GUWAHATI, July 8 - Of its total landmass of 525 square kilometres, the river island Majuli has around 269 sq kms located outside and around 256 sq kms inside the embankments.
This fact is not known to many people living in other parts of the State and, hence, when the areas located outside the embankments are submerged by the floodwaters of the Brahmaputra, a hue and cry is raised by several quarters, said official circles here.
The areas located outside the embankments are always vulnerable to flood. During the flood season, when the Brahmaputra crosses its danger level, these areas get submerged. However, unless there is any breach in the embankments, the areas protected by these structures remain flood free.
Significantly, the entire Majuli Island is within the flood-plain of the Brahmaputra and its surface level is below the high flood level of the mighty river. Embankments are, therefore, crucial for this island.
It is an important fact for this river island that between Tekeliphuta on the extreme eastern side of the island and Samaguri on the extreme western side of the island, near the Brahmaputra-Subansiri confluence point, the difference in the level of the Brahmaputra is around 15 metres.
Besides, at Birinabari, in an area of around two kilometres in length, there is no embankment. This has been done with a view to providing the Daria drainage channel of the island a free passage and also to avoid bigger catastrophes in case of any breach in the embankments in the upstream areas. This arrangement has also kept the Majuli biodiversity intact.
Barring the Salmara-Besamara area, soil in other parts of the river island is highly friable and silty.
In 2004, the Brahmaputra Board started installation of porcupines as immediate anti-erosion measures, together with the closure of the breaches occurring in the embankments.
In total, 24 breaches were plugged by the Board between 2004 and 2009 and between 2004 and 2011, the entire embankments of the island, measuring around 96.75 km in length, were raised and strengthened.
In May 2012, these embankments were handed over to the State Water Resources Department (WRD).
After handing over these structures to the WRD, two breaches occurred. The first breach occurred in August 2012 and the latest one occurred in July 2016.
The Brahmaputra Board has constructed five raised platforms for the shelter of the flood-hit people living in the areas located outside the embankments. These structures have been handed over to the civil administration.
The Brahmaputra Board is learnt to have spent an amount of around Rs 184.82 crore on protection of Majuli Island between January-February 2004 and May 2017. This amount also includes the salaries of the work-charged employees of the Board.
A high level committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Water Resources under the chairmanship of the Member, River Management of the Central Water Commission, is advising the Brahmaputra Board and also monitoring its performance since December 2007. The Committee is visiting Majuli at regular intervals.