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Kerala flood lesson for Assam: experts

Playing with nature: A group of one-horned rhinos grazing on higher land in the flood-affected Pobitora Wildlife sanctuary in Morigaon district of Assam.  

‘Flood-experienced’ Assam can learn a lesson from the Kerala deluge to avoid large-scale disaster, say water resources and ecology experts in the Northeast.

The experts have found a similar pattern to recurrent floods in Assam – up to four times a year between April and October – and Kerala’s worst flood in 100 years that has claimed 357 lives so far.

The most worrying similarity is a network of dams in the “control of other States” surrounding Kerala and Assam.

“We have had Kerala-like floods albeit on a smaller scale because of hydropower projects in neighbouring States and in adjoining Bhutan. Assam has been rain-deficient by 30% this year, but Golaghat district experienced flash flood due to the release of excess water by the Doyang dam in Nagaland,” Partha Jyoti Das, a water resources specialist, told The Hindu.


Similar was the case in Assam’s Lakhimpur district last year because of the Ranganadi dam in Arunachal Pradesh while the Kurichu dam in Bhutan has often caused flooding in western Assam.

“A majority of 39 dams that affected Kerala are on inter-State rivers and under the control of neighbouring States such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The decision of how much water and when to be released is not within the purview of Kerala, which is suffering from downstream impact of those dams and the situation is similar for Assam,” Mr. Das said.

More dams coming

More dams coming up in other northeastern States and in Bhutan could spell doom for Assam, “all these years of living with floods” notwithstanding, he said.

Arunachal Pradesh too is wary of the impact of big dams. “The river Siang (one of three that meet to form the Brahmaputra downstream) has suffered from dams and other constructions in China upstream,” Pasighat-based green activist Vijay Taram said.

Rampant deforestation

The second lesson that Assam needs to learn from Kerala is the effect of rampant deforestation, mining, and quarrying. “Kerala has allowed settlement on elephant corridors such as Thirunelli-Kadrakote and Kottiyoor-Periya, leading to felling. The consequence has been killer landslides on an unprecedented scale,” Parimal C. Bhattacharjee, retired Gauhati University professor and environmentalist, said.

“Kerala is by far one of the more developed States in terms of literacy and development planning, but it has suddenly been exposed like Tamil Nadu was during the devastating 2015 floods in 2015. Kerala is reaping the consequences of neglecting, like other Western Ghats States, the recommendations of the Gadgil and Kasturirangan panels against hydro-power projects in ecologically sensitive zones,” Mr. Das said.

Experts said micro-climate controlled by land use was the primary reason behind the catastrophe in Kerala though climate change was the overriding factor. “Rainfall in Kerala has been increasing after a dip in 2013, but the annual rainfall in many parts of the northeast is much higher than the southern coastal State. The densely populated floodplains of Assam thus have to worry because of changes in land use that have impacted the micro-climate adversely,” Mr. Das said.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 9:26:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kerala-flood-lesson-for-assam-experts/article24748090.ece

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