Centre promises to look into Assam flood woe

Guwahati, Feb. 14: Union minister for water resources Harish Rawat has assured Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi that he would look into the problems of recurring flood and erosion and find a lasting solution through the joint endeavour of the Centre and the state government.

Rawat called on Gogoi at his official residence last evening and discussed issues related to flood and erosion in the state.

Gogoi said erosion of riverbanks was a significant factor in aggravating the flood problem in the state. "Since 1950, Assam has lost about 7.4 per cent of its land with an average annual rate of erosion of 8,000 hectare. The flood-prone areas of the state, as assessed by Rashtriya Barh Ayog, is 31.50 lakh hectare, which is about 39.58 per cent total area of the state," he said.

In this backdrop, Gogoi asked Rawat to recognise Assam's flood and erosion problem as a "national problem". He said the water resource ministry should try to include erosion as a natural disaster, thus qualifying for assistance under the National Disaster Relief Fund.

There is a special requirement for flood and erosion protection work, including river training, land reclamation, channel guidance and riverbank stabilisation schemes, the chief minister told Rawat.

Gogoi said his government has been repeatedly urging that due weightage should be given to construction of all hydro-electric and other water-based projects as flood and erosion management was important for safety of life and property. "We strongly feel that all hydropower schemes in the Northeast should be of the nature of multipurpose projects that include downstream and upstream flood moderation measures. And this I have emphasised in the National Water Resources Council," he said.

Assam water resources minister (independent) Rajib Lochan Pegu, who was present in the meeting, said the state government had submitted a detailed project report on fortification of embankments, including related structural and non-structural flood protection measures, to the tune of Rs 4030.41 crore to the Centre.

Gogoi said the imperative need was to maintain the flow of water in the Brahmaputra so that it can sustain environment and water balance in the Northeast.

"There is the need to arrive at an understanding with all the riparian countries, including China, Bhutan and Bangladesh," he said.

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