kumar Sanjay Krishna
(Additional Chief Secretary)
Most of the river islands took the first fall. The situation progressively worsened during the first week of July. By the 15th of July, almost thirty villages were underwater, affecting forty lakh people, and killing eleven. The death toll further increased to 27 within 2 days. According to the Central Water Commission, the water is increasing at an alarming rate of 3 cm per hour. This poses a threat of greater damage over the forthcoming days.
Relief and Rescue Operations
Assam State Disaster Management Authority estimates that 1.4 million people were affected, and displaced from their homes. The agricultural industry took a major hit with most of the land underwater and crops destroyed. Consistent erosion in the districts of Barpeta and Udalguri has not helped alleviate the situation. Most of the highways are unusable and there is little to no connectivity among the villages. The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the SDRF have combined their efforts to increase the pace of the rescue mission. With the help of the army, people from over a hundred villages were rescued and moved to flood relief camps. R S Gill, Officiating Commandant of NRDF confirmed that around 15 teams with deep-sea divers and IRB boats were being deployed to the stranded villagers.
Among the districts that were affected the most is Kaziranga; 70% of the National Park remains underwater, which in turn has led to the death of more than a hundred animals. Animals in search of a safer place are moving out of the park and into the city. It is estimated that over fifty animals including five one-horned rhinos have died due to the disaster. The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) has undertaken the task of rescuing animals from the water inundated park.
“We have been receiving rescued animals since July 13. We have treated and released over 85 per cent of the animals back to the park.The rescued animals were in a distressed and weak condition. We are moving across the forest area and looking for animals in need of rescue. We are coordinating with the locals. The forest department is working with us.”
-Pranjit Basumotary (CWRC).
With more people and animals coming into the flood relief camps, an acute shortage of resources has developed. Sanitation also poses a major threat to those who were rescued. Several NGOs have lent a helping hand to the relief camps. With the roads blocked, transportation of resources from the center has been difficult.
The Situation in the Other Northeastern States
Apart from Assam, several other Northeastern states have also suffered the consequences of rapid rains.
Heavy rainfall at the source in Nepal resulted in frequent flash floods in Bihar over the week. The governmental estimate shows the death count at 67, as of July 18th. Additional relief camps have been set up around the villages as the casualties rise. A total of 1.26 lakh people have been given shelter at the camps. With food being a major problem, the state has teamed up with community kitchens to provide the survivors with a basic meal.
The states of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Uttar Pradesh have not been spared. Meghalaya has witnessed persistent rainfall over the last few days, which has resulted in the flooding of West Gharo district. An estimate of 159 villages was said to be entirely submerged. Over 5000 relief camps have been set up in Meghalaya and Mizoram. The Khawthlangtuipui river has hit the low lying plains and claimed over hundreds of lives. The situation in Tripura remains dire, with thousands rendered homeless.
Reports have come from areas less affected, that the water has been receding steadily. The government has shifted its focus towards reducing health-related issues and to preventing the spread of diseases.
With the north-eastern states drowning in rains, there is little awareness about the situation in the rest of the country. MPs from Assam had to protest in the parliament to ensure that the floods were declared as a national emergency. A panel headed by Amit Shah looked into the situation to assess the necessary funding and amenities to be given. With the funding from the government and celebrities like Akshay Kumar and Hima Das, the states have seen an overall improvement in the rescue operations and relief centres. Companies like Zomato and Paytm have taken measures to raise funding for flood relief.
Thousands of people have lost their home and are stranded in villages with no knowledge of their next meal. Hundreds of animals have died in the process of migrating towards elevated lands. The least we can do to provide aid is by spreading awareness about the situation and donating what we can.
Assam : 1078 , 1070
NDRF control room number: 011-26107953
Bihar state emergency centre: 0612 – 2293204/05/10
Written by Aneesha Muthuraj
Source – Indiatimes, New18, NDTV.
Picture source – Indiatimes, Google Images