GUWAHATI, Sept 11 - Majuli river island, which became a new district of Assam on September 8, has already lost almost half of its geographical area due to erosion and though the Brahmaputra Board and the State Water Resources Department have been taking some anti-erosion and anti-flood measures to protect the island, the only hope of protecting it seems to be the much waited mega project likely to be funded by the World Bank for dealing with the entire course of the river Brahmaputra.
There has been some confusion over the geographical area of the river island. As per revenue records, the total area of the island was around 1,245 sq km in 1950, while some reports, quoting reports of the Survey of India, revealed that the area of the river island was around 734 sq km in 1914. However, official sources said the revenue records also included the cluster of islands formed on the river Brahmaputra.
Severe erosion and floods remained a major problem for Majuli over the years and now the geographical area, as per the revenue records, has come down to around 650 sq km. According to one report, at least 50 km of the total area of the island was eroded only during the period from 1972 to 1994 and more than 3,000 families lost their homes due to erosion since 2011. Official records revealed that more than 2,000 families of the island are still living on embankments.
The new district has a population of around 1.67 lakh, of which 85,566 are males. It has got four zila parishad constituencies and 20 gaon panchayats. It has got only one Assembly constituency, which is now represented by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
A report of the State Government said that Majuli, which is a centre of Vaishnavite culture, has 32 satras and unlike in other parts of the State, the satras have not faced any major problem of encroachment. The people of Majuli depend mostly on fishing , agriculture and farming and because of lack of industries, the area has a pollution-free atmosphere.
However, the government report itself admitted that over the years, the various development activities carried out by different departments of the government were found to be inadequate because of lack of proper planning and implementation. The report admitted that there is urgent need for proper planning and execution of various schemes for suitable development of Majuli.
On flood and erosion, which not only reduced the geographical area of Majuli but also severely affected the socioeconomic condition of the people living in the river island, official sources told The Assam Tribune that most of the major projects for the protection of Majuli have been carried out by the Brahmaputra Board, while the Water Resources Department has been carrying out flood control measures like repair and strengthening of the dykes.
During the period from 2004 to 2012, the Brahmaputra Board executed different schemes for the protection of the island from erosion and around 20 sq km of land was �reclaimed�. During the period, an amount of Rs 148 crore was spent on anti-erosion projects. In the next phase, a Rs 200-crore plan was chalked out by the Brahmaputra Board. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti also visited the river island last year to take stock of the situation.
However, official sources said the situation would improve considerably once the implementation of the mega scheme funded by the World Bank starts as the scheme includes a thorough study of the characteristics of the river Brahmaputra. The World Bank has agreed on principle to fund the scheme and the modalities are being worked out. Moreover, senior officials of the Dredging Corporation of India are also visiting the State as the government is keen on dredging parts of the bed of Brahmaputra to ensure its original flow. If these projects become successful, the main problem faced by Majuli will be reduced by a great extent, sources added.