Majuli Floods – September 2012

The flood situation in the state of Assam has worsened with 1,972 villages cross sixteen districts submerged, and some 150,000 people affected. Majuli Island, situated on the swelling Brahmaputra, a mere two hour ferry ride from the city of Jorhat, is quickly becoming inundated, street by street and paddy by paddy, much to the frustration of residents.

Majuli Island, once the largest river island on Earth, measuring at 1250 square kilometres, now measures 421.65 square kilometres, due to erosion by Brahmaputra and river swell. The island is not only a key tourist attraction for it’s many Hindu temples, dense forests and swamplands, popular for birdwatching. Majuli is also home for some 153,362 people, spanning Bengali ethnic groups as well as the Missing, Deori and Sonowal tribal groups. Rice paddy is the chief economic activity on the island, with most farms being run within families for export through Jorhat and Dibrugarh.

The third wave of flooding in Majuli this year, following the June 15 and July 25 floods, vital services including electricity and phone service are disrupted, and as at September 25 the key road between the islands main town, Gurumur, and Ferry Point, the major landing for ferries, is fast becoming submerged. Already roads between the second major ferry landing at Dokkingbad, and Gurumur, are submerged. Major disruptions along the Dokkingbad to Kumlebarri road, as well as Kumlebarri to Gurumur, caused by uprooted persons as well as cattle and goats, are also affecting movement throughout the island, leaving most roads either inundated, damaged or clogged with human and animal traffic.

The Assam Tribune online reports: “The Majuli unit of the AASU today burnt the effigies of Majuli MLA and State Water Resources Minister Rajiv Lochan Pegu and MP Rani Narah in protest against their alleged inaction towards saving the river island from flood and erosion at Kamalabari Chariali.” (22/09/2012).

With the Brahmaputra reaching danger levels at Dibrugarh, Nematighat, Teezpur, Dubhri, Guwahati and Goalpora, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has directed helicopter and boat operations aimed at rescue and relief throughout the state. The National Disaster Response Force, The State Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army and Indian Airforce are all currently engaged in rescue and relief operations.
Flood waters on Majuli have also inundated the sub-divisional office and the Majuli gaol, with prisoners being moved to Jorhat Central Jail on September 24.

Matt Wilkinson

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