When A House Is Washed Away
SOMETIME IN September, a play Jooj (‘strife’ in Assamese) depicting Majuli’s struggle against erosion by the Brahmaputra was staged at the Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati. Cut to a week later, and reality mirrored the play. Majuli was ravaged by a furious Brahmaputra that swallowed almost the entire island and its people were left to fight the floodwaters alone.
“The water rushed into the PWD road, which caved in, and the entire area was inundated within minutes,” recalls Nabin Borah, 52, a farmer who lost his crops and his house to the floods. Soon, the water swelled and a section of Juginidhari village was cut off. The PWD road, built over five years in bits and pieces, couldn’t stand the onslaught of even one monsoon.
“Even after the sixth day of flooding not one government official has come to help us,” says Abhijit Bora, a local youth. Juginidhari is not exactly what you’d call remote. Barely 5 km from Kamalabari, one of the prime centres of Majuli subdivision, the link to the village was snapped by breaches on the PWD road. TEHELKA managed to reach the marooned village after a 40-minute motorcycle ride on the embankments. “If journalists could reach us, why not the administration?” asks Abhijit.
Abhijit and his friends used sacks, bricks, bamboo and even water hyacinths to save his house from getting washed away, but to no avail. “My house was washed away in front of my eyes,” he says.
The deluge is visible across the length and breadth of Majuli. From Salmora in east to Bhakat Chapori in the west and Jengraimukh in the north to Bamungaon in the south, one of the largest river-islands in the world lies submerged under water. And government relief — like so many times in the past — has been conspicuous by its absence.
After the June-July floods this year, the administration had built “flood-proof” embankments to protect Majuli from future floods. On 20 September, a critical embankment at Sonowal Kachari in Majuli was breached for the second time this year. This embankment is along the 950 km that was identified as “extremely vulnerable” in a survey by the State Water Resources Department. After the June-July floods washed away the embankment, a 1.22 crore “emergency maintenance” project was taken up and a 600-metre rampart constructed, only to be pulled down by the