Evolve an integrated response to floods | HT Editorial
Floods have hit 18 of the 33 districts in Assam, killing 37 people and affecting more than a million people and livestock. They have submerged large parts of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, and Manas National Park. Floods are an annual feature in the state. Apart from incessant and heavy rainfall during the monsoon, there are natural and man-made factors that contribute to this. With a large basin area spanning China, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, the Brahmaputra brings with it huge quantities of water and silt, leading to erosion and floods in Assam. In addition, because of the region’s earthquake-prone nature, the river is not stable. The man-made problems include dams (which destroy the fragile ecology), deforestation in catchment areas leading to increase in sediment load, embankments, and growing habitation along the banks and sandbars. These restrict the space for the excess river water to spread. When rainfall is heavy, the river breaches the embankments and destroys habitations along the banks and on the sandbars.
It is time the central and the state governments prepare a long-term plan that goes beyond piecemeal measures like building embankments and dredging to control floods. They must opt for an integrated basin management plan that brings all the basin-sharing countries on board. Addressing the issues only in Assam when the flood strikes can’t be the solution — countries must come to an understanding about taking measures in the catchment areas. This becomes critical because the climate crisis, which is leading to intense rainfall in short periods of time, will only aggravate the existing challenges.