This eighth Rivers Review 2017 report presents account of key rivers related developments in North Eastern states comprising Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya.
Rivers As National Waterways Rivers of North-East to be tamed for transportation Pursuing its agenda of inland waterway transportation, the Inland Waterways Authority has reportedly organized a road show and a seminar in Guwahati to resolve major issues linked with developing the rivers as viable and sustainable means for cargo and passenger transportation.
Of the 106 new National Waterways, notified in April 2016 under the National Waterways Act, 2016, 19 are in the North East. These include NW-2 (Brahmaputra), NW- 16 (river Barak), NW- 95 (river Subansiri), NW- 39 (river Ganol), NW- 93 (river Simsang), NW- 101 (river Tizu and Zungki), NW- 31 (Dhansiri), NW- 62 (river Lohit), NW- 106 (river Umngot), NW- 18 (river Beki), among others. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=163229 (PIB, 29 May 2017)
BRAHMAPUTRA Inauguration of projects to restore Majuli Majuli Island has been under severe threat of bank erosion by the flow of river Brahmaputra since formation of the Island and particularly after the Assam earthquake of August 15, 1950.
To address the issues of erosion in vulnerable reaches and reclaim more land by siltation and other measures in the east-west reach length of about 80 km on south bank, a DPR was formulated for “Protection of Majuli Island from flood and erosion of river Brahmaputra” as per the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Experts for Majuli Island and Technical Advisory Committee of Brahmaputra Board (TAC- BB). An SFC of Rs. 233.57 core for the above work has been approved by Government of India,out of which, the Ministry of DoNER will fund Rs. 207.00 crore under NLCPR mode.
The average elevation of the Island is 87 m (at Bessamara) above mean sea level as against the High Flood Level of 88.32 m. The present area of Main Island is about 524 sq-km with a population of 1.68 lakh as per 2011 Census. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174833(PIB, 28 Dec 2017)
On Dec, 29 Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone for a above mentioned scheme for protection of Majuli Island in Assam from flood and erosion of river Brahmaputra.
It is claimed that after reclamation of land started, area of Majuli Island increased from 502.21 sq km in 2004 to 524.29 sq km in 2016 as per study of satellite imageries. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174947 (PIB, 28 December 2017)
Majuli Island is surrounded by the mighty Brahmaputra River on the south, Kherkatia Suti, Luit Suti and Subansiri Rivers on the North and is susceptible to both floods and erosion almost every year. On the request of Government of Assam, Union Water Resources Ministry entrusted to Brahmaputra Board the task of ‘Protection of Majuli Island from Flood and Erosion’ in 2003. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174996(PIB 29 December 2017)
Brahmaputra Board ratifies project for Majuli The 9thmeeting of the High Powered Review Board of Brahmaputra Board (HPRBB) has ratified a Rs 237 crore project for the protection of Majuli Island in Assam from flood and erosion.
The meeting, held at Borgos, Kaziranga in Assam on December 30, was chaired by Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari who also launched ‘Brahma-ID’, a Mathematical Model Study prepared by IIT, Guwahati. The Rs 3 crore project is sponsored by the Brahmaputra Board.
The HPRB approved the establishment of Brahmaputra Board office complex in Majuli and handing over the works to NPCC, a public sector undertaking (PSU) of the MoWR.
It suggested the creation of a Centre for Brahmaputra Studies in IIT, Guwahati covering multi-disciplinary aspects of hydrology, environment, inland waterways, agriculture and sociology. For this purpose, IIT, Guwahati will identify and earmark a land area of about four acres for development of the Centre and the Union Government will support the establishment of this Centre. http://netindian.in/news/2018/01/01/00044718/brahmaputra-board-ratifies-rs-237-crore-project-protect-majuli-flood-erosio (Net Indian, 1 Jan. 2018)
Recognizing the need among basin states to build their capacity of Water Resources Departments, the HPRB advised the Brahmaputra Board and the Central Water Commission to conduct regional workshops in every basin state. It would enable the states to build capacity especially in the field of preparation of Master Plans, Feasibility Reports and Detailed Project Reports (DPRs).
Comprehensive DPRs need to be developed for integrated water management. These DPRs should be bankable which can be taken up for external funding with International Agencies like World Bank, JICA, and ADB.
