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In what seems to have become an annual curse, heavy monsoon rains in the eastern Himalayas, the Assam valley, West Bengal and Bangladesh have led to serious flooding in two countries. Many rivers in the Brahmaputra basin are flowing well above the danger mark.

The flood waters of the Brahmaputra did recede in Bongaigaon and Sibsagar districts of Assam last week, but there was fresh inundation in a dozen villages in Nagaon district. Four districts in Assam continued to reel under the impact of floods on Sunday.

"Fresh inundation has occurred in 12 villages in the low lying areas of Samaguri revenue circle of Nagaon district,” Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said in its daily bulletin.

At present, Dhemaji, Jorhat, Nagaon and Morigaon districts are still affected by flood waters. Six relief camps are sheltering around 1,500 people forced out of their homes.

ASDMA said the situation in some areas, including the world’s largest river island Majuli, had improved marginally over the last weekend. "The flood waters receded in Bongaigaon and Sibsagar district,” it added.

The report also said the Brahmaputra in Jorhat and Dhubri districts, and its tributaries Dhansiri at Numaligarh and Jia Bharali at NT Road Crossing in Sonitpur district were flowing above the danger mark.

Coming just two months after the last floods, the overflowing river has now affected nearly 150,000 people in about 500 villages across 12 districts in the state. Flood victims said there were no embankments on the Brahmaputra at various places or those breached by earlier floods had not been repaired on time. Now some embankments are being restored temporarily with bamboo palisades and soil.

Last week, the flood situation in the state turned alarming with the Brahmaputra destroying 60 houses in Morigaon district. Massive erosion also took place in Bhuragaon and Mayong revenue circles of the district.

The flood has so far claimed one life in Morigaon district. It has also hit the Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. An elephant and an antelope died in Nagaon district. Kaziranga National Park is the world’s largest refuge of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros.

So far, the flood waters have destroyed standing crops like rice in around 7,000 hectares. The 12 affected districts are Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Chirang, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Kamrup, Karimganj, Lakhimpur, Morigaon, Sibsagar and Bongaigaon.

In West Bengal, over 5,000 people were marooned in Jalpaiguri district last week, where the Teesta river was in spate following heavy rains. The river has breached a 100-metre embankment following release of 3,200 cusecs of water from the Teesta barrage last week.

Around 2,000 houses were submerged in the flood. All communication links to Madarihat town was snapped. Neighbourhoods in district headquarter town Jalpaiguri – including Sukanto Palli, Vivekananda Palli and Indira Colony – were flooded.

Experts feel the main reason for the flooding is not abnormally high rainfall but heavy siltation in the rivers that reduce their water carrying capacity. S. Sarkar, a geologist at Siliguri-based North Bengal University, told The Economic Times, "The most important cause of this flooding and inundation in this region is not heavy rainfall but significantly hampered water retaining capacity of the rivers due to heavy siltation. At many places, levels of river beds are rising as high as 25 centimetres per year in this foothills region. This is alarming. This needs long term planning and judicious implementation of the plan.”

Downstream of both Assam and West Bengal, the flood situation in the northern districts of Bangladesh also worsened last week. Hundreds of thousands were marooned and crops on vast tracts of land were damaged.

According to the Bangladesh Water Development Board, late last week the Brahmaputra was flowing 26 cm above its danger level at Fulchharighat point of Gaibandha district while the Teesta was flowing 48 cm above the danger level at Sundarganj, the Karatoa 199 cm above the danger level at Katakhali Bridge and the Dharla six centimetres above its danger level at Kalakhawa Ghat in Lalmonirhat district.

With the rise of the water level in the Brahmaputra, floodplains in parts of Gaibandha district had been inundated and standing crops, particularly jute and summer vegetables, had been lost. Erosion was accelerated too.

Fish worth nearly $1.3 million were washed away as more than 100 ponds overflowed their banks, including the fish growing centre at Dalai Lama beel in Durgapur village of Aditmari upazila, according to fishery department officials.

Many erosion and flood victims had taken shelter on the nearby flood control embankment and flood shelters with their belongings including domestic animals. About 100,000 people were suffering from a scarcity of food and drinking water. Local media reports said no relief from any government department or NGOs had reached the flood-hit areas till last week.

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