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Probe sought into recurring Singra flash floods

By Farhana Ahmed

DOLAHAT, (Lakhimpur), Aug 22 - Sonai Sutradhar (37) was busy making dough to be baked as biscuits and buns inside his bakery at 6 am on the rainy morning August 14 at his native village of No. 30 FC Grant near Dolahat weekly bazar. Suddenly, he heard people screaming that the road that passes in front of his home was breached by the overflowing Singra river. Within minutes the fast moving river, taking a different course, swept away his home and the adjoining bakery with the clay oven and stocks of flour and sugar. A self-employed person, Sonai used to sell his bakery products at various places on his bicycle, a business hit hard by the ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19, which the flash flood in Singra has now pushed to the bottom. He is now taking shelter with his family on the breached PWD road.

Similarly, Sudhan Biswas (81), an octogenarian who paddles on his bicycle every day for 15 km to his tea-stall near NL College in North Lakhimpur lost his entire house and belongings to the flash flood by Singra. Same is the case of Kanchan Sarkar (65), an elderly pension holder, Bina Rani Sarkar (30), whose husband is a daily wage labourer, Ganesh Debnath (35) and Sailesh Mandal (46) � all of them along with more than hundred families, are now living in tents provided by the IRCS and makeshift sheds on the PWD road that is connected to NH-15 in Nowboicha Revenue Circle of Lakhimpur district. These displaced people who have lost all of their belonging and means of sustenance, have demanded an inquiry into the recurring flash flood in Singra river and not relief for momentary needs. They allege that something is wrong in the hills of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh from where the river originates that has taken four lives in this flash flood at Dolahat.

Doubts and apprehensions cloud the minds of the riverine people of Singra since the devastation by the same river in June, 2018. Like this year, the flash flood of Singra in 2018 had breached the same PWD road that connects NH-15, besides causing great devastation in that area. This time the repeat of the same type of devastation by the same river in the same area, has created doubts among the affected people about the cause of the disaster.

There have been some unconfirmed reports about a cloudburst at Naharlagan, Arunachal Pradesh on the day which caused flash floods in Singra. But the administrative and meteorological departments in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have yet to confirm these reports. There are possibilities of blockage on the flow of the river due to landslides caused by heavy rains inside Arunachal Pradesh. The sudden release of the blockaded water could have also resulted in flash floods in the river in its downstream. However, as in 2018, this time also there has been no confirmation from the concerned authorities on such landslides.

Repeated mysterious flash floods in Singra has led to doubts among the affected people about a possible link of the release of a large amount of water into the river by the hydroelectrical dams in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh. The 405 MW Ranganadi Hydroelectrical Plant on Ranganadi river at Yazali, Arunachal Pradesh, operated by the North East Electrical Power Corporation (NEEPCO) releases water into the downstream of the river during monsoons that has caused major disasters in Lakhimpur district in 2008 and in 2017. The dam-induced flash flood from NEEPCO has been causing damages in other rivers in Lakhimpur since 2008. Earlier, NEEPCO dam released its excess water at Dikrong which caused devastation at Bihpuria. After that it did the same in Zoihing river at Lakhimpur. The flash flood at Zoihing, which joins Ranganadi in Kulabeel-Panchnoi, killed two persons in May, 2017. In 2019 again the dam-induced flood at Ranganadi damaged a portion of its embankment on the left hand side near Borbeel, North Lakhimpur. Now the public allegation here is that the NEEPCO is channelling out its dam waters in the courses of various nullahs and rivers that flow down to Lakhimpur district. It may be mentioned that on the same day of Singra�s flash flood in Dolahat this time, the Zoihing river in North Lakhimpur Revenue Circle and rivers Pabha, Gabharu, Bokanadi and Bogolee in Nowboicha Revenue Circle swelled in an unprecedented manner inundating many places.

As the dam-induced flash flood from NEEPCO�s Ranganadi Hydroelectrical Plant affects Lakhimpur district annually, the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electrical Power plant by National Hydroelectrical Power Corporation (NHPC) over Subansiri at Gerukamukh could bring a deluge of epic proportions. As this apprehension is affecting the public, a proper investigation into the repeated disasters in the district is urgently needed.

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