A River Atlas that the North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) is currently preparing for the government of Assam, would serve not just as a database of the Brahmaputra and its 100-odd tributaries, but also record deforestation in the region in order to help tackle recurring floods and erosion in the state.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who had mooted the idea of preparing this comprehensive database of all major and minor rivers of the state, meanwhile has also asked NESAC to bring quality and quantity of sand and sand-layers in the river-beds within the ambit of the study.
“The project should encompass the depth of sand layers within the parameter of its study, apart from identifying sandbars above the highest flood level (HFL). This, in turn, will us explore the possibility of using the sand-bars as solar parks,” Sonowal, who reviewed the progress of the River Atlas project here on Thursday, said. The Atlas is likely to be released by December this year.
Since the decision of preparing the River Atlas was taken with an objective of creating a deterrent against flood and erosion, the proposed Atlas should exclusively address issues related to flood and erosion management along the major rivers and their tributaries, a press release quoting chief minister Sonowal said. The Atlas should also be able to serve the purpose of hydro-meteorological observatories, he said.
“Once completed, the River Atlas will provide the proper database of various aspects of the rivers, including their length, details of the 5,000-km length of embankments, as well as readings of flood levels,” the chief minister said. Located at Umiam near Shillong, about 80 km from here, NESAC is a joint initiative of Department of Space (DOS) and the North Eastern Council (NEC) established in 2000.
The chief minister also asked NESAC scientists to bring understudy of the Atlas reported deforestation which has been identified one major reason for increased sediment deposit and reduced water flow in some rivers in the state. Once a proper database was obtained on deforestation-induced reduced water-flow in the rivers, the state government could also find out remedial measures, he said.
The Assam government had only last month signed a MoU with Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation for rejuvenation and conservation of rivers in the state, announced planting 10 crore saplings during the current year, and carry out dredging of the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers in order to rejuvenate the rivers through desilting.
While rivers currently occupy about 8.29 per cent (6503 sq km) of the state’s total 78,438 sq km geographical area, the Brahmaputra, the Barak and its 100-odd tributaries have together eroded over 4.27 lakh hectare of Assam’s land since 1950.
Scientists at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) had only predicted that the Northeastern region would lose 2,050 sq km of forest cover by 2025. The Northeast, which has one-fourth of the country’s forest cover, and identified as one of the 18 bio-diversity hotspots of the world, had lost 628 sq km of forest cover between 2013 and 2015.