GUWAHATI: Despite funds being allocated for various projects to minimize the aftermath of annual floods in Assam, it is quite strange that till date no permanent solution has been found to this issue. The enormity of the annual flood situation in Assam can be gauged from the following statistics. Since 1953 to 2017, the total damages (in terms of crops, houses and others) have been Rs 7897.226 crore. A breakup shows that 51.962 million hectare of area has been affected. During the period, 30,393 lives have been lost while 171.915 million people have been affected. On the other hand, 44,13,290 houses and 25.749 million hectares of crop land have been damaged.
The Disaster Management department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also refused to accord the State’s flood issue the status of national problem. This is despite the moves made by the Assam Government as well as various organizations to pressurize the Central Government to accord the State’s flood issue the status of a ‘national problem’.
Conscious circles believe that the problem has arisen as the various works to deal with the yearly floods are not carried out during the lean time when there is no rain. There are also allegations that most of such projects are taken up to simply take care of the damages in the post-flood phase and not to find a permanent solution to the issue.
The Government of Assam had requested the Union Government to declare “flood and erosion” in Assam as a ‘national problem’. However, the Disaster Management Division of MHA has informed that “the existing guidelines of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring of a calamity as a National Calamity/ Disaster. But, in the event of disaster of a ‘’severe nature’’, financial assistance towards the notified natural calamities including flood is met from the SDRF which is further supplemented from NDRF in accordance with the established procedure.
The subject of flood management, including erosion control, falls within the purview of the States. The flood management and anti-erosion schemes are planned, investigated and implemented by the State governments with their own resources as per priority within the State concerned. The Union government renders technical guidance and promotional financial assistance to the affected States.
With respect to Assam, a total of 141 projects costing Rs.2383.11 crore were approved and included under the Flood Management Programme (FMP) of the Central government. During the XI Plan, 100 projects with an estimated cost of Rs.996.14 crore were approved while during the XII Plan, 41 projects with an estimated cost of Rs.1386.97 crore were approved. The Central assistance amounting to Rs.748.86 crore was released during the XI Plan and Rs. 64.89 crore during the XII Plan. Further a Central assistance of Rs.245.49 crore has also been released during year 2017-18 to the Government of Assam. Since the start of the XI Plan, the total Central assistance released to the Government of Assam under FMP is Rs.1059.24 crore until March 31, 2018.
Though a High Level Committee (HLC) under the chairmanship of the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog has been constituted by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) on October 4, 2017 for proper management of water resources of the northeastern region, nothing positive has come out of it. And even though the Brahmaputra Board was constituted with the objective of planning and integrating implementation of measures for control of floods and bank erosion in the Brahmaputra Valley and matters connected therewith, there has not been any definite outcome of the different projects undertaken by the Board.