Floods affect over 60,000 in Assam

Rains swell rivers in Assam beyond danger level; roads, houses submerged

By Amarjyoti Borah
Published: Wednesday 03 July 2013

After a deluge left Uttarakhand battered and reeling, incessant rains threaten to wreak havoc in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Rivers are flooded in Dhemaji, Golaghat, Jorhat, Kamrup, Karimganj, Lakhimpur, Sivasagar, Morigaon and Tinsukia districts of Assam. Over 60,000 people have been affected so far.

According to the state government figures, till July 2, as many as 240 villages were severely affected by floods and 3,340 hectare (ha) of crop land were affected. “As of now, three relief camps have been set up in Dhemaji; over 700 people are there in the relief camps,” says Nandita Hazarika, deputy secretary, state revenue and disaster management department.

According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), over 550 houses have suffered damage as of July 2. Six roads have also been damaged. One bridge and three culverts are also affected.

Many roads, which are either under construction or are completed under the ministry of rural development’s Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), are either partially or fully submerged. “Several roads and embankments have been eroded and approaches of bridges and culverts are washed away by the flood water. The actual quantum of flood damage can be ascertained only after flood water recedes,” says Rajiv Lochan Pegu, Assam water resources minister. “We will then prepare a detailed list of flood damaged schemes and the approximate amount for their repair and restoration,” he adds.

Till date, Majuli subdivision is the worst affected in the state with over 40 villages submerged. However, the state government figures put the number at 15. “About 20 riverside villages and some cultivable lands in Majuli have been inundated by floodwaters, and more than 10 families have been shifted to safer areas,” says Arup Sharma, circle officer in Majuli subdivision.

Authorities on standby

The situation has worsened in the past 24 hours prompting the Assam government to direct all officials of the water resources department and the disaster management department not to take leave. “I have issued directives to all senior officials to ensure that people do not leave their respective station except for official duty,” Pegu told Down to Earth.

Rivers breach danger mark

The Brahmaputra is flowing above the danger mark at Nimatighat in Jorhat district. The Jia-Bharali in Sonitpur district and the Dikhow in Sivasagar have also crossed the danger mark. As many as 10 more rivers in the state are showing the same trend.

In view of the rising water level of the Brahmaputra at Guwahati, the state Inland Water Transport (IWT) department has regulated ferry service between Guwahati and north Guwahati. Other district administrative bodies have asked the IWT department authorities to suspend ferry service if the flood level rises above the danger mark, and has also asked it to be on high alert.
Weak embankments

A disadvantage is the fact that over 82 per cent of the state's embankments and dykes have crossed the lifespan for which they are effective. “Last year, floods had breached embankments at 74 places. It is a fact that 3,918.82 km of the total 4,773.82 km of embankments have surpassed their effective lifespan," admits Pegu. Among the embankments that have outlived their effective span, the state government has recently identified 950 km as "extremely vulnerable" and 2,390 km as "vulnerable".

Last year, the Assam government had announced that steps will be taken to strengthen these embankments.  In the 2013-14 state budget, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who also holds the finance portfolio, had announced allocation of Rs 600 crore for strengthening embankments that are more than 30 years old and had surpassed their effective lifespan.

Authorities of the Kaziranga National Park have also started to take precautionary measures to tackle flood within the park. “Flood management plans were reviewed after water entered the park a few days ago,” says park director N K Vasu.

Satellite images for extraction of flood disaster footprints and assessing the disaster impact: Brahmaputra floods of June–July 2012, Assam

Assam flood assessment report 2012

Development of village-wise flood risk index map using multi-temporal satellite data: a study of Nagaon district, Assam

Report of working group on flood management and region specific issues for XII Plan

Adjusting to floods on the Brahmaputra plains, Assam

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