Unrelenting floods without respite add to Assam’s plight this monsoon
But this year heavy rains, almost without any long break, has led to more suffering for the state’s residents who are already witnessing the third wave of floods this monsoon.Updated: Jul 24, 2020 19:29 IST
Floods are an annual feature of Assam’s calendar and 4-5 waves of deluge usually strike the state between April and August each year.
But this year heavy rains, almost without any long break, has led to more suffering for the state’s residents who are already witnessing the third wave of floods this monsoon.
“Usually we have a gap period between successive waves of floods in Assam, which allows water level in rivers to come down and flood waters to dry. But this year rainfall has been almost continuous for weeks and it has aggravated the situation. This is unusual,” said eminent water expert Dulal Goswami.
“Though excess rainfall could be a factor, we have to consider that global climate change could also be responsible. According to a government study done in 2018, Assam was found to be the most vulnerable to changing climate among 12 states in the Indian Himalayan Region,” he added.
According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) since the beginning of June, the state has recorded 20% more rainfall—894.4 mm till July 22 against the normal of around 743.9 mm.
“We are witnessing a pattern in past few years where unlike in the past when rainfall used to get spread over a few months but now it seems most of the rainfall is taking place in one go,” said Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, visiting research associate, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.
“Climate change is definitely a factor for this and such erratic events will continue. We need to see if we are prepared for this when 2-3 waves of floods happen almost at once. It is important to talk of floods as a livelihood issue and not discuss this only when the disaster strikes,” he added.
Both experts said instead of piecemeal and sporadic efforts, a holistic approach needs to be taken to address the annual floods keeping into consideration people’s livelihoods and that Brahmaputra and other major rivers in the state have their own characteristics.
As per Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) data, over 27 lakh people in 26 of the state’s 33 districts were still affected by floods on Friday. This season 96 persons have died due to drowning and another 26 in landslides caused by heavy rains.
Over 50,000 displaced persons were taking shelter in 301 relief camps. Flood waters have also inundated over 1.22 hectares of crop area across the state.
“We are witnessing the third wave of floods at present. Rainfall and flooding has been taking place since May end. While rainfall has taken place as per IMD prediction, climate change could be a reason for lack of gap between waves of floods,” said Pankaj Chakraborty, state project coordinator, ASDMA.
Kaziranga still inundated by flood waters; Britain’s Prince William shocked
Floods continue to affect Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) with 85% of the park spread over 430 sq km inundated. This season 125 animals of the park including 13 rhinos (9 due to drowning and 4 due to natural causes) have died in and around the park.
The situation at the park evoked reactions from Britain’s Prince William, the second in the line of succession to the British throne, who wrote to KNPTR director P. Sivakumar on July 21 expressing his and his wife Catherine’s feelings.
“Catherine and I were heartbroken to hear about the appalling devastation to Kaziranga National Park and its precious wildlife caused by the very heavy monsoon flooding,” said the letter.
“We have the happiest memories of our visit to Kaziranga in April 2016 and are shocked by what has happened. The deaths of so many animals including one-horned rhino, is deeply upsetting,” it added.