Understanding root cause

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Understanding root cause

Flood fury in the North-East region an annual affair. A permanent solution is needed

With the death toll in Assam rising to 60, the havoc created by nature's wrath cannot be gauged at this moment. But it has been unprecedented. What is evident is that several acres of agricultural land have been affected; thousands of people have been displaced; many are facing shortage of food and water. As per reports, more than 53 districts have been affected; 80 people, out of which 60 are from Assam alone, have lost their lives; over 17 lakh people have been affected. And additionally, more than 75 animals in the Kaziranga National Park have died. To summarise, Brahmaputra's fury has taken a heavy toll and paralysed normal life in the entire Northeastern region. Surely, relief and rescue operations are on, but it may take days, if not months, for the region to return to normalcy. To this end, immediate rescue and relief measures have been taken by the respective State Governments that have been pro-active in ensuring that all affected people have access to relief and medical care. It is heartening that the Union Government and Indian Railways too have extended help. The Government has sought the assistance of experts from the Indian Space Research Organisation to assess the damage caused by floods. The railways has been making efforts to ensure that survivors are taken to safety.

However, the recurrence of floods raises pertinent questions that have till date remained unanswered. Why has there not been a permanent solution to this scourge for the past so many decades? Why has the region been subjected to such apathy? Given the agricultural potential of this region, a time-bound strategy to fix this perennial problem should have been devised a long time back. Clearly, a large chunk of the problem is due to laxity on the part of successive Governments, more so the previous Tarun Gogoi regime, which gave step-motherly treatment to the State, often claiming lack of assistance from the Union Government. Whatever work was done was limited to providing temporary measures like relief and rescue operations; restoration of infrastructure, bridges and roads etc. But what everyone failed to recognise is that the flood problem in the region is indeed complex — it is, in fact, both natural and man-made. On the one hand, the fury of the Brahmaputra, which routinely breaches the embankments, is uncontrollable. Measures like the creation of embankments have been a failure. On the other hand, there have been illegal constructions on floodplains. Deforestation and degeneration of wetlands have only worsened the situation as with the arrival of monsoons, pressure on the river multiplies. The BJP Government got a historic mandate in Assam sensing that it had better understanding of the problems at hand. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal must not make the mistakes done by his predecessors. The people of Assam, and also the entire North-East region, deserve a better future.

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