Assam floods: An insight into the devastation and damage

Sharon Singh
Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The yearly trend of flooding in India began in 2013, which has led to the displacement of thousands of locals and has also affected the wildlife of the eco-sensitive Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) badly.

It’s known fact that the Indian monsoons have been a reason for a major loss of life and property. This year, the monsoon season in India also came along with two cyclones, which caused larger damage to life in the property. While coastal dwellers were still coping with the trauma caused by a cyclone, later in few days in the second week June, Maharastra, Orissa, and West Bengal began receiving it monsoon rains in coastal regions. 

And while it is an annual occurrence, this year India has been further adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state was also battered by Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall near Kolkata on May 2. But unlike Maharastra, floods in Assam have their own unique reasons for havoc.

By the morning of 27th July, more than 100 people in Assam lost their lives due to floods. The yearly trend of flooding in India began in 2013, which has led to the displacement of thousands of locals, and has also affected the wildlife of the eco-sensitive Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) badly. 

This year, in particular, approximately 25 lakh people have been affected. With almost 46,000 people in 269 government shelters, not to forget, at the time of a pandemic.

Why does Assam flood every year?

The Brahmaputra is the biggest riverine system in Asia along with 50 tributaries. Many streams flow from glacial origins to rocky terrains. The river accumulates a heavy amount of sediments, as it enters the plains of Assam. The slit then gets deposited on the banks of the river.

According to Dr Pratiksha Padmashri Deka, who is conducting research on the Assam floods from Cotton University Guwahati, “Flood in India is not only caused due to obstacles like roads, railway bridges and canals. But also the Brahmaputra river lies over a high-risk zone V, which receives frequent tectonic activity. Because of this, the soil gets loose packs and leads to landslides.”

But also there is also an alleged reason that China has constructed several big dams in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, which is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo there. The flow of water is more when excess water is released suddenly from the China side of the river.

Manash Gogoi, a local resident of Tezpur, who owns a property at Manjuli island says, “I have spent all my summer holidays in the island and on banks of the river, seven years ago, we use to have a monsoon season, but now due to climate change and other geographical factors, instead of monsoon we simply have flooding season."

Evaluating the intensity of this year’s flood, it can be said that around 85 per cent of Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary (KNTPR) is now submerged underwater. This has lead to the migration of animals near human settlements and roads.

By the 20th of July, more than 10 rhinos have lost their life due to drowning in the floodwater. Apart from them, 107 more animals which include hog deer, wild buffalo, pythons, wild boar, swamp deer, sambar, and porcupines have lost their lives because of the same.

All the animals, especially one-horned rhino, are now the easy targets of poachers, as these majestic animals are now seeking shelter near the high land. 

Forest guards are taking every possible step to save the endangered species by making a parameter of 5 to 10 kilometres, to let rhinos flock around in the limited high rise planes which are not yet submerged. Providing naturally available habitat for the protected species. Along with the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), KNTPR has setup refuge centre for rhino calves. 

The size and weight of these animals are an obvious reason why adult rhinos can't be pushed into refuge centres. However, other protected animals are being moved to safe high land, with the help of forest guards. 

Not just the forest guards, but the locals who live near the sanctuary, are doing their bit by keeping food items and wood logs in open to help animals like elephants, deers, and wild buffalos. Few locals animal keepers took a step ahead and gave refuge to exotic animals such as the golden langur, in their homes.

The efforts and hard work of officers & guards at Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary and Assam forest department are not less than an act of valour. The effort was recently appreciated by Prince William, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cambridge.

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