The First Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), located in Assam, on Saturday said that due to non-allotment of land by the Assam government at a convenient location for setting up a full-fledged permanent headquarters of the battalion, more time than desired was being spent in mobilisation of rescue teams from multiple locations for carrying out flood rescue operations in the State.

The NDRF has so far rescued 11,427 persons in flood-hit Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Nagaon, Kamrup and Kamrup (Metropolitan) districts of the State since June 24. The current wave of flood has so far claimed 28 lives, and affected approximately 11 lakh people in 2084 villages in 22 districts.

First Battalion Commandant, NDRF, Alok Kumar Singh, on Saturday said that the State government was yet to make available a suitable plot of land close to LokPriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport for setting up permanent base of the battalion, so that all rescue teams could be located in a single and convenient location. The State government offered a plot of land at Chandubi in Kamrup district, which, he said was unsuitable, as it wasn’t located close to the airport. For carrying out the ongoing rescue operations in the flood-hit districts of Assam, the teams were mobilised from four locations at Changsari, Patgaon and Mirza areas.

“The time spent in mobilising teams for rescue operations from different locations can be reduced to minimum if all the teams are located in a single campus, for which we need sufficient land at a suitable place close to the airport. It will also reduce additional administrative cost incurred in multiple locations,” Mr. Singh added. The NDRF official said that repeated pleas had been made to the State government since 2007 for allotment of suitable land. The Punjab, Bihar, and Maharashtra governments had already made available land free of cost for setting up NDRF bases in those States, he said.

The First Battalion NDRF located in Assam is responsible for disaster response in the seven north-eastern states, as the region is located in Seismic Zone V, and is a flood and landslide-prone region.

Mr. Singh said that, for the first time, all the 16 teams of First Battalion NDRF in the State, and four teams of Second Battalion NDRF based in Kolkata, were mobilised for the rescue of people marooned in the flood in Assam. From their practical experiences of rescue missions, the NDRF had found that the time gap between the rise and fall in the water level in the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries during flood was very fast, and therefore the response time also needed to be very fast, which the Commandant said, was really challenging for carrying out rescue operations. Another challenge faced in carrying out rescue operations in the State was that water from the river Brahmaputra is quite muddy, and therefore underwater visibility was poor.

Therefore, the NDRF had started a refresher course for its deep-sea divers in the Brahmaputra River to overcome the challenge, he added.

On Saturday, National Disaster Management Authority member, K. M. Singh, and Assam Agriculture Minister Nilamani Sena Deka made an aerial inspection of flood-affected areas of upper and northern Assam.