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Life on a dyke: Watch the river swallow crops

- Dhemaji farmer’s dream of a golden harvest shattered by raging Brahmaputra
Residents of Rekhachapori village living on a dyke. Picture by Vinod Kr Singh

Dhemaji, Aug. 22: Hira Jimey dreamt of a good harvest from his 15-bigha paddy farm this season. But his dream was shattered when surging waters of the Brahmaputra destroyed vast swathes of land for nearly a week.

Jimey lives in Rekhachapori village in Dhemaji district, on the north bank of the Brahmaputra in Upper Assam. Since August 13 — the day the river overflowed — Jimey and his seven-member family are living on the dyke under a tarpaulin sheet with no potable water or toilet.

“All my paddy saplings are under water since the river broke its embankment. They cannot survive so long. How will I plant more saplings? Besides, after the season new saplings will not give a satisfactory yield,” said a worried Jimey.

His family is one among the 81 families of his village who have been staying on the dyke. Over a hundred families from nearby villages are also taking shelter some distance away.

August 13 was a day the villagers cannot forget. The Brahmaputra washed away 60 metres of the dyke at 12.30pm, inundated nearly 110 villages, affected 1.5 lakh people and destroyed nearly 10,000 hectares of crops. Eighty children of a primary school, a few hundred metres from the breach spot, escaped only because of their alert headmaster. The administration asked the affected villagers to take shelter in a school, but within a few hours it was submerged.

“Different organisations and the district administration are supplying relief materials. We are grateful to them. But our main problem will begin as soon as the water recedes. Many families like us will have to move to other places for survival as the water has destroyed their houses and crops,” Jimey said.

Only a few houses (sang ghar) made on bamboo stilts could withstand the fury of gushing waters.

Floods wreak havoc in the district every year.

“Water from the rivers originating in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh has a constant flow. But what worried us most is that this flood leaves sand deposits on the paddy fields, making them unfit for agricultural activity,” said another affected villager.

When contacted, deputy commissioner of Dhemaji, Monalisa Goswami, said:“We are assessing the loss to take further action,” Goswami said.