The HPRB formed a committee comprising Chairman, Brahmaputra Board, Chief Secretary, Assam and Chief Secretary, Arunachal Pradesh to determine the terms of reference for this purpose.The HPRB directed that this work of comprehensive integrated master plan be assigned to WAPCOS, a PSU of MoWR, who may partner with leading global organizations working in the field of integrated water management. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/govt-to-set-up-centre-on-brahmaputra-studies-at-iit-guwahati/articleshow/62327422.cms (The Times of India, 01 Jan. 2018)
Also see video exploring if Majuli in Assam, the world’s largest river island will disappear in the Brahmaputra one day?https://video.scroll.in/864044/watch-will-majuli-in-assam-the-worlds-largest-river-island-disappear-in-the-brahmaputra-one-day (The Scroll, 07 Jan. 2018)
Smart City Projects In North East Funds approved for 464 projects in 8 Smart Cities in Northeast The eight cities of the Northeastern region selected as Smart Cities are: Guwahati (Assam), Imphal (Manipur), Agartala (Tripura), Kohima (Nagaland), Aizawl (Mizoram), Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Gangtok and Namchi (both Sikkim). While no city from Meghalaya was chosen for the Smart City list, Arunachal CM has been pressing the Centre for also including Itanagar for the Smart City project. The ministry of urban development provides an assistance of Rs 500 crore per Smart City over a period of five years. http://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/fund-of-rs-14124-crore-approved-for-464-projects-in-8-smart-cities-in-northeast-hardeep-singh-puri-4907785/ (Indian Express, 27 Oct. 2017)
Brahmaputra Highway Govt to build express highway along Brahmaputra The Assam government would soon start work on an 890-km Express Highway along the length of the Brahmaputra from Sadiya in the east to Dhubri in the west, which in turn would also help arrest river-bank erosion.Could this be invitation to major disaster? Can it really help prevent river bank erosion? The news report even mentions lessons to be learnt from the Chinese experience in dealing with Hwang-Ho River, but do we have credible account of what all was done in that case and what were the results?http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/guwahati/assam-to-build-890-km-express-highway-along-brahmaputra-4489850/ (The Indian Express, 24 Jan. 2017)
Namami Brahmaputra After Namami Ganga, its Namami Brahmaputra The State govt celebrated ‘Namami Brahmaputra’, billed as the biggest river festival of India, from March 31 to April 4 across 21 districts along the Brahmaputra in its entire stretch from Sadiya to Dhubri. The state govt has sanctioned a budget of Rs 10 crore for this event. https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/river-festival-assam-s-brahmaputra-to-get-a-touch-of-ganga/story-WrDMmoKuKnc5MkadUW3TyI.html (Hindustan Times, 24 March 2017)
“Namami Brahmaputra” and its symbols The image and symbols invoked in the promotional songs of the festival seems to have not gone down well with many communities living in the state. The state government has launched two promotional songs for the festival. One version of the song features filmstar Amitabh Bachchan and many well known bollywood singers and one Assamese version featuring singers from the state. The songs have been criticized for failing to showcase the diversitiy of the ethnically diverse state. An umbrella organization called the Tribal Sangha, has criticized the songs for failing to represent the Assamese society by not showing any of the ethnic communities in the songs. https://countercurrents.org/2017/03/30/namami-brahmaputra-and-its-symbols-of-hindutva/ (Counter Currents, 30 March 2017)
Brahmaputra’s Longest Bridge Inauguration of longest bridge PM Narendra Modi has inaugurated the country’s longest Dhola-Sadiya Bridge in Assam on May 26, 2017. This bridge will reduce the travel time between Rupai, Assam to Meka/Roing, Arunachal Pradesh by around five hours. This new, three lane, 9.15 km bridge has been built at a cost of about Rs 2,056 crore over river Lohit, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, linking Dhola in Assam to Sadiya in Arunachal Pradesh. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=162149 (PIB, 26 May 2017)
Questions about the long bridge The report raises many critical points about the Brahmaputra Bridge recently commissioned.As per Dr Manik Kar the longest bridge of the nation constructed in this region after 70 years of Independence is not a showpiece of technological marvel if we compare it with the bridges constructed in China. Significantly, out of the total 27 longest bridges in the world, the first seven bridges are in China itself. The longest one is 164.8-km long and all the bridges on the river portion are steel extension type.
The concrete pillars of Dr Bhupen Hazarika Setu have, in fact, narrowed down the width of the river and together with huge amount of water released from the proposed big dams of hydro power projects of Arunachal Pradesh, it will give rise to flash floods in the downstream of Assam. He also mentions Dams, dredging, silt accumulation and risks of hydropower projects in the Brahmaputra basin. http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=aug0417/state050http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=aug0417/state050%20 (Assam Tribune, 3 Aug. 2017)
Bhupen Hazarika Setu and the Politics of Infrastructure In this readable detailed report author Parag Jyoti critically examines politics behind the Bhupen Hazarika Setu project. Some excerpts
- Given the continuous tensions between India and China over Arunachal, this may seem temporarily plausible, but questions do arise. If connectivity through this bridge was so important for internal security, why was its construction taken up only in 2011? Besides, even after crossing this bridge, one has to cross hazardous terrains and fast flowing rivers before reaching areas bordering China.
