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The arrival of monsoon has again brought the deadly flood havoc in Assam and the rest of the North-East. Over the years, it has been witnessed that during monsoons especially, in between May- July, Assam has to undergo heavy floods, river bank erosions and its severe consequences of loss of lives, livelihood and property. This year’s flood is also not an exception. It is estimated that about 18 lakhs people in 24 districts and 2488 villages are badly affected due to the heavy floods in Assam this year (Eclectic Northeast, July 13, 2017). It is alarming that the rise of river water levels in mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries like the Dikhow, Dichang, Subansiri, Burhidihing, Jia Bharali, Dhansiri, Beki etc are causing immediate state attention. The worst affected flood hit districts are Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Bongaigaon Darrang, Goalpara, Sivasagar, Cachar, Biswanath, Jorhat, Golaghat, Dhubri, Kokrajahar. What is interesting to find that despite such every year arrival of heavy flood havoc and its life threatening consequences, the state machinery of Assam has not yet come up with comprehensive long term policies to deal with the menace of heavy floods. There is a lack of proper rehabilitation programme and compensation packages for the internally displaced people (henceforth, IDPs) as a result of floods. It is only when the death toll rises and the water level crosses the danger mark that the state machinery think of temporary relief camps more so ever or to say, for the time being rehabilitation of the flood affected people. Why is it that there is no prior arrangements or any disaster management like programme in the state, to help evacuate the large number of IDPs before the onset of floods? Because the arrival of monsoons along with heavy floods is not sudden in Assam but it is a much known fact, today. There is lack of systematic governance on the part of the state government. Mere flood site investigations by the state officials and aerial survey by the ministers of the flood affected areas when the water level is at the peak will not suffice. There is the need for prior arrangements to deal with the grim situation and to evacuate the flood affected people from the interiors of Assam.

It is to be noted that the resettlement and rehabilitation programmmes of the development induced displacements especially, in the context of dam projects is also not adequate in Assam. Over the years, the state has also witnessed the issues of displacement and grievances of the displaced people due to the dam projects. However, the rehabilitation plan is now made to be considered important to a certain extent, if land is to be acquired for the developmental projects. Similarly, the rehabilitation of the flood affected people is equally important and needed specific state attention because it also displaces a large number of flood affected people. No matter even if it is for a temporary period. On the contrary, what is witnessed so far, that there is no long term policies or adequate attempts have been made to protect the lives and dispossession of property either before or after the duration of floods in Assam. Moreover, the new Act ‘The Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’ did mention about the provisions of the ‘urgency clause’ by which lands can be acquired for emergency situations where issues of national defence and natural calamities are concerned (Ramesh & Khan, 2015 : 89). But the resettlement and rehabilitation of the flood affected people or due to any other natural disaster is not clearly mentioned in the Act. It should be understood that the consequences of displacement is similar whether the displacement is caused due to the developmental projects like dams or because of any natural disasters. The displacees and potential oustees have to undergo the loss of lives, livelihood, submergence of cultural, religious sites and lack of adequate rehabilitation etc. Hence, the state attention for a prior rehabilitation programme along with disaster management programmes like that of the earthquake and tsunami disaster management programmes is essential as flood preventive measures. Further, environmentalists, civil society groups and social activists are of the opinion that both fragile geo-physical nature and construction of large dams is causing much distress and havoc of floods in the North-East in general and Assam, in particular. Therefore, the social impact assessment programmes and focus on comprehensive rehabilitation policy is a necessity to control the life threatening consequences of floods.

The worse conditions of roads and infrastructural facilities have been a matter of concern for the people of Assam. The damages of roads, houses, other properties and collapse of bridges due to heavy floods are a common sight to see during floods. But no specific attention is paid from the state machinery to repair such damaged roads, bridges and other sites over the past years even after the flood duration is over. The conditions of the roads and infrastructure facilities are thus, remained worst affected.

Land has become a scarce commodity. In contemporary times, it is perhaps, difficult to find vast tracts of lands to rehabilitate the flood affected IDPs even for a temporary period. Assam is already facing the plight and grievances of the developmental induced displacements and on top of that especially, during monsoons, the severe flood situation is aggravating the problem of scarcity of land and lack of rehabilitation even more. The people of Assam like the poor small and medium agricultural farmers who have lost vast acres of fertile agricultural lands due to dams and floods along with the marginalised sections of society like the tribes/adivasis and other CPR (common property resources dependents) like landless tenants, barbers, artisans, labourers on others lands, are thus, doubly affected.

It is high time the Flood Control Department should come up with some workable long term policies as preventive measures for flood control. The transparent functioning of the state machinery is necessary, to deal with the havoc of flood. Prior evacuation plans for the flood affected people and adequate rehabilitation programmes requires the specific attention of the state administration without negligence and delay, inorder to facilitate the welfarist notion of the state rather than implementation of haphazard and last moment steps to take control of the grim situation. Because the occurrence of monsoon floods in Assam is an inevitable fact now and not a sudden natural calamity. It cannot be denied that Assam has had a history of worse flood situation every year. Hence, a prior disaster management like programme is of utmost necessity to control floods as a preventive measure.

Meenakshi Gogoi  is a  PhD candidate, Centre for Political Studies, JNU, Delhi

References

Eclectic NorthEast, (July 13, 2017) “No respite from flood in Assam with 18 lakh people in 24 district affected, death toll rises to 47”. Retrieved from: https://eclecticnortheast.in/no-respite-from-flood-in-assam-with-18-lakh-people-in-24-districts-affected-by-the-deluge-in-the-state (Accessed on July 14, 2017).

Ramesh, Jairam & Muhammad Ali Khan. (2015). Legislating for Justice, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Without any long-term plans to face the fury of floods. Short-term measures may give temporary relief but main problem remains unresolved. Recurrence of floods and loss of life have become common features every year. Commercial and industrial development without considering environmental protection will only increase threats of flood every year.