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Biodiversity & Environment

Assam’s Flood and Kaziranga’s Ecosystem

  • 18 Jul 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The recent flood in Assam has led to heavy casualties, displacement of peoples and animals and destruction of property and environment.

  • It has also led to inundation of 80% of the area of Kaziranga National Park.

Key Points

  • Reason behind Floods:
    • Ill-maintained or poorly constructed river embankments are the main reason behind the flooding.
      • One major feature of flood management in Assam is total dependence on embankments.
      • Assam began constructing embankments in the 1960s and most of them have outlived their utility. Many of these started breaching or collapsing from the 1990s, more seriously from the 2000s.
    • Massive deforestation in catchment areas of rivers or release of waters by dams upstream.
    • Climate change is also a factor behind floods.
  • Floods in Kaziranga’s Ecosystem:
    • Experts believe that floods are necessary for Kaziranga by virtue of its riverine ecosystem. The system won’t survive without water.
    • The regenerative nature of floods helps replenish Kaziranga’s water bodies and maintain its landscape, which is a mix of wetlands, grasslands and semi-evergreen deciduous forests.
    • The floodwaters function as a breeding ground for fish, which are carried away by the receding waters into the Brahmaputra. i.e the Kaziranga’s floods replenishes the Brahmaputra’s stock of fish.
    • The waters also help get rid of unwanted plants such as water hyacinth which collect in huge masses in the landscape.
  • Issues Involved:
    • Frequent Floods: Earlier, a big flood would come once in ten years, now they come every other year.
    • NH-37: When the flood water hits a certain level, the animal moves towards safer, higher ground in the Karbi Anglong hills. However, they have to cross NH-37 which cuts across the park, which leads to the killing of animals in road accidents.
      • Animals are also killed by poachers who take advantage of their vulnerability.
    • Human-animal Conflict: Animals also move towards villages in floods, this leads to human-animal conflict.
  • Steps taken during Floods:
    • The authorities keep a track of updates from the Central Water Commission, and monitor water levels of the Brahmaputra tributaries upstream in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Camps are organised to create awareness against poaching and harming wild animals that are rendered vulnerable during the floods.”
    • When the floods hit, Section 144 of CrPC is imposed along NH-37, speed limits are enforced and fines levied. Barricades are also placed to help animals cross over to Karbi Anglong.

Way Forward

  • In the absence of long-term alternatives, the government has to invest in strong, durable embankments to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate every year.
  • Kaziranga, with its rich grassland habitats, has a primary role to play in supporting the wildlife populations.
  • Emphasis needs to be put on securing animal corridors and ensuring a safe passage to the Karbi hills.
  • Need for a landscape-scale conservation approach that recognises the value of the Karbi Anglong hills.
    • The highlands of Karbi Anglong, where the animals take refuge, are the lifeline of the park during the floods.

Source: IE

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