New Delhi: To curtail the floods and devastation caused by river Brahmaputra every year, the Assam government is planning to build a 5,000 km road-cum-embankment along the river course in the state territory at a cost of Rs40,000 crore.

Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari along with Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal are expected to make a formal announcement about the project on Wednesday.

A brainchild of Sonowal, the project proposal was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 18 July and the state government is now awaiting a response from the latter.

Sonowal, who confirmed the move to Mint, said, “I met the Prime Minister on Tuesday, 18 July, and submitted a proposal to him requesting conversion of 5000 km of river embankment to road-cum-embankment."

He added that the state government has been also holding discussions with World Bank to help the state control floods through investments and technology as they did for China.

During the state government’s discussion with World Bank, the latter told that Bramhaputra’s threat perception is twice that of rivers like Nile, Mississippi, Amazon, and Huang He put together. Therefore, we are aggressively pushing the project, said Sonowal.

The Assam chief minister said that it was because of the Prime Minister’s guidance that the state government was able to come up with this plan and the transport ministry has agreed to build an expressway along the Brahmaputra river at a cost of Rs40,000 crore.

He said the sole purpose of the embankment is to protect people, the village economy and land against floods, but in the last 70 years of its existence, no repair work has been done. As a result, the existing embankment have become porous and weak.

A senior road ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Construction of road-cum-embankment to check floods is possible but it would be in certain sections and not along the complete river course as there would be certain stretches where river cannot be controlled."

The official added that the project was discussed with Gadkari in April during his Assam visit.

However, environmentalists raise a concern saying such a move could increase the intensity of floods rather than curtailing them. Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan said, “It is a foolish idea. Strengthening embankments as a measure to flood mitigation has never worked. The experience of last 50 years and Assam’s neighbouring state Bihar is a testimony to it. Strengthening embankments increases the intensity of water which is more catastrophic."

Mishra is an environmentalist who has been fighting for cleanliness and revival of river Yamuna.

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