The topography of Assam is changing very rapidly due to the rapid and large-scale erosion of its territory by rivers. Erosion by rivers has eaten up 4,000 sq. km. of Assam’s territory. During the last two years, 20,000 hectares of Assam’s land has been gobbled up by rivers. This physical loss of land is not the worst facet of the tragedy. About 40,000 families have been rendered homeless during the last five years due to the onslaught of the erosion caused by rivers. Of these 40,000 families, 15,000 are from the Dhubri district and 13,000 from the Jorhat district. Having lost all their possessions and become virtual beggars, they have had to seek shelter on embankments and along highways. There has been no sign of any kind of help to these displaced persons from the government, even though the Assam government has spent Rs 17,000 crore of funds received from the Centre on controlling erosion caused by rivers. There seems to be no help to people totally devastated by erosion. No one seems to know how such huge funds have been spent. One can hardly blame anyone who has reasons to believe that much of these huge funds have provided the means for politicians and bureaucrats to divert huge sums to private coffers. According to government data (not always very reliable in the case of Assam), the average annual loss to property due to erosion has been of the order of Rs 200 crore. However, the years 1998 and 2003 were particularly ruinous since the losses in these two years were of the order of Rs 530 crore and Rs 771 crore respectively. Unfortutely, while the official figures of losses and of Central grants are there on paper, there is very little that is visible by way of relief and rehabilitation activities in aid of those who have lost everything to erosion caused by rivers.
What Rivers have Eroded