Assam witnesses inundation every year, and the reluctant demeanor of the authorities make it more vulnerable. 2022 is the year that Assam dwellers will never forget - experiencing two deluges within 30 days. Many questions pop up in this regard, and the contemporary moot subject is surfacing in the pundit's conscious space - Climate change. There is no iota of doubt about climate change, and it is high time to take cognizance of the subject.
Climate change and its repercussions
Assam, a low-lying area, has two major rivers – Brahmaputra and Barak. The Brahmaputra River springs from the Himalayas and enters India through Arunachal Pradesh, and the Barak River springs from Manipur – both the rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh.
In the month of May and June, Assam and Meghalaya reported excessive downpours. According to India Meteorological Data (IMD), in the month of May, Assam recorded around 398.7mm of rainfall against 286.7mm – which is around 39% surplus. Assam also recorded a cloudburst during the mid-week of June.
Many experts believe that climate change has also stretched its hands in causing havoc. A report published on ‘Down To Earth’ where Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical and Metrology, said: A combination of La Nina in the Pacific and a negative Indian Ocean Dipole in the Indian Ocean has strengthened the winds blowing from the southwest to the northeast (southwesterlies) in the Bay of Bengal.
Koll also said, “These strong monsoon winds in the Bay of Bengal can now carry much more moisture than ever before, in response to global warming.” The volume of atmospheric moisture increases with rising temperature because warmer air holds more moisture for longer, he explained. “Hence, the large amount of rainfall that we see now might be a climate change impact.”
A Climate Vulnerability Index of the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water states that a low-lying state like Assam is vulnerable to such extreme climate events.
Apart from climate change, there are several other factors causing such deluge – river bank erosion, construction of embankments, and the Brahmaputra factor.
Government’s action and the dependence on temporary solutions
During the second wave of inundation, Silchar, a town in Assam, was affected severely. Apart from Silchar, other urban locales like Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Barpeta, Nailabri, and Tinsukia were also submerged. This moots the concern about the drainage system in these centers.
River specialist, Pradip Pujari told PTI that drainage congestion and choking of local water bodies are majorly responsible for causing floods in urban locations. Also, the growing population in Assam and the construction of homes in flood-zone areas are also adding fuel to this mayhem.
Now, the questions about the role of embankments to avert floods start oscillating in the Assam dwellers' heads. Whether the embankments are useful or merely a temporary solution? According to water researcher Sayananshu Modak, writing for the Observer Reserve Foundation, dams, embankments, and canals were introduced by the Britishers to prevent floods. Albeit, embankments are short-term measures.
The embankments around the Brahmaputra- out of 423 – 295 are dating back to the 1940s – and these are fragile enough to breach. A dyke at Bethukandi, situated near Silchar, was breached by some people that sabotaged the entire city.
In a report dating back to August 2021, the Standing Committee on Water Resources emphasized that most of the embankments on the main stem of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries were built in the 1960s and 1970s.
Apart from the government’s sluggish action and dependence on temporary measures, Assam University’s former professor of environmental science Dr. Abhik Gupta stated that deforestation is also another reason for such floods.
Works cited –
Climate change, poor planning: Why Assam’s floods are getting worse. Down To Earth.
Assam’s annual tryst with devastating floods. The Hindu.
Climate change concerns rise as heavy rain batters Assam, Meghalaya. Money Control
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Brief Bulletin.