Skip to content Skip to navigation

Bhutan blamed for devastation in Manas National Park

The Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve suffered huge loss as flood waters of river Beki inundated 60 per cent of the Park since the last four days. Floodwaters entered the Park breaching the embankment at Panchmile under the Bansbari Range and submerged large areas of National Park on Wednesday night. The release of waters from the Kurichu dam by Bhutan has been attributed to the untimely disaster. “The waters have receded now but have left a trail of devastation. The flood breached the embankment at three sites making the Park all the more vulnerable, besides damaging most of the roads making movement almost impossible,” Dharanidhar Boro, deputy director of the Park said. “The bridge at Lata jhar was washed away cutting off road communication to Bhutan. The picturesque Mathanguri, main attraction for tourists, remains cut off as the road to Mathanguri was also washed away. Many animals took shelter on narrow strips of highlands. However, there were no reports of animal casualties. The forest beat camps in the Park---Bispaani, Burha-burijhar, Latajhar, Kuribeel, Bhatgali, Kahibari, Katajhar were reeling under 5/6 ft of flood water.,” Boro added.
Manas National Park was opened for tourists on October 1but authorities are now seriously thinking of limiting tourist access to the Park. Tourism in Manas suffered a setback during the 90s due to insurgent activities. Since the last 10 years Manas has been gearing up to make up for the loss of those years. The Park has also seen an increase in the number of footfalls since the last few years. But with the opening of the gates this ‘season’, the Park suffered a severe jolt. Tour operators fear another season to go waste as reconstruction and repair of roads will take time.

Agriculture, fishery affected

Authorities of Barpeta and Baksa districts said there was no prior warning by Bhutan about the release of water, which flooded the Manas and Beki rivers, inundating large tracts of cultivation in these two districts affecting more than 24,000 people.

Dhruva Nath, a local youth, lamented that this sudden surge has washed away the dreams of many like him who were engaged in pisciculture. Fisheries in many villages—Gyatigaon, Raghabeel, Chunbari, Kaalpani and Narayanguri received a setback as the gushing waters Beki and Manas devastated the ponds and tanks in the districts bordering the Himalayan nation.
A State Disaster Management Authority official said that 12 villages in Kalgachia revenue circle in Barpeta district were inundated by the sudden rise in water level in the Beki river.
Beki and Manas are the two principal tributaries of the Brahmaputra in lower Assam.

Earlier instances

Although there is an agreement between India and Bhutan to share information on the release of water from the Kurichu dam, Bhutan allegedly continues to release water from the dam without sharing the information with the Indian (Assam) authorities. There are instances when unannounced release of water Kurichu dam by Bhutan jeopardized the lives of thousands of people downstream. The sudden surge of water released on Wednesday once again caught Assam authorities off-guard. It so happens that during incessant rains, waters from the dam is released flow down to Assam. In July this year, there was a sudden rise in the water levels of the Beki river that washed away a part of the embankment at Panchmile, inundating the entire Manas National Park.

In June 2010, hundreds of villages in the two districts of Barpeta and Baska were severely affected. Huge loss and devastation in the floods of 2007 were also attributed to Bhutan. 

In 2004, Barpeta and Nalbari districts were flooded suddenly. It was reported later that an artificial lake on the upstream of Kurichu dam burst that was located north of the international border shared by Assam.

The Kurichu continues to be a nightmare downstream, having created havoc at regular intervals. In the last 10 years, over one lakh families were rendered homeless while more than 60 thousand hectares of farmland were devastated in the downstream districts of Baksa, Barpeta and Nalbari as estimated by the Assam Disaster Management Authority.

Downstream concerns

The Manas River (Drangme Chhu in Bhutan) is a transboundary river in the Himalayan foothills between southern Bhutan and India. It is the largest river system of Bhutan. The DrangmeChu, also the largest drainage in Bhutan with area of nearly 18, 300 square kilometers, connects the Bhutanese Himalaya and the Indian subcontinent. Bhutan decided to build a hydropower dam over the KuriChu and DrangmeChu to cope with the increasing demand of power in Bhutan. The Himalayan kingdom now earns more than 50 per cent of its revenue from its sale of hydro electricity. Interestingly, the Indian government has aided Bhutan in all its major hydel projects, including Kurichu. The government of India invested 560 crore in Kurichu  Given the complexities involved in the exercise of the extracting electricity through large dams and the haste in which the projects are pushed through without addressing the genuine concerns such as downstream impacts in the form of floods, sedimentation, deposition of sand and morain, loss of biodiversity and livelihood of people, seismic vulnerability etc, the situation definitely calls for a resentment of the Central Government's hydropower policy for the north-east Indian region, specially Assam. The state is already a victim of dam-induced floods several times in the recent past.

