Flood, erosion unite neighbours – Assam, Arunachal meet in Itanagar today to talk river management

Guwahati:  Civil society organisations of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh will join hands tomorrow in Itanagar to launch a platform for a dialogue on cooperation in river management with special emphasis on mitigation of floods and erosion disasters between the two states.

The consultation workshop on “Integrated river basin management for mitigation of flood and erosion disasters in interstate rivers of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam: Perspectives in the context of climate change” is being organised by Aaranyak, an NGO, in collaboration with Arunachal Citizens’ Rights.

The workshop is supported by India Water Partnership and Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

There are about 15 major rivers that either originate from or flow through the Himalayan mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and enter into the flood plains of Assam to meet the Brahmaputra that drains the larger part of Assam. Some of these rivers are Siang, Dibang, Lohit, Noa-Dihing, Subansiri, Jiabharali, Burhidihing, Ranganadi, Dikrong, Gai, Jiadhal, Simen, Kundil and Singora. These rivers carry a huge amount of discharge and sediment and flow in braided channels in the Assam flood plains.

During the rainy season, these rivers cause flood havoc in the plains of Assam resulting in stupendous effect on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Floods annually destroy infrastructure like bridges, roads, railways; ruin croplands and displace millions of people from home and cause widespread health hazards.

These rivers also cause intense riverbank erosion that leaves people homeless and landless permanently.

“Conventional floods and erosion management strategy that rely more on structural measures like embankments, revetments, spurs and porcupines have not helped to reduce damage of disaster in the last 60 years. Integrated river basin management is now considered a fruitful approach to planning and sustainable management of rivers and their water resources,” programme head, Water, Climate and Hazard Programme of Aaranyak, Partha Das, said.

“Integrated flood management is also an effective way of dealing with flood disasters and erosion disasters for reducing their risk taking into consideration the interlinks of physical, social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of causes, management and impacts of floods.”

The World Bank, which is funding a $150-million project on integrated flood and erosion management in the Northeast, has called for a multi-sector approach towards management of water resources in the Brahmaputra basin.

Das said it has been realised that the transboundary and interstate rivers of the Northeast should be managed holistically so as to minimise harm to the hydrological and ecological health of the rivers that may accrue from large structural interventions (like hydropower projects and river dams), inter-basin transfer plans (planned both in China and India).

It is well acknowledged that the flood and erosion problems cannot be adequately mitigated only by taking structural or non-structural measures in the flood plains of Assam without addressing the river’s morphology in the upstream catchments that lie in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh.

“We strongly feel that Assam and Arunachal Pradesh should start collaborative initiatives to study the water-induced hazards from the basin management perspectives, prepare basin-level plans and start concrete and appropriate actions and interventions for basin-level management of rivers through an inter-state cooperation mechanism as well as integrated mitigation of flood and erosion problems,” Das said.

One of the main outputs of the workshop, Das said, would be to prepare the ground for developing a masterplan for integrated flood and erosion management in the inter-state rivers based on collaboration and cooperation between the two states.

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