New Delhi: More than a month after floods brought life to a standstill in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, the home ministry said on Tuesday the disaster is of a “severe nature."
“Government has adjudged it as a calamity of a severe nature in terms of operational guidelines of 2015-16 for constitution and administration of the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and has released immediate relief assistance by way of advance grants by relaxing the prescribed conditions," minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha.
This classification as “severe" comes a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his assessment of the floods in the North East, spoke to Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu and officials in Delhi regarding the gravity of the situation. Modi had also directed Rijiju to take stock of the flood situation in these states.
Home ministry data revealed that till 6 August, 29 out of 33 districts in Assam had been affected by heavy rains, flood and erosion, killing 84 people and affecting 2.5 million people.
“In case of the floods of 2017 in the northeastern states including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, the government has taken the required steps in extending timely support to the state governments," Rijiju added.
According to home ministry data, the loss of lives this year is more than in the 2015 and 2016 floods. While 124 people died in 2015 across Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, the figure was 186 in 2016, with Assam alone recording 115 deaths. In 2017 however, the death toll has risen sharply to 191 so far.
There was more damage to crops in 2016, with 351,000 hectares of agricultural land being damaged across these seven states; while the figure for 2015 was 343,000 hectares and of this year 312,000 hectares.
Experts said the situation was particularly grim in Assam.
“Floods happen due to a breach of embankments. More than 80% of these embankments have not been reinforced in several decades because there is a huge contractor-administration nexus that benefits monetarily from a flood situation," said Kishalay Bhattacharjee, author and expert on North East affairs.
According to data released by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), 2017 has been the worst of the last four years in terms of floods.
In 2014, floods affected 1,846 villages and displaced about 1.6 million people. The figure in 2015 was 1,031 villages and about 1.5 million people, and in 2016, 2,893 villages and about 1.7 million people.
This year, about 2,400 villages have been affected by floods and more than 1.7 million people displaced across the districts of Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Karimganj and Kokrajhar, among others.