SHIBA NANDA BASU
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Rohomoria (Assam), 28  Feb
People living in the eroded stretches of river Brahmaputra in Assam are fighting a losing battle to save their land from erosion as human efforts seem too small compared to the devastation the river can inflict during floods, said villagers here.
Amindra Gogoi (60), a resident of Rohomoria village said earlier the river was an hour’s walk. But now the river is on their door step. "This is our last battle to save our lands," said Mr Gogoi. "Government has fortified the embankments recently. But for the past few years we have seen that erosion is the only constant." He, like other villagers, believes that ultimately all human efforts will be defeated.
The majority of people here who are subsistence farmers said that erosion is getting worse. They said in the 2012 floods, the water was so deep and stayed for so long that it eroded maximum land and destroyed vast stretches of land. The villagers had also lost their cattle as there was no fodder to feed them.
Dr Partha J Das who is involved in research work on the Brahmaputra said this is a highly seismic zone. In 1950, an earthquake in the Brahmaputra river basin changed the geology of the area. Experts said that water level in the river is rising and at one measuring post the river rose by 10 metres.
Professor J N Sharma, a locally based geologist, said: "Over time the different rivers in the basin have become linked and merged into the Brahmaputra, though it is braided across a very wide area. The force of the water eats away at the banks in certain areas. More than 2000 square kilometres of land was eaten away."
He also said that rampant deforestation is another big cause of the land erosion. "Population growth and immigration has meant more and more settling on the river banks, which then, when the erosion happens, leads to more displacement of peoples," he added.
Projects like Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) based at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) are working with local experts on several research projects.
Mr Nand Kishore Agrawal, HICAP coordinator, said: "Our aims at linking climate science research knowledge with the experience of farmers and communities who are already facing the consequences of climate change." In addition, HICAP has already implemented pilots on flood early warning systems that benefit the farmers directly, he added.
But the farmers on the banks of Brahmaputra have their immediate concerns. "I have moved and made new houses twice," said Mr Virendra Guahain. "But where should I move again. I don’t have enough money to build another house if another flood hit our land this rainy season."