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The second wave of floods has affected over 3.8 million people in Assam so far
The second wave of floods has affected over 3.8 million people in Assam so far|EastMojo image
OPINION

Assam flood: Year after year, same old story of disaster & despair

Over 65 lives have been lost and 3.8 million people hit by the second wave of floods in the NE state that has also impacted 2,000 villages and 1,35,266 hectares of cropland

Simran Bajaj

Guwahati: Rains and floods are a norm in Assam -- every year, the entire state in Northeast India comes under a monsoon mayhem that claims lives and destroys property.

The second wave of floods that has currently engulfed Assam this year has been no different. The natural disaster has already claimed 65 lives and affected over 3.8 million people in the state so far.

According to a report from the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, with receding water levels, the number of affected districts has come down to 18 from 24. Yet, 1,15,389 people are still sheltered in 829 relief camps across the state.

While affecting over 2,000 villages, the floods have also affected 1,35,266 hectares of cropland this year.

Deer crossing the National Highway-37 to avoid flood waters in Kaziranga National Park in Assam
Deer crossing the National Highway-37 to avoid flood waters in Kaziranga National Park in Assam
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Meanwhile, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned of heavy to very heavy rainfalls in the state along with neighbouring Meghalaya on Monday and Tuesday, with the latter parts of the week bringing some relief, as rainfall lessens.

Rescue operations by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), district administrations and local people continue across the state, with 137 boats currently deployed and 6,371 people rescued on Sunday.

On Monday, Assam DGP Kuladhar Saikia met all the district SPs and senior officials to take a macro view of the flood impact, among other agendas.

A one-horned rhino swimming out of a submerged area in Kaziranga National Park in Assam
A one-horned rhino swimming out of a submerged area in Kaziranga National Park in Assam
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Earlier last week, Union minister for jal shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took stock of the flood situation in Assam and announced to release an amount of Rs 251.55 crore as Central aid.

The minister undertook an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas of the districts of upper Assam, mainly Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Majuli, and discussed the situation with the officials of district administration and departments concerned. He also visited relief camps of Majuli and assured the inhabitants of full assistance from the Central government.

According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), Brahmaputra river is still prevailing in flood situation, though the water level is recorded as 'falling' at several areas.

Kaziranga National Park

Floods have wreaked havoc in the world-famous Kaziranga National Park (KNP) as well, leaving 182 animals dead from July 13 so far. But the animals died not just due to floods, but also while fleeing to higher grounds, when many of them were hit by vehicles while crossing the National Highway-37 that passes through the national park. Though speed restrictions have been put in place, reports of hit-and-run incidents continue to take place.

A wild deer that was crushed to death by a vehicle near Kaziranga National Park in Assam
A wild deer that was crushed to death by a vehicle near Kaziranga National Park in Assam
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Kaziranga National Park director Karmashree P Shivakumar said, "When floodwater entered the Park on July 13, we expected it to be a normal flood, but suddenly the water level exceeded our expected level. NH [37] got blocked for three days, and advantage of that blockage is that all the animals got a smooth and safe passage towards Karbi Anglong Hills, because of that the mortality due to vehicle hit went down. Only 14 deaths were due to vehicle hit."

Of the total deaths, at least 12 are rhinos, of which three are adults and remaining are calves. Shivakumar also informed that they rescued two rhinos who are recuperating in the rescue centre.

Up to 95% of the park was last week. However, flood waters are on a falling trend and have receded approximately 155 cm, as reported by the DFO, Eastern Assam Wildlife Divisison, Kaziranga on Monday.

Union minister for jal shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat untook an aerial survey of the flood situation in various parts of upper Assam districts earlier last week
Union minister for jal shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat untook an aerial survey of the flood situation in various parts of upper Assam districts earlier last week
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Considering the fact that flood season throws opens the doors for poachers to make way into the Park, the authorities concerned have already imposed Section 144 of the CrPC that prohibits the gathering of more than five persons in one place.

Meanwhile, a special protection force has been raised to keep a check on rhino poaching and related activities in Kaziranga National Park. The force includes 74 men and 8 women that guard the vulnerable creatures at the park.

Assam forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya said that 50-60% of Kaziranga are still submerged. "We have tried [to improve facilities at the park] in the last 3 years by creating 33 new highlands for the animals. This year, many animals were saved, thanks to those highlands," he added.

KNP director Shivakumar added, "Kaziranga National Park faced one of the worst floods in recent years, but it is one of the best-managed field condition too. We had a good preparation started after Bihu. We asked NGOs range-wise to conduct awareness programmes about the rescues. We tried to avoid rescue. We planned that whenever the animal entered any revenue area we will give protection, in case of any injury, then we will go for rescue, otherwise, we will not disturb the animal. NGOs like WWF, WTI, Aaranyak and Bhumi have taken the responsibility of each range. They created awareness programmes, and we improved all our infrastructure, communication networks. So whether it's a high flood or a low flood, we are ready for every eventuality."

He also thanked chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal as he visited the Agoratoli range last month and "had a review meeting about our flood preparedness, because of that all the administration came under one umbrella and we gave good results."

Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi, too, visited Kaziranga National Park on Sunday to take stock of the situation.

Railways

The downpour also damaged several roads, bridges, culverts, embankments and schools. Keeping in mind disrupted movement, the Northeast Frontier (NF) Railway decided to add additional coaches in as many as 10 popular trains connecting important stations of upper and lower Assam till July 24.

The railway authorities ordered to add at least two extra coaches in each train keeping in mind the heavy rush. Union minister for railways Piyush Goyal took to his official Twitter handle to inform the development.

Meanwhile, NF Railway has also decided to slow down trains in the Abhayapuri-Jogighopa section of Bongaigaon district as many flood-hit villagers have flocked to the railway embankments for shelter.

NF Railway chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that a large number of people along with their essential belongings and cattle have been taking shelter on the railway embankments of the Goalpara-Jogighopa section for the past few days.

“In view of this, the railway authorities have imposed speed restrictions on the said route,” he added.

Also, Indian Railways had decided to permit inter-state and intra-state free transportation for aid and relief materials by goods train/parcel vans in Assam and Bihar in the wake of recent floods.

A statement, dated July 20, by the Union ministry of railways said, "It may be noted that no freight is to be charged for transportation of relief material to Bihar and Assam states, that is, to all stations, as of now." The order remains effective till August 19, or till further updates, whichever is earlier.

On Sunday, over 15,000 quintals of rice, 2,900 quintals of dal, 743 quintals of salt and over 16,000 litres of oil were distributed along with biscuits packets, baby food and tarpaulin, among other things.