Guwahati, March 22: Dispur today warned that floods in Assam would cause more devastation this year, as nearly 3,500 embankments were in an extremely pitiable condition and could be easily breached.
Replying to a debate on the cut motion for grants in the Assembly today, water resource minister Rajiv Lochan Pegu said out of 4,447 embankments in the state, 1,000 had been categorised as extremely vulnerable and 2,400 vulnerable.
“Only 1,200 embankments have been considered reasonably safe. Going by statistics, 3,500 embankments are in a very risky condition and could be washed away at any time by floods,” Pegu said.
He appeared helpless while replying to Opposition legislators’ questions and told the Assembly that the perennial flood and erosion problem could not be solved unless the neighbouring states, particularly Arunachal Pradesh, joined hands with Assam to constitute the proposed North East Water Resources Authority (NEWRA).
He said since the great earthquake in 1950 that changed the course of the Brahmaputra, Assam had lost a total of 4.3 lakh hectares of land to floods and erosion.
On Saturday, the All Assam Students’ Union had alleged that the Rs 600 crore earmarked in the 2013-14 state budget for solving Assam’s flood problem by strengthening the existing embankments was grossly insufficient. It accused Dispur of failure to offer any tangible and lasting solution to the problem.
“Dispur has allotted just Rs 600 crore to strengthen embankments. But this is grossly insufficient to rebuild all the embankments, as a majority of these are over 30 years old,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya had told The Telegraph.
The water resource minister admitted that the state government was yet to adopt long-term measures to solve the flood problem. “The government has submitted a Rs 4,000-crore project to the central government for a long-term solution of the problem. The intensity of the floods and erosion could be easily gauged from the present scenario in Majuli. The island has now been divided into 65 small isles by erosion,” the minister said.
Pegu reiterated that a proposed organisation like NEWRA had to be floated for integrated and joint efforts of the states like Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya to effectively tackle the flood problem.