Further, the threat of Kurichu looms large on pristine wildlife habitats like Manas—a world heritage site, an elephant project, a tiger project and a biosphere reserve. Situated on the western flanks of Assam, Manas National Park is one of the most vibrant forest ecosystems in India. Situated on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, brushing the Bhutan border, this pristine and primordial wilderness reserve is a treasure trove of bio diversity. Chandan Kumar Duarah of Centre for Conservation, Education and Research (CCER), voiced the concern of the downstream people---“the situation prevailing in Manas is likely to happen in wildlife habitats of upper Assam when hydro electric power projects are commissioned in Tibet and Arunachal. Happy Bhutan has been unleashing unhappiness in the form of water to the people of Assam for years without informing concerned authorities. While the Union Government and stakeholders are opposing Chinese dams on the Himalayan rivers flowing into India, our government is not concerned over dams built by Bhutan over trans boundary rivers. On the other hand, the Union government is patronizing hydro projects upstream in complete disregard to the interests of the people of Assam downstream.”

 

Author info

Mubina Akhtar's picture

Journalist, activist based in Guwahati. Email: newildflowers@gmail.com

Comments

Kinga's picture

I found many information were far from truth particularly mentioning it as devastating. Recent flooding in Manas might not be solely caused by release of water from the dam. There were inceasent rainfalls across the country for 3 days and many tributaries besides main rivers in Bhutan have been swollen in huge volume. Such accusations were just out of suspicions, reporter should have asked the Kurichu authority for balanced information. Otherwise, this will unnecessarily create misunderstandings between two neighbors.

Pages

Add new comment

Random Stories

Akhil sent to jail again

25 Mar 2014 - 4:11pm | AT News
There seems to be no respite for Akhil Gogoi. The KMSS president wont be able to come out of the jail even after the Gauhati High Court granted bail to him in four more cases.Police on Tuesday...

Demonstration in favour of Lokpal Bill

28 May 2011 - 10:34pm | AT News
Jagoran –Forum of Concerned Citizens, Guwahati is organising a sit and demonstration in favour of Jan Lokpal Bill on 29th May from 11 am to 2 pm at Prashanti Udyan at Dighalipukhuri area in...

Assam bandh on Monday

27 Oct 2013 - 3:00pm | AT News
The opposition Asom Gana Parishad has given a 12 hour bandh call on Monday in protest against the Congress government's failure to deal with price rise and law and order breakdown.  ...

PM congratulates Gogoi

7 Jun 2013 - 9:32pm | AT News
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended his best wishes to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on the successful completion of second year of the third consecutive term anniversary of the Congress...

Other Contents by Author

OFT, in the stilly night,Ere slumber's chain has bound me, Fond Memory brings the lightOf other days around me:The smiles, the tearsOf boyhood's years… (The Light of Other Days- Thomas Moore) As I sit down to reminisce my days in school when it completes a monumental journey of fifty years of existence—these lines come back to me bringing along a collage of pictures of different hues strewn across time. I had the privilege to have studied in a Montessori School that in course of time metamorphosed into a full fledged high school and earned the rare recognition of being the first provincialised English medium school in Assam. Kushal Konwar Balya Bhawan, as the school is presently...
Forest guards shot dead a charging adult male rhino in the Agaratoli Range of Kaziranga National Park on September 20. Earlier this year on February 14, a forest guard Gautam Barua, had to meet a terrible fate when he was on duty in the Bagori range of the National Park. He was killed by a charging rhino. In other words, the protector became the victim. Another guard, Podu Rajbongshi survived a similar attack in the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park in the last week of January. The year 2016 also saw similar incidents. Francis Horo, working with the forest department, died in an attack by wild buffalo on January 16 in the Bagori range of Kaziranga National Park while Sariful Islam, a forest...
The recent wave of flood in Assam left a trail of devastation affecting a total population of 33, 45,442 people and taking a toll of more than 150 lives. However, unofficial sources claim the death of more than 200 people in the recent deluge. Incessant rains since the first week of July coupled by dam-induced flood claimed 84 lives. The second bout of flood proved a disaster to the state; humans, animals including wildlife being washed away; millions of people displaced; thousands of hectares of standing crops destructed. Embankments were breached in 26 places in 15 districts. The Assam State Disaster Management Authority put the number of flood-hit people taking shelter in 923 relief...
The shrieking crescendo calls of the Koel and the flowering of ‘Kopou’ are harbingers of spring signaling the dawn of a new year in the Brahmaputra valley. The season sees the ubiquitous orchids with bright and heavy blossoms, varying in colors, bejewel the wilderness of the Northeast. ‘Kopou Phul’ is the most sought after orchid in Assam during New Year festivities in April. Assamese women adorn the pink flowers with deep pink spot as ornamentation on their head during celebration of ‘Rongali Bihu’. Found in North East as well as South India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Java and Philippines--‘Kopou Phul’ or ‘Seeta Pushpa’ in Sanskrