In the absence of any early flood warning system, villagers in Assam are banking on abnormal animal behaviour to predict and survive sudden inundation of their houses, say researchers. When insects like locust, grasshopper etc come out from their hideouts and fly randomly and enter houses, the situation suggests a sudden change in the weather condition, more occasionally flood with heavy rain, the scientists found. Similarly, when ants shift their shelter to higher places with their eggs and food stuff, it indicates a definite forthcoming flood.
When a fox howls irritably at a higher place it indicates a forthcoming prolonged drier season but when it howls from a low-lying location it indicates a probability of high flood.
The cry of doves and two particular species of birds are also warning signs, according to a report by Ludhiana-based Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology scientist Armaan U Muzaddadi.
Toads and frogs make continuous sounds before torrential rain and devastating flood.
“Indigenous technical knowledge has been the key rescuer of fishermen and common people of Dhemaji district of Assam from frequent floods in the region every year,” the report said.
Over the centuries, local people of Dhemaji have developed their own ways and means to deal with floods based on their experience and observations. These measures and techniques are locality specific, require no external help or support and are inherently scientific, according to the scientists.
The group of researchers conducted a study in the region by interviewing fishermen of three most flood-prone development blocks of the district.
Each year during monsoon a combination of torrential rain and resultant flood in the mighty Brahmaputra river cause havoc in the upper Assam district of Dhemaji, one of the most flood-prone areas in the state.
Apart from the loss of agricultural crops, the houses in the villages get inundated, health problems arise, and finally due to the water logging, the next cropping cycle also gets delayed.
About half of the district population comprises indigenous people like Mising, Bodo, Rabha, etc.
Besides animal behaviour as early signal of flood and heavy rain, locals also rely on observation of celestial bodies, nature and meteorology.
The moon’s inclination towards south and massive bamboo flowering before the summer season indicate forthcoming devastating flood, the report said.
Signs and abnormal behaviour of animals before natural calamities are already being studied in many countries for their scientific base.
The researchers recommended that these technologies should be analysed so that the scientific principles behind them can be properly understood.
Once this is done, the techniques can be further refined and improved by blending them with modern scientific knowledge, leading to easier extension of them to the places with similar problems, Muzaddadi said.