GUWAHATI, JULY 11: Assam is no stranger to floods. But this deluge is the worst it has seen in many years. The first wave of floods – from April to June claimed 126 lives. More than 700 animals in Kaziranga National Park and elsewhere have died. Fears of a second wave hitting soon loom large.
The annual devastation comes in multiple waves in Assam – 3 to 4 – starting from April. According to the state disaster management authority, the floods in June affected almost 24 lakh as 4,540 villages came under water. While the flood fury has abated somewhat, more than 3 lakh are still affected as 550 villages continue to be flooded. The state Government has pegged the damage at Rs 11,316 crore.
The current wave was declared by the state Government as the worst since 2004: 201 human lives and over 100 animals were lost in the 4 waves that year. Government spokesman and Agriculture Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka said this year’s wave of floods has turned out to be even bigger. “And we are witnessing just the first wave. We fear the next wave, which is expected very soon.”
The Minister said 40% of the state’s area stands affected, including 2.5lakh ha of crop area. “The loss to farmers is about Rs 900 crore. Also, there is silt cover in areas where the waters have receded; this has to be cleared before the sowing season in August,” Deka said.
The southwest monsoon-fed flood first hit Karimganj district in Barak valley in April and later Lakhimpur district on the north bank of Brahmaputra valley in May. The devastating phase started on June 24 when incessant rains in the catchment areas of Brahmaputra, particularly in China and Arunachal, led to the river and its tributaries flowing above the danger mark. The monsoon also triggered landslides, which have so far claimed 16 lives, including 10 in the city. The flood has destroyed infrastructure, breaching embankments in the Brahmaputra valley, washing away bridges and damaging seven national highways and roads. PM Manmohan Singh, on his visit to the state on July 2, announced an ad hoc assistance of Rs 500 crore to help the state till the final assistance is announced after the damage is assessed by a central team. The 7-member team arrived here on Tuesday. “The central team has been divided into 3 groups for three sectors, NC Hills and Karbi Anglong hill districts, upper Assam and lower Assam,” an official said.
The state will pay ex-gratia of Rs 1.5 lakh to the next of kin of each of the dead while the PMO and the CM will give ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh each.
Floods that render millions homeless and kill hundreds or thousands of people and animals are depressingly repetitive in India. So are droughts. True, there are limits to how much man can do to protect himself from the vagaries of nature. But, a country that boasts of being an emerging economic superpower can do a better job on this. Managing water resources better is a part of the solution and nowhere near enough has been done on this. The other is dealing with calamities. Here again, there is little evidence of having imbibed the best global practices. It is hard to escape the conclusion that human life is simply not valued enough. (TNN)