While the rest of the country is burning up like a cauldron from hell, Assam and the rest of the northeast are bearing the brunt of nature’s other side – flood and landslides triggered by excessive rains. The first wave of floods to have hit the state has already jeopardized the lives of almost a lakh people, according to estimates released by Assam State Disaster Management Authority, in six districts – Jorhat, Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Cachar and Charaideo.
Rivers above danger mark
Sivasagar is presently facing a significant amount of danger as Desang and Burhidihing Rivers are still tipping over the danger mark. It is being feared that in Dima Hasao district flash floods may have washed away many labourers at a stone quarry close to the River Jatinga. However, there has been no confirmed news of death owing to floods in Assam. The floods have also drowned crop area of almost 5000 hectares.
Problems in railway communication
The situation between Badarpur and Lumding is precarious as there have been landslides at four separate places. This has also stopped train services in Lumding-Silchar hill station, which had started on the evening of 24 April with a goods train. Officials of Northeast Frontier Railway have said that services will remain suspended till the time restoration work is completed. In Barak Valley, located in southern Assam, rail and road communications have been broken even as weather still is quite hostile in the affected areas.
Landslides are also a major natural disaster happening quite regularly in the mountainous areas in Northeast. A year back, the entire Darjeeling district was heavily affected owing to landslides – an entire village was literally wiped out in the space of a night – and now parts of Assam and other states in the northeast have been hit by landslides. Already, Mon district in Nagaland has been cut off owing to landslides and almost 19 people have passed away in Arunachal Pradesh because of the same. Heavy rainfall is being regarded as the main reason behind the landslides. Landslides have also isolated Anjaw district, located in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh. Kalikho Pul, the Chief Minister of the state, has – by his own admission – released INR 2 crore to carry out restoration work in Tawang. Relief has also been provided to families that have lost members in the landslides. Landslides have already destroyed around 200 houses in Nagaland. The state government has already got the Border Roads Organisation working to bring back the roads to good health.
Cause of floods
The floods have happened because of Desang and Burhidihing, which are tributaries of Brahmaputra, the main river flowing in this part of the country. The floods have already displaced almost 74,000 people by destroying around 200 villages in only Charaideo and Sivasagar. Even though the rains may have somewhat ceased in Assam, there have been plenty of rains in the upstream areas of these rivers in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland and this has meant that there is no significant improvement in the situation right away. The Met Department has predicted that from 28 night or morning of 29 thundershowers and rains could return in Meghalaya and Assam and if that indeed happens then the present situation could very well be exacerbated.
Virendra Mittal, the Deputy Commissioner of Sivasagar, has said that 31 relief camps have already been set up and around 3500 people have been shifted to the same. In the flood-hit areas of Charaideo, SDF (State Disaster Response Force) and NDF (National Disaster Response Force) forces have been pressed into action, apart from Army, in order to look for people and rescue them. This was preceded by an SOS from the Assam Government led by Tarun Gogoi, the Chief Minister. People in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Charaideo have received relief materials from authorities. Already around 40 relief camps have been opened in Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Charaideo and 7412 people have taken shelter in the same.
Calls for help
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has meanwhile come ahead and asked the Indian Government to declare the present spate of erosion and floods in the state as a national emergency and also provide sufficient funds to the state government to deal with the crisis. Dipanka Kumar Nath, AASU President, and Lurinjyoti Gogoi, General Secretary of AASU, have requested the government in a written statement where they have pointed out how the central government provided thousands of crores for Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar. In the same statement they have also pointed out that it is the apex government’s duty to help people in such dire straits. Leaders in the state government have also followed suit. They have had a meeting with the Indian Government and have assured the common people in Assam that the floods will be declared a national emergency. However, nothing has happened as such. The government has meanwhile been monitoring the condition of rains in neighbouring states such as Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in order to see if it has any effect on the downstream movement of rivers.