Assam Flood Annual Affair | Mistake or Blunder [2020]

Introduction

Assam Flood Annual Affair

Once again, more than 120 people have been killed due to the floods in Assam. More than 25 lakh peoples are directly affected. 95% of the Kaziranga National Park was drowned when the floods were at their peak. The ASDMA said that, at present, 400 villages are under water and 26,676.25 hectares of crop area have been damaged. Now, the similar like situation can be seen once again in 2020. This has become the tale of every year.
These are the statistics of death toll each year:
S. NO Year Death Toll
1. 2012 124
2. 2015 45
3. 2016 28
4. 2017 85
5. 2018 12
6. 2019 70
Year after year people get killed. This directly affects the lives of lakhs of people. Several animals in National parks also get killed.
assam flood annual affair

What is it due to which Assam gets flooded every year?

The first thing we need to understand is that Assam has always been India’s most flood prone state. The most number of floods occur here. The reason behind this is that the river Brahmaputra that flows through Assam is a very unstable river. The researchers have discovered that a
“Ever since massive earthquake struck North-east India in the 1950, Brahmaputra has become even more unstable.”
Between 1950 and 2010, there have been around twelve major floods in Assam and it consistency is maintained for last 6 to 7 years. The frequency of the floods have increased so much. So the question here is,
Why has the frequency of the floods increased?

Why are more floods occurring?

The reason behind these are mentioned below,
  1. Deforestation on a massive scale
  2. Unplanned growth
  3. The encroachment of floodplains and wetlands
  4. Improper drainage system
  5. Climate Change
  6. Improper construction of Embankments
Floodplains are the nearby areas of a river’s course. When there is an excess volume of water in the river, it flows out over the floodplains. Builders and other people have started construction of houses on these floodplains. They’ve started “development” due to which the river water does not have room to flow. As a result, water flows into people’s houses.

The two major reasons for the disaster is basically- Climate change and Embankments

Climate Change

Let us take the example of Mumbai. There was scarcity of water in Mumbai earlier this month. There was a deficit of almost 22% in rainfall. The water reservoirs were low and there was almost a situation of a water crisis. And now suddenly, extremely heavy showers seen there, and Mumbai logs 75% of season’s rainfall. This is a direct impact of climate change.
The number of days on which rainfall used to occur is diminishing due to climate change. When it rains, it rains with more intensity. The cases of extreme rainfall are on the rise due to which floods occur. The total number of days of rainfall are getting lower in numbers due to which the situation of water crisis is also increasing.

Construction of Embankments

Embankments, levee and dykes are three different names of the same thing. They refer to the wall that is constructed on the bank of the rivers to control the flow of the river and direct it in a particular way and to prevent the flooding of the nearby areas. They can be made of concrete or even mud. The problem that arises while building an embankment is that whenever you try to restrict a flow, and try to reduce its area, then the speed of the flow of the water will increase and its level will also increase.
assam flood annual affair
So, there is buildup of sedimentation in the embankment. If it is not removed and maintained properly, the level of the river will continually rise and then water will start to flow over the embankments. Then there’d be no use of embankments because the outside areas would be flooded the same as earlier. When an embankment fails to stop the water, then it is called Embankment breaching.
This can happen in two ways:
  1. When the river level rises so high that the water begins to overflow.
  2. When the embankment breaks.
A hole can arise in the midst somewhere. It could be weak at some point and the water starts to flow out of the hole. If it so happens, then there’d be no use of embankments. Therefore it is said that an Embankment is only as strong as its weakest point because it needs to break from only one point and then the entire thing is laid to waste. A break at point point could lead to floods everywhere
Therefore,
  • They need to be constructed carefully, keeping high standards in mind. If any “Jugaads” (resourceful arrangements ) were made while construction, then the entire thing could break.
  • It needs more of regular maintenance
In Assam, there are around 450 embankments on the banks of rivers. More than half of them are in extremely vulnerable condition. Researchers believe that there is an ongoing administrator-contractor nexus in Assam. The contractors who construct these embankments, newly construct them after every flood and earn a lot of money.
In 2017, The Ministry of Highways decided to build a 1300 km long highway besides the Brahmaputra in Assam. There’d also be an embankment along the highway to prevent flooding. After 2017, there have been no updates to map its progress. But a lot of people are against the construction of such a huge highway and such a huge embankment.

What could be the solutions for it?

The solution lies hidden in Netherlands. Netherlands is the world’s best country in matters of flood control. It has reclaimed multiple hectares of lands from the sea. So, obviously, they undertook a lot of flood control measures. Netherlands have even mentioned in their constitution that the Dutch people have a right to be protected from flooding. So imagine how seriously they must be treating this.
They have very high standards regarding flood safety. Whenever they adopt a new flood control measure then they do so while keeping in mind a huge and colossal flood that occurs once in 10,000 years. Their technology is extremely good in matters of flood prevention. They’ve installed high tech sensors and constructed mighty infrastructure projects.

In the past few years, Netherlands initiated a project called “Room for River Project”

They realized that its not always good to build huge machinery or infrastructure projects. To focus on a river’s natural environment and its flow and then construct your infrastructure accordingly. Is much better and cheaper in the long run.
  1. Embankments were relocated farther away from the rivers i.e, the rivers were given a larger area to flow. So whatever small changes occur in the flow of the river, it can spread over a larger area. The problem of sedimentation also reduced drastically. So they constructed embankments further away and started to grow trees along the floodplain area inside. The natural greenery and natural forestation further enhanced flood protection before the embankments.
  2. Another thing they did was to further Lower the level of the flood plains. This provided more height to the river to flow. The river beds were dug up to further lower them so that the river gets more space to flow. All the obstacles in the way of the river were removed.
  3. A reservoir was created where there’d be flooding. If a flood occurs, all the water starts collecting there at one place.
So these are some simple steps that Netherlands adopted under its “Room for River Project”. These would not be too difficult to be implemented in India. So what are your suggestions that could help Assam to get rid of such flood like situation each year? Do comment below in 2-3 sentences.
Thank You

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