The first wave of floods has already affected about one lakh people across eight districts in Assam in the past one week or more. But, with the Centre yet to release a sum of about Rs 1800 crore due to the state for various flood damage repair works carried out after the 2015 floods, the new BJP-led government in the state headed by Sarbananda Sonowal is simply not in a position to take up new schemes.
Last year’s floods had caused large-scale destruction in the state, with the then Congress government of Tarun Gogoi seeking a sum of Rs 1526.19 crore from the Centre to carry out repair of the damage caused. This included Rs 860 crore for repair of breaches in embankments, Rs 200 crore for restoration and repair of roads and bridges, Rs 208 crore for crop damage, Rs 67 crore for repair of anganwadi centres, Rs 59 crore for repair of fully and partially damaged houses, and Rs 38 crore for repair of schools, among others. At least 64 persons had lost lives in the 2015 floods that had affected 36.67 lakh people.
While most of the repair work of last year’s damage has been already carried out, the state government is yet to receive a sum of Rs 1800 crore from the Centre. This includes central share of about Rs 1200 crore against corresponding expenditure already incurred by the state government. With contractors pressing the state government for their payments, it will be difficult to make them work again if the flood situation worsens.
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That the state is likely to witness a major flood is already evident from the increased rainfall in the region in the past one month. The water level of the Brahmaputra and most of its tributaries are already rising, and hundreds of villages in seven districts are already reeling under floods. Floodwaters of the Brahmaputra have also submerged about 40 per cent of the Kaziranga National Park -– home to the largest population of the great Indian one-horned rhino.
For Assam, heavy rains in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Meghalaya is a dangerous thing; rivers coming down from the hills of these adjoining states have been playing havoc in the Assam plains year in and year out. Increased forest destruction in the adjoining hill states has only worsened the situation, with the water also bringing down huge quantities of soil and debris that have raised the river beds in the Assam plains, thus reducing their flow capacity.
The Army meanwhile has carried out a massive flood rescue drill in Guwahati last week, this intended at increased inter-agency cooperation in case of an emergency situation. Named ‘Exercize Jalrahat”, this drill brought together the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, NDRF, SDRF, various central armed police forces and different state government departments that have their respective roles carrying our rescue and relief operations.