Raging river

Gnaws at its banks in Assam

By Nava Thakuria
Published: Monday 15 December 2003

the Brahmaputra has unleashed its destructive force again in Assam. The sudden massive erosion caused by the river along its southern banks in Nagaon district, around 120 kilometres (km) east of Guwahati, has hit many villages hard.

The waterbody began wreaking havoc in October. "From October 8 onwards, it washed away over 15 metres of arable land every day. By the first week of November, however, the daily damage came down to 4 metres," reveals P C Mahanta, an official of the state water resources department. That the situation is still serious can be gauged from the fact that the river, which was originally around 2 km away from the Kukurakata and Hatimura dyke, is now within 100 metres of the earthen embankment connecting Borghop to Kukurakata and Hatimura.

According to Kusum Bora, a local teacher from Hatbar village in Koliabar subdivision of Nagaon: "Over 800 hectares of land at Hatimura, Baneswar, Baghjan and Kukurakata villages has been severely affected. Even the western extension of Kaziranga National Park is faced with the threat of erosion."

Bijit Dutta of non-governmental organisation Nature's Havoc Protection Society told Down To Earth that an unexpected change in the course of the Brahmaputra has led to the crisis. "Experts feel that the spur of the newly-built Koliabhomora bridge, connecting Nagaon and Tezpur, is impeding the natural flow of the river," says Dutta.

The deputy commissioner of Nagaon, Prateek Hajela, discloses that the administration has taken temporary measures, but concedes: "Only long-term steps are the answer to the problem." For their part, politicians are busy passing the buck to each other.

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