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Interstate cooperation is essential to reduce flood hazards in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji

Women's work during flood
Women’s work during flood

To focus attention on the global freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, the whole world will celebrate the United Nations (UN) World Water Day tomorrow. As the theme of the Day changes every year, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation (Resolution A/RES/65/154) in December 2010. On the eve of the World Water Day several experts on the flood issue opined that to minimize the flood hazards in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts of Assam interstate cooperation between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, was much more essential than the international cooperation. Dr Partha J Das, an environmentalist and a river researcher, who heads the Aaranyak’s Water, Climate and Hazard (WATCH) Programme told that most of the conventional flood management methods almost failed in these two districts. Most of the rivers causing flood hazards in these two districts were interstate rivers originating mostly from Arunachal Pradesh. During its course in Assam, before reaching the mighty Brahmaputra it caused serious flood havoc in each monsoon. Therefore, he told, these rivers must be treated through a bilaterally agreed strategy through which the schemes taken for flood management could be implemented by upstream and downstream states. He also told that the nature of floods or flash flood, river bank erosion and sand casting in Assam places were significantly determined by the hydrology and the geomorphology of the river in the upper catchment of Arunachal Pradesh. Therefore catchment treatment in the upstream hills and river training of upstream stretches of the rivers were required to reduce river hazards in downstream plains. If no effort was taken to moderate the silt load or to control the river channel in hills and foothills in Arunachal Pradesh, it would be difficult to reduce the  impacts of flood arrest rivers such as bank erosion and minimize siltation in the floodplains of Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts. Ravindranath, the director of Rural Volunteers Centre (RVC), who have been working with the flood issue of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji for last two decades told that with developmental activities in hills of Arunachal Pradesh the severity and frequency of floods and flash floods would increase in the coming days in these two districts. He also told that development was the basic right so it could not be prevented and hence flood would be imminent in Assam. But Partha J Das was hopeful and told in view of the characteristics of north bank  rivers of eastern Assam and the pattern of flood and flash flood and their impacts, Integrated Flood Management (IFM) approach must be adopted to deal with floods and water related hazards (river bank erosion and land degradation due to sand deposition) effectively. So, going by principles of IFM approach, bank erosion and land degradation due siltation of flooding rivers should be considered in the same frameworks or strategies since their causes are interlinked. He also told deforestation, indiscriminate quarrying and inappropriate land use practices in the upper catchment need to be controlled to reduce intensity and affects of flood in the downstream plains. Therefore it was utmost necessary that governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh take up joint strategy of managing riverine hazards in Eastern Assam through bilateral cooperation and collaboration. It was also important to establish channels of communication and cooperation between communities living on the riverine bank of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the catchment areas. Some other climate scientists opine that extreme rainfall events and landslide are increasing in the Himalayan region as a result of global climate change. In such a scenario events like flash flood could be rising in frequency and intensity all over the Himalayan landscape. These two states flood managers or two states level flood management as far as tackling agencies must consider implications of climate change while formulating policies and strategies of flood mitigation. This also emphasizes the need of real time monitoring of hydro meteorological situation and forecast of flood and flash flood.

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