There is never an easy time to be a farmer in Assam. Just ask the farmers residing in the Agaratoli in the Bokakhat sub-division of the Golaghat district. In 2019, the locals came to know that three sluice gates would be built along the embankments meant to protect them from annual floods. The sluice gates, they were told, would ensure a systematic release of water from the villages eventually towards the Dhansiri river and the National Park.
However, three years after the sluice gates were built, local farmers say it has done little more than make things even worse for them.
The farmers allege that they were not consulted by the authorities before the project was commissioned, and the result, they say, is for all to see. “Sluice gate number 1 (which is the largest of the three) was built at least a foot or two above the ground level. This means that when floodwaters enter our farms, it cannot exit through the sluice gate, which defeats the whole purpose of the gate,” explains Monuhar Pegu, a student at Dibrugarh University and a resident of Belogudi number 2 village, located next to sluice gate number 1.
The farmers allege that this year, the problem was compounded by the fact that in the first few months of the monsoon, there was little rain followed by a deluge which meant that in the first week of August, the entire area, including the Kaziranga National Park was flooded. “The flood also was not because of much rain here (in the village). This was mainly the water coming from the various streams from the Karbi Hills. Earlier, the water would drain within a week or less, but now it takes more than two weeks. With so much difficulty, we had managed to sow paddy, but we lost the entire crop because it rotted in the fields,” says Nogen Kardong, a farmer whose land was submerged for weeks. Kardong said he was also working other jobs to supplement his income, given that he is unlikely to earn much, if any, from this season’s harvest. “I have planted paddy again. Let us see. I do not have much hope, to be honest,” he added.
Even during regular seasons, the farmers here suffer extensive losses/ Their crops are regularly damaged by wild animals, including elephants, deer, wild boars, rhinos, etc. “Every farmer loses up to a quarter of the harvest to the animals. We never get compensation for that. But we cannot do much, so we accept it. But now, the sluice gates have made farming nearly impossible during monsoon season. We can only hope that the mustard season (in the winters) would be better,” says Hemanta Pegu, a farmer in Belogudi. “This season has been a total waste. I have no idea who this sluice gate is benefitting because it is not benefiting the residents,” he adds.
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