Assam flood worsens, 15,000 hit

floods triggered by torrential rains in Assam since the last week of May have displaced at least 15,000 people and snapped road and rail communications in the state. The rising Brahmaputra river and its tributaries have inundated at least 50 villages in the districts of Nagaon, Tinsukia, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Dhemaji district has been the worst hit.

Severe flashfloods in many areas have worsened the situation. "Intense human intervention on the upstream and major construction works like bridges and roads on the runoff water systems leave very little opening for rivers to maintain their natural water flow, thereby causing flashfloods,' says Arup Saikia, a hydrologist.

"Evacuation of boulders from the upstream has also increased the river current manifold, causing intensive erosion,' he adds. Old embankments, made of soil and sand are also failing to withstand the current, says Hiren Borah, a retired engineer of Assam's water resource department.

"At least 10,000 people are now taking shelter in 20 makeshift camps set up by the state government,' says the chief engineer of the department. In Dhemaji alone, 22 villages have been submerged and 642 hectares of fertile cropland completely inundated. In Lakhmipur district, 150 families are taking shelter on the embankments.

Large-scale waterlogging has damaged national highway 52 and heavy landslides at Sonapur and Haflong have disrupted the Silchar-Guwahati national highway. Floodwaters have also submerged a part of the Kaziranga National Park in eastern Assam. "We have created highlands within the park and requested people to drive slowly near the park as animals tend to cross the roads during flood,' says M Malakar, chief conservator of forests (wildlife).

State water resource minister Bharat Narah has said repair works are going on smoothly and there won't be any shortage of relief material. But for the people of Assam, it's just another sign that severe floods are headed their way around mid-July.