More people affected than ever, but state allocation for control has dropped

Photo for representation. People in a flooded area in Morigaon district, Assam on July 13, 2020. Photo: iStock

Assam is flooded almost every year and this year more than 4.8 million lives have been affected in 34 of its 35 districts as of June 19, 2022, according to official records.

The crisis, however, is not reflected in the state’s budget allocation for flood control, which has fallen since the 2019-20 fiscal year. The Eastern state had earmarked Rs 3,748 crore for agriculture and flood control in the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20. This has been reduced to Rs 2,825 crore for 2020-21, Rs 2,452 for 2021-22 and Rs 2,778 for 2022-23, according to the budget documents.





Assam Budget

2018-19 (crore of rupees)

2019-20 (crore rupees)

2020-21 (crore rupees)

2021-22 (crore of rupees)

2022-23 (crore of rupees)

Irrigation and flood control

2,450

3,748

2,825

2,452

2,778

Apart from irrigation and flood control measures, the state budget of Assam does not make any specific allocation for disaster relief measures. He cannot have an allocation without the suggestion of the Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, the average number of people affected by floods each year has also been steadily increasing in the state, according to the Assam government’s water resources department.

From 1970 to 1979: 2 million people affected by floods

From 1988 to 2005: The number of people affected by floods increased to 4.5 million each year

2020: More than six million people affected

In the past two months, 329,759 people have been moved to relief camps and 1,99,438 hectares of cropland have been damaged, according to Ravindranath, founder of the Rural Volunteers Centre, a grassroots organization in northeast India. India and former Ashoka Fellow. He has worked for years to relieve flood affected areas in Assam.

Compensation is a common grievance in Assam, he added.

The state revenue department is managing the relief measures, according to the expert. Separate mechanisms outside the state budget provide funding, such as the State Disaster Response Fund and the National Disaster Response Fund, were created on the proposal of the 13th Finance Commission under the Union Ministry of Finance.

The state budget does, however, provide financial support for long-term climate adaptation projects. The Brahmaputra flood control project, for example, has been allocated Rs 694 crore for 2020-2021. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority also received a capacity building grant.

The National Flood Policy also offers funding based on immediate, short-term and long-term needs.

This year. the eastern state has seen intense rainfall ahead of the monsoon, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). Those early downpours, likely brought on by climate change, could be behind the devastating floods, experts said.

It’s unclear whether such flooding will become a year-round phenomenon, but human activity such as mining may dictate the outcome, Ravindranath said. Sedimentary rock structures can settle on the river bed and increase the volume of water, he explained.

Disaster management authorities and the National Disaster Response Force responded quickly to flood warnings, he added.

In the past, there was no system in place and local communities would band together to protect themselves against floods, he recalls. The Upper Assam resident said citizens will warn each other if they witness the rising waters of the rivers in the lower basins.




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