Forest guards of Pobitora wildlife sanctuary navigate floodwaters on a makeshift bamboo bridge in Morigaon. (AP)
Guwahati, Aug. 1: This year's floods in Assam have been the worst since 2004 with the Brahmaputra and its tributaries raging across Assam.
"What makes the floods different this time is its sweep across the state. Normally the Upper Assam districts are more affected. It is the worst flood since 2004," the chief executive officer of Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), Dipak Kumar Sarma, told The Telegraph today.
In three waves since April, this year's floods have killed 28 people in 28 of the state's 34 districts. More than 26 lakh people have been affected as the Brahmaputra and its tributaries swept away more than 2,800 villages and submerged more than 2 lakh hectares of crops.
"The number of deaths have been comparatively less this year because we can now sound an alert at the circle level 24 hours before flood strikes and can do so with 70 per cent accuracy. However, the destruction of homes and crops can't be prevented," he said. The daily flood bulletin issued by ASDMA in Guwahati this evening said the Brahmaputra and two of its major tributaries were still flowing above the danger level in four districts. The Brahmaputra was flowing above the danger level at Neematighat in Jorhat district and in Dhubri while in other places it had receded. The Dhansiri and the Beki were flowing above the danger mark at Numaligarh in Golaghat district and in Barpeta district, it said.
However, nine of the 12 flood forecasting stations maintained in Assam by the Central Water Commission's flood forecasting division recorded declining river water levels this afternoon, while the other three had steady levels - although most were close to the warning or danger levels.
The forecasting stations in Batatighat, Beki Road Bridge, Dhubri, Dharamtul, Goalpara, Golokganj, NT Road crossing, Puthimari NH road crossing and Tezpur showed declining levels, while stations in Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Neematighat had steady levels. At 7 this evening, the station in Guwahati documented the water level at 49.02m, below the danger level of 49.68m but above the warning level of 48.68m. It showed a declining trend.
Though the number of people affected has decreased by more than five lakh in the past 24 hours, over 11 lakh people are still in the grip of floods in 21 districts. Over one lakh people each in Barpeta, Goalpara, Dhubri and Morigaon districts are still affected, the bulletin said. Over 1.25 lakh people are still taking shelter in 273 relief camps.
The Brahmaputra Valley had experienced major floods in 1954, 1962, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004. According to the Flood Hazard Atlas of Assam (ISRO, 2011), approximately 28.31 per cent (22.21 lakh hectares) of land in the state was affected by floods between 1998 and 2007. More than 150 people had died in the 2004 floods, which has been termed as one of the worst.
The mighty Brahmaputra swells according to the flow of water in its tributaries that flow down from neighbouring states and countries. This year, the Lalai, Aie, Taklai, Kanamakra and Langkhar that flow down the foothills of Bhutan to the north of Assam have created havoc in the lower Assam districts of Chirang, Baksa and Kokrajhar. The Kulsi, Batha and Jinari, which flow from Garo hills in western Meghalaya, have caused mayhem in the lower Assam districts of Goalpara and Kamrup. Together they have brought misery to at least two lakh people.
The Subansiri and the Lohit, which flow down the hills of central and eastern Arunachal Pradesh, have inundated the Upper Assam districts of Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur on both the banks of the Brahmaputra.
The red river, which flows through Arunachal Pradesh as the Siang, enters Assam at its extreme east, at Sadiya. Together they have rendered more than four lakh people homeless in Upper Assam.
"For the past week, we have been practically living in water. Four of my buffaloes have died in these floods. It's the same story every year for us," said Jyoti Prakash Pegu, a resident of Dhunaguri village in Lakhimpur district of Upper Assam.
The worst is yet to come, warned meteorology experts. A report prepared by the Indian meteorological department says the country's east and Northeast received 647.9mm rainfall between June 1 and July 27 against the normal rainfall of 735.9mm during monsoon. "The rainy season is not yet over and whether the northeastern states receive excess or deficit rainfall is something we will get to know only at the end of the season, which is about the beginning of August give or take a few days," a meteorologist said.
The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad, alleging the Centre's apathy towards Assam where lakhs of people are reeling under floods, today hinted at a massive agitation. Its president Biraj Kumar Talukdar said Union home minister Rajnath Singh, despite recently visiting some of the flood-hit areas, did not announce a single penny for those affected.
Nor did the BJP-led state government place any demand before him, he added. He demanded Rs 10,000 crore from the Centre for succour to the flood-affected people.
In Jorhat, additional deputy commissioner Bubul Lekharu gave a cheque for Rs 4 lakh as ex gratia payment to Phuleswari Pegu, whose husband Ajoy Pegu, a resident of Hatihal Bormukoli Mising Gaon, lost his life in the floods.
Jorhat deputy commissioner Virendra Mittal today appealed to government employees to donate one day's salary for flood victims. The money will be sent to the chief minister's flood relief fund. Yesterday, members of IPS Association, Assam, had decided to donate their one day's gross salary to the chief minister's relief fund in view of the current floods in the state.
The Asam Sahitya Sabha today demanded Rs 3,000 crore from the Centre towards compensation and rehabilitation of people affected by floods and erosion in the state. It also demanded that the Centre declare Assam's flood and erosion as a national disaster. The two demands were among the resolutions adopted by the literary organisation in an executive meeting held under the chairmanship of its president Dhrubajyoti Bora at Gohpur in Biswanath Chariali district in north Assam yesterday. Sabha general secretary Paramananda Rajbongshisaid the organisation would approach the Centre for resolution of the flood problem in Assam which affects the lives of a vast population every year.
Additional reporting by Wasim Rahman in Jorhat