GUWAHATI, July 22 - Erosion is a much bigger problem in Assam than floods and every year, a large number of people lose their lands due to erosion. The State Government should strongly take up the issue with the Centre so that adequate compensation can be given to the erosion hit people. This was the view of former additional Chief Secretary CK Das, who served in the Revenue Department for long periods in different capacities during his career as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Das said that according to records available, since 1951, Assam lost at least 8,000 square kilometres of land, that is around 60 lakh bighas. He pointed out that as land holdings in Assam are much smaller compared to some other states of the country, it is estimated that around 10 lakh families have become landless over the years. He expressed the view that erosion is much bigger threat to Assam than floods. After floods, the affected people can recover from the losses that they suffer and they can go for alternative cultivation after flood water recedes. But in case of erosion, those who lose their land have nothing to sustain and most farmers do not have other skills to sustain themselves, he pointed out.
The retired bureaucrat said that the bed of the rivers became shallow after the great earthquakes in 1897 and 1950, which reduced the water carrying capacity and the problem of erosion aggravated. He pointed out that if one examines the maps of the Survey of India since 1872, it is easily visible that the width of the river Brahmaputra is increasing in different parts through its course through Assam.
Das expressed the view that the State Government should keep mounting pressure on the Centre to declare erosion as a natural calamity so that adequate compensation can be paid to the people who lose their land in erosion. If the affected people get compensation, they would be able to buy plots of land in other parts. But now the erosion hit people do not get any compensation and most have been forced to live on embankments or encroach upon Government land, he added.
The former additional Chief Secretary further said that there should be a proper probe into the quality of the embankments and the estimates of the construction and repair of embankments should be made public as the people have the right to know the details. He also suggested that there should be a technical study by involving technical institutes on the ways to protect the State from erosion, the places where land can be reclaimed etc.