Avik Kumar Chakraborty
Million people are forced to flee their homes due to a series of climate change related natural disasters around the world. In India Northeastern region specifically Assam is prone to natural disasters like earthquake, floods, landslides, cyclone and occasional drought. Particularly in Assam people subjected to perennial floods, river-bank erosions, landslides and occasional earthquakes. The intensity of flood, riverbank erosion and landslide has increased substantially over the years in terms of area and victims.
Rohmoria is an area most severely affected by river borne erosion is located about 20 kms away from Dibrugarh town in the upstream direction of the south bank of the Brahmaputra River where many lost their homes, belongings and farmland to the river. Rohmoria falls under the Lahoal constituency of Dibrugarh district which is famous for tea cultivation and its rich hydrocarbon reserves. The bank-line migration became faster in the early seventies. Rohmoria once happened to be a rich hub of diverse natural resources with fertile land in the bank of the mighty Brahmaputra, wonderful agricultural production, natural water bodies, forest resources, mineral resources, and the people – basically cultivators – with compatible strength of leading a self-sufficient agro-based economy, now become a vulnerable spot with an ever alarming rate of erosion.
Today the people of Bogoritolia in Rohmoria mauza under Lahowal constituency are facing the wrath of constant erosion for past several years. This year Bogoritolia village have lost huge chunk of land and posing a threat of being wiped out. River-borne erosion in Rohmoria and its surrounds has a long history. Following the earthquake of 1950, the Brahmaputra channel belt started inflating in the Dibru-Saikhoa segment causing rapid bankline migration in both the north & the south banks. In 1979, a major portion of the road that connected Tinsukia and Dibrugarh town through Rohmoria was cut heavily due to the erosion, transforming a well-connected provincial hub into a hinterland overnight, and evoking many anxieties that come with this unwanted designation. The anticipation of loss and displaced existence haunts Rohmorians every time the monsoons start pouring in Assam. Seven hundred people of Bogoritolia are having a sleepless night because of the constant threat of erosion. Rohmoria’s is, in fact, an endless tale of the havoc wreaked by the Brahmaputra. The river has come into the village by more than 10 km in the last three decades.
Till date, erosion in the area has so far wiped off more than 38 revenue villages, most part of the Dibrugarh-Rangagara-Tinsukia PWD Road, one government sericulture farm, a major portion of the historic Garpara Satra, several hectares from four tea estates etc. Moreover, seven schools had to be re-located, along with a police station and a post office. Many of the self-dependent peasants just become landless labourers overnight due to the massive rate of erosion. Last year, the Brahmaputra River created havoc in the area as around seventy families were displaced due to heavy erosion. The rehabilitation measures are yet to reach most of the deserving families.
“Due to recent erosion in Bogoritolia village four square kilometer land were gobbled up by Brahmaputra River. The Historical Tamuli Ali road which connects Dibrugarh, Tinsukia is posing a serious threat due to constant erosion, the river Brahmaputra is ten kilometer away from the road,’’ said Binod Kedia, the chief adviser of Flood Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum. He said that Garapora Xatra was gobbled up by the mighty river in 2006. Babul Phukan, a resident of Rohmoria said that for the past thirty years they are posing serious threat from erosion.” Many of our relatives have moved to safer places due to erosion. We are helpless because we cannot leave our land as agriculture is the only source of income for our family. We appeal to the BJP government to take immediate step to resolve the erosion problem,’’ he said.
“More than 25,000 people have been shifted to other places due to constant threat of erosion. If the erosion continues then around six to seven villages under Rohmoria village will go under water soon.’’ said Ganan Gogoi, a resident of Bogoritolia.
After a long protest by the people of Rohmoria in 2011, the government sanctioned Rs. 60 crore for the Geo bags project to stop the marauding erosion. However according to Mamoni Gogoi, a local farmer, only 4.6 km Geo- bags work from Gorpora to Kasuani were completed and another 6.4 km work from Gorpora to Bogoritolia were left undone due to not releasing of fund. “Last year at Bogoritolia, seven houses were washed away and till now the people have not been rehabilitated,’’ alleged Gogoi.
The Flood Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum, which is spearheading the Save Rohmoria campaign, has urged the concerned department to take immediate step to control the growing erosion in region. “Rohmoria Higher Secondary school is posing a threat of being wiped out in Brahmaputra River because it is only hundred meters away from the mighty river. Rohmoria police outpost has been shifted to safer place due to erosion,’’ Gogoi said. In 1990, the erosion started in Rohmoria that caused devastation for the people of the locality. In 1999, Flood Erosion Resistance Struggle Forum (FERSF) was formed and is spreading the movement. “In 1999, the functioning of Oil India’s drilling station at Rohmoria was stopped but later on it was opened in 2006 but again it has stopped due to erosion threat,’’ Kedia said.
Binod Kedia said that C. Lal, senior Commissioner of Flood management project, Water resource, New Delhi have said that there is no sufficient fund to release for Rohmoria. Kedia added that when they urged the department, it simply responded that if only Assam Government asks them to provide fund for Rohmoria, then only under special fund programme they can release the fund for Rohmoria. “Recently we have met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and urged him to take immediate step to control the erosion at Rohmoria,’’ he added.
However, last year the government sanctioned Rs 78.48 crore under the Integrated Flood and River Bank Erosion Management for laying geo bags on the stretch on the remaining 6.4km from Gorpora to Bogoritolia but the amount has not been released yet.