When A House Is Washed Away

Tehelka - - ASSAM FLOODS -

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

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