- The construction of such massive infrastructure, in such a short time, can be more closely associated with the development of large hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
- However, it is the downstream impact of the proposed hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh that poses greater threats to the material existence of Sadiya.
- Peaking power operation of a hydropower project implies running the project turbines during those hours of the day when electricity demand is high. Such peaking operations lead to extreme variation in the flows of a river on a daily basis.
- There has, however, been a collective silence in the case of the likely downstream impacts of dams on Sadiya. According to the Dibang Basin study, if the Dibang multipurpose project is constructed, Sadiya will witness floods on an everyday basis in winter.
- The report says that against an average natural flow of 477 cumec in the winter season, due to peaking power operations of Dibang Multipurpose project, there will be only 114 cumec of water for 16-18 hours a day, while for the rest of the time the river will be flooded with 1,282 cumec of water.
- Contrary to popular narratives in the national and state media, the bridge solves neither the existing problems of Sadiya, nor of the dwellers in the adjacent districts of Arunachal Pradesh. https://thewire.in/228525/bhupen-hazarika-setu/ (The Wire, 28 Feb. 2018)
Brahmaputra New Initiative Biotechnology Dept to launch B4 study project The Department of Biotechnology will commission a two-tiered barge that will roughly be the size of two large conference rooms and host scientists and a full-fledged lab that will allow those on board to collect samples from various stretches of the river, perform tests on water quality and biodiversity of the wider ecosystem.
As per Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan, the proposed vessel, now only known as the Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4), would also be linked to smaller boats and research labs. He didn’t specify a budget for the boat but said the govt aimed to spend ₹200 cr across a range of programs. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-boat-lab-to-study-brahmaputra/article19722816.ece (The Hindu, 22 Sept. 2017)
River Atlas to be database to tackle floods, erosion, deforestation In a welcome initiative CM Sarbananda Sonowal, who had mooted the idea of preparing this comprehensive database of all major and minor rivers of the state, has also asked North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) to bring quality and quantity of sand and sand-layers in the river-beds within the ambit of the study. It will include details of 5000 km of embankments.
– A River Atlas that the NESAC is currently preparing for the government of Assam, would serve not just as a database of the Brahmaputra and its 100-odd tributaries, but also record deforestation in the region in order to help tackle recurring floods and erosion in the state.
– Located at Umiam near Shillong, about 80 km from here, NESAC is a joint initiative of Department of Space (DOS) and the North Eastern Council (NEC) established in 2000. http://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/assam-river-atlas-to-be-database-to-tackle-floods-erosion-deforestation-5022053/(The Indian Express, 12 Jan. 2018)
Brahmaputra Informative Article, Op-Ed
Muddy Siang is sign of danger ahead, wake up call for Indian authorities The current ongoing episode of Muddy Siang River water in Arunachal Pradesh is due to landslides in the upstream Tibet, triggered by the earthquakes starting on Nov 17, 2017 or possibly earlier. This is revealed by the satellite pictures and work of two researchers, first published in Arunachal Times on Dec 21, 2017. These landslides are partly blocking the Siang flow and could lead to massive floods in the downstream Arunachal Pradesh and Assam any day. The situation of the matter is same till 13 March 2018.
A similar event in year 2000 led to sudden, massive floods in Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh on June 1, 2000. That episode, like the current one, started about 53 days before the floods, on April 9, 2000 due to landslides along a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo, as Siang is known in Tibet. https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/muddy-siang-is-sign-of-danger-ahead-wake-up-call-for-indian-authorities/ (SANDRP Blog, 24 Dec. 2018)
Cost of a river This is an excellent report on Brahmputra it ends with great punch line, “When their disorganised loot gives way to corporations that have sharks in suits, the game will change. The logic of profit and loss rides on a purely utilitarian understanding of the world. It reduces nature to “natural resources” and people to “human resources”. Its method is the method of counting and measuring; every quality is reduced to a quantity, a number.
How many megawatts of power can the Brahmaputra and its tributaries generate? How many millions in “shareholder value” will it be worth? What is the price of a river older than the Himalayas, which supports an entire ancient ecosystem? And what, indeed, is the price of the ecosystem itself?”
Welcome statements: “Stout local opposition has prevented these dams from being built so far. If they do come into existence, they will kill one of the last great free-flowing rivers in the world—a river that, according to geologists, may be older than the Himalayas.”
However, Statements like this give misleading picture about Run of River Projects: “These “run of the river” projects do not store the water in large reservoirs and are less damaging to the environment than conventional dams.” http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/unbraiding-the-brahmaputra/article19192861.ece (The Hindu, 1 July 207)
Understanding Brahmaputra annual flood In this detailed and informative report, author Debasree Purkayastha adds new dimension in annual flood phenomena of Brahmaputra river. Few excerpts
– As line in a famous Assamese song goes: “Luitar parore ami deka lora; moribole bhoi nai (We are the youths from the banks of the Luit [Brahmaputra]; we are not afraid of death),” people in the Valley seems to be living by the same spirit.
– It begins touchingly: “The river was swollen the morning after the earthquake, which seemed to last for an eternity. We saw fallen trees in it, people and animals flailing, dead bodies of people and animals that were carried on the strong current.”
Krishna Chawla (née Das) was 13 when a strong earthquake that lasted about eight minutes jolted Assam and adjacent areas on the evening of August 15, 1950.
The Brahmaputra River, which was always “eating away at parts of the state,” looked terrifying, she recollects. “All of us students went to help build embankments the next day, and while I was passing a bag full of sand to a fellow student, I saw the river take away the house I was born in. The house collapsed, and I stood there paralysed,” said Ms. Chawla
– The riverbed area of the Brahmaputra has increased by more than 50 per cent through erosion since the quake… erosion has destroyed more than 3,800 square kilometres of farmland, which is nearly half the size of Sikkim, since 1954. Due to erosion, the riverbed area has expanded from around 3,870 sq km estimated between 1916 and 1928 to 6,080 sq.km. in 2006. Based on the civil engineering report, between 1954 and 2008 about 4,27,000 hectares has been eroded at the rate of 8,000 hectares per year.
– Sanjoy Hazarika, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative is unconvinced. He is for an engineering assessment, along with environment assessment, as dredging “might change the course of river.” http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-the-hands-of-the-brahmaputra-understanding-the-annual-flooding-in-assam/article20948196.ece?homepage=true
There is one more article highlighting the hardships of villagers being displaced by continuous erosion of the river. Indeed, the erosion affected along Brahmaputra need to be considered disaster affected and also their rehabilitation should be part of the disaster management policy and plans. This article also gives details of processes that affect such people. http://www.huffingtonpost.in/village-square/riverbank-erosion-has-rendered-thousands-homeless-in-assam-and-yet-its-not-treated-as-an-emergency_a_23198290/ (Huffington Post, 23 Nov. 2017)
Namami Barak After Brahmaputra, Govt celebrates Namami Barak In Nov. 2017, iaugurating Namami Barak event in Silchur, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal said that river navigation from Silchar to the Bay of Bengal via Bangladesh would be started to boost the trade and business activities in the region. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/assam-cm-inaugurates-namami-barak-festival/1/1092514.html (India TV, 29 Nov. 2017)
The CM also said that the govt would soon begin dredging the Barak river in order to make it more navigable and useful for trans-boundary river transport between India and Bangladesh. http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/guwahati/assam-cm-sarbananda-sonowal-announces-3-new-bridges-on-barak-river-4943646/(Indian Express, 18 Nov. 2017)
Barak River is one of major rivers of South Assam. It measures about 900 km from its source (in Manipur) to the mouth (in Bangladesh), of which 532 km is in India. The river is part of Surma-Meghna River System. The sixth national waterway stretch is on this river. https://currentaffairs.gktoday.in/namami-barak-festival-held-assam-11201750043.html (Current Affair, 18 Nov. 2017)
The 3-day river festival aimed to pay tribute to River Barak and to showcase of Barak’s potential & possibilities to emerge as hub of trade and commerce. The event culminated on Nov. 21. http://www.dailypioneer.com/trending-news/namami-barak-concludes-with-presidents-visit.html(The Pioneer, 20 Nov. 2018)
Barak Festival Manipur CM announces Rs 202 cr package at Barak Spring Festival 2017 At the Namami Barak festival, the CM Biren Singh announced projects worth Rs 202 crore for development of the Senapati district. He also said that from the next year the festival will be celebrated at the State level like other major Sangai Festival with national and international participation.
As per report, the festivities ended mid-way in 2016 due to disturbances. This spring festival with the theme “Reclaiming Responsibilities” celebrated the blessings of the river and showcase the rich traditions and culture of the various tribes. The Barak has been an integral part to the people of the State, particularly to those in Senapati district. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/manipur-cm-announces-rs-202-crore-development-package-for-senapati-district-at-barak-spring-festival-2017/articleshow/58792370.cms
The Barak river is not only the biggest river in Manipur but also one of the main sources of income for all the communities living in Senapati District, namely the Zeliangrong, Paomei, Thangal, Maram, and Mao people.
During 2015 celebration, Tenyimi Peoples’ Organisation president Timikha Koza appealed to the people to make the festival meaningful by making their contribution in conserving the river which has only benefitted them. He expressed his concern over the fact that the river is in a drastic condition and that if it ever dries up, it will be of immense loss to the people. He emphasised that the river is a gift from Mother Nature to Senapati district, and appealed to the people of Liyai Circle from where the river originates to preserve the forest and allow the river to flow freely. https://thenortheasttoday.com/barak-festival-kicks-off-in-imphal-sets-objective-to-conserve-the-river/ (The North East Today, 2015)
The two day Barak Spring Festival with theme “Reclaiming the Responsibilities” concluded on May 22, 2017. The festival was started in the year 2013 to form a common platform and to foster the unity amongst the five different tribes of the Senapati District of Manipur, namely MAO, MARAM, POUMAI, THANGAL and ZELIANRONG. http://manipurtimes.com/barak-spring-festival-concludes/ (Manipur Times, 23 May 2017)
Make fishery as an agenda for Barak Festival 2017 In his article, Pahrii Pou makes some interesting suggestions and asked the Government to and the Organisers of Barak Festival, to think, promote and encourage the villagers to take up fishery along the tributaries of Barak River. Excerpts…..
“This will not only serve as an alternative source of livelihood but also as a means of regenerating nature. As Senapatians (or allow me to call as Tahamzamians – the people of Tahamzam) are gearing up for celebration of its annual Barak Festival, follow up action or plan must also be properly chalked out before hand.
Without follow up action, Barak Festival will be just another waste of time and money. If we do not do anything to save Barak River, very soon the river will run dry and the celebration of Barak Festival will be an insult to the River. It will be unfair to celebrate Barak Festival with all pomp and show, or the Chief Guest promising to improve NHs, or construction of women’s market but without mentioning anything about the well being of Barak River.
This festival should not be a mere occasion of enjoyment for the rich and the educated people of the state. The benefit of Barak Festival must reach to the River, the poor and illiterate villagers.” http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=education.Science_and_Technology.Fishery_as_an_agenda_for_Barak_Festival_2017_By_ZK_Pahrii_Pou (E-PAO, Net 10 May 2017)
Panel to deal with floods The state cabinet on March 3, constituted a committee headed by Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Leppao Haokip to deal with the floods caused by torrential rains. Two persons have died in rain-related incidents.Officials said landslides on national highways had affected transportation of goods. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/manipur-panel-to-deal-with-floods/article17754304.ece (The Hindu, 1 April 2017)
Nambul River MoEF released no funds for Nambul river pollutionAs per Union Environment Ministry, it has released no funds for reducing the pollution of Nambul river in Manipur under National River Conservation Projects (NCRD). As per report, a conceptual project report for ‘Waste water Treatment and Cleanup in Nambul and Waishel Maril Basins, Manipur’ amounting to Rs 452.44 crore was received from the Government of Manipur in May, 2015 but the project report was returned to the State Govt in May 2015 itself, as it was not prepared per the guidelines of NRCP. http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=7..250717.jul17 (E-Pao, 24 July 2017)
Forest Dept bans sand mining in Thoubal River Observing severe impact of sand mining on Thoubal River as well as its environment, forest department officials put immediate ban on the sand mining as well as excavation at hills of the surroundings. The dept has also ordered ban transportation of red sand in Thoubal and Kakching district with immediate effect. http://kanglaonline.com/2017/11/dfo-thoubal-swings-into-action-bans-sand-mining-at-thoubal-river/ (Kangla Online, Nov. 2017)
Rymben fish diversity under threat: Study As per a city-based researcher studying of the Rymben river along the India-Bangladesh border, the fish species of the Rymben river are facing extinction owing to “over-exploitation”. https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170314/jsp/northeast/story_140475.jsp#.WMovf1WGPIV (The Telegraph, 14 March 2017)
Flash floods destroy fisheries Due to incessant rains in the Meghalaya hills, a devastating flash flood occurred in the entire Kalapani area under Mankachar revenue circle of South Salmara-Mankachar district and caused huge damages to agricultural fields and fisheries. The rush of flood water, while it came down from the hills, was so fast that within a few minutes three wooden bridges on Kalo river located at Boisabari, Tokpara and Lakhishari were washed away causing total disruption of road communication in greater Kalapani areas. http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=oct0317/state050 (Assam Tribune, 2 Oct. 2017)
Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You may also like to see Rivers Review 2017 for other Indian States