Climate change causing river extinction

Climate change causing river extinction
Highlights

Climate Change Causing River Extinction. Climate change is taking its toll on the largest riverine island in the world—Majuli accelerating the rate of erosion, and thereby rendering thousands of people homeless on the island.

Climate change is taking its toll on the largest riverine island in the world—Majuli accelerating the rate of erosion, and thereby rendering thousands of people homeless on the island.

The island is located on the Brahmaputra river.

Majuli, which is a subdivision of the Jorhat district in the North Eastern state of Assam has over 2 lakh inhabitants, and is also the repository of Assam’s centuries-old neo-Vaishnavite culture.

The island, which is considered highly ecologically sensitive, has been severely affected by the adverse impacts of climate change—and according to researchers working on flood and erosion, the island is losing land mass of around 5-6 kms every year as a result of erosion.

“Erosion has always been taking place, but now with climate change the rate of erosion has increased and now it is much more than before,” said Pankaj Gogoi, a researcher associated with the research based organization Destination North East.

The figures are quite alarming. From 1,256 sq km in 1950, Majuli has now been reduced to a mere 422 sq km.

Gogoi explained that the island was always affected by erosion, but climate change over the years have accelerated the rate of erosion.

“Also the intensity, duration and frequency of flood have increased from before, and the rain has become unpredictable and erratic. This is another reason why the rate of erosion has also increased, and this can be directly linked to climate change,” said Gogoi.

Erosion has affected over fifth thousands people, most of them belonging to various tribal communities, living on the island and a majority of them now are being forced to live on the embankments and open fields.

“According to official data, in the eight years since 2000, 9,027 families have lost their homes and croplands to erosion. Of these, 4,598 families eke out a living as agricultural labourers, daily wage earners and driftwood and fish sellers. And even these means of livelihood are limited these days,” says Rajiv Lochan Pegu, Assam water resource minister.

As a result of this rapid rate of erosion, thousands of families who were once self sufficient, today are neither having a livelihood option nor are having a proper place to stay. For thousands the embankment has become their sole refuge.

Minoti Borah’s family, who used to live in the Kamalabari village is among the affected ones. The river ate away her over 8 hectar land in a period of around 5 years.

To add to her woe, her husband had passed away over 5 years back and she has been all along bringing up her children on her own.

“Every day I used to go to my land and see how much land is left. Little by little, all my land including my home got eroded. Today I am both landless and homeless,” said Borah.

She said that she had written to the Assam government for help, and also to allot her some government land, but everything seems to have fallen on deaf ear till now.

The government’s effort to stop erosion has failed completely, and anti-erosion measures taken by the Brahmaputra Board, a body under the control of the Ministry of Water Resources has not brought down erosion even a bit.

Locals allege that the anti erosion works are not being done properly, and detailed study are not done before these works.

“The anti-erosion measures have never been based on proper geo-hydrological parameters,” says Jagat Hazarika, secretary of the Majuli Suraksha Samannay Mancha (MSSM).

The Assam chief minister when approached acknowledged it as a very serious problem.

“The impacts of climate change is felt everywhere. Assam is no exception. Vast tracts of land have been eroded due to floods and erosion. About 4 lakh hectare of land had been already gobbled up. We have to take up the problems seriously and to confront the challenges posed by floods and erosion,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi

(The author has received a travel support under the HICAP media grant)

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