The Brahmaputra river has turned 51-year-old Prafulla Saharia into a refugee. In 2007, it eroded his village Malhu, his home and 70 bighas of farm land. Since then, erosion forced him to move home thrice. The daily wage labourer now fears village Lengeribori, where is now staying, will be gobbled up by the swollen Brahmaputra any day.
“This place where we are sheltered now will also get eroded for sure; we faced such a massive flood a few days back, the government only gave us rice, dal and salt, nothing else,” Prafulla Saharia told NDTV.
The floods in Assam have receded a bit, but people in several parts of the state are now battling riverbank erosion. In Morigaon district over 4.5 lakh people were affected by floods this year. At Bhuragaon revenue circle of Morigaon, village after village are now on the brink of being swallowed by the Brahmaputra.
Saharia’s neighbour Jamuna weeps inconsolably as she shows her house, first damaged by floods, and now threatened by erosion. She wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help.
“We hope that PM Modi will listen to our cries and help. We keep on hearing that flood-erosion mitigation projects will start but nothing is seen on the ground. We need a permanent solution,” Jamuna Saharia said.
Since 1950, the Brahmaputra river has eroded over 4.27 lakh hectares or 7.4 per cent of Assam’s land area. The state loses nearly 8,000 hectares each year, similar to the size of Goa.
“There is acute land scarcity; if someone loses land and if we have to rehabilitate, it is difficult,” said Chaitali Dutta.
In Bhuragaon, 57 of 122 villages have disappeared with the Brahmaputra shifting 11 km inland from its main channel. Across Assam, at least 880 villages have eroded in the last 50 years.
Dutta added that to the north, the Brahmaputra is at 1 km and to the west it is barely half a km, but with rising water level there are floods in the area.