The Hungry Tide: Assam’s Cycle of Death, Devastation and Debt
Every year the river washes away lives, land, and property. Poorly maintained embankments are breached and flood water consumes whatever comes in its way. It may be an annual feature but for the millions who lose virtually everything it is an annual cycle of debt; houses are broken in low-lying areas and need repair. Standing crop gone, the farmers need to borrow money to run households. Property washed away means more borrowing to replace lost possessions.
Floods, flash floods, river-bank erosion, and sand casting (deposition of large amounts of sand by flood water) in the eastern Brahmaputra basin of Assam over the last several decades have left people homeless and displaced, destroyed crops, damaged public property, and infrastructure. Annual cycles of hazards cripple people’s resilience and intensify the poverty spiral. None of this has been documented so one does not know how many lives have really been affected.
Educational institutions in flood affected areas shut down affecting students. Health centres barely operate. Government agencies do not deliver.
Thousands of hectares of fertile land across the valley have been lost to the river due to frequent shifting in the river course and erosion of river banks. Sand casting is one of the worst hazards because it results in degradation of thousands of acres of farm land and wetlands due to deposition of debris, mainly coarse sand particles, by flood waters.
Entire settlements have gone inside the river. Migration from lowlying areas into towns and cities have had serious political consequences. It is a state of chaos perpetrated by abysmal flood management.