GUWAHATI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Authorities in Assam are struggling to respond to massive floods which have affected more than 1.5 million people and forced more than 200,000 people to seek refuge in relief camps, senior government officials said on Monday.
Heavy monsoon rains in the tea and oil-rich state have caused burgeoning rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra, to burst their banks, killing more than 50 people this year, including 15 people in the past week.
Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the state was unable to provide adequate assistance to flood-hit villagers as it did not have enough resources and called on the federal government in New Delhi for more support.
“We need urgent assistance and relief materials for the flood affected people from the central government. We have exhausted all our limited resources. We are in a helpless situation,” Gogoi told reporters.
The Brahmaputra, Assam’s main river which is fed by Himalayan snow melt and monsoon rain, has been overflowing in many areas along its course.
It has submerged over 2,000 low-lying villages as well as large swathes of agricultural land in 16 of Assam’s 23 districts which include Dhubri, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Dhemaji.
India usually experiences monsoon rains from June to September, which are vital for its farming.
But in states like mountainous Assam, the rains frequently cause landslides and flooding that devastate crops, destroy homes and trigger diseases such as diarrhoea.
Decades of mass deforestation have led to soil erosion where sediment is washed downstream from mountainous areas. It ends up in rivers where it builds up on the river bed, raising the level of the water far higher than normal.
Over the past 60 years, successive governments have built levees along most of the Brahmaputra, but experts say the embankments are not only poorly maintained but are a discredited form of flood management.
Reporting by Biswajyoti Das in GUWAHATI. Editing by Nita Bhalla. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org