‘Nowhere else to go’: In India’s Assam, frequent floods hit river islanders

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By Webdesk

Monuwara Begum is growing weary of moving every time water pours into her home.

The 45-year-old farmer, who lives on an island in the mighty Brahmaputra River in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, said she and her family suffer from more violent and erratic floods each year.

They live in their small hut even when there is knee-deep water inside, sometimes for days – cooking, eating and sleeping – when the river water rises.

When the water engulfs their home, “we leave everything and try to find some higher ground or shift to the nearest relief camp”, Begum said.

Begum is one of an estimated 240,000 people in the Morigaon district of the state who are dependent on fishing and selling produce like rice, jute and vegetables from their small farms on floating river islands, known locally as chars.

Begum said the river has always intruded on the chars, but it has become much more frequent in recent years.

“We are very poor people. We need the government’s help to survive here since this is our only home. We have nowhere else to go,” she said.

The local government has devised a climate action plan which has guidance on dealing with weather events, but the federal government has yet to approve it. The state does not have a separate budget to implement the plan.

Increased rainfall in the region due to climate change has made the Brahmaputra – already known for its powerful, unpredictable flow – even more dangerous to live near or on one of the more than 2,000 island villages in its course.

India, and Assam state in particular, is seen as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change because of more intense rains and floods, according to a 2021 report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based climate think tank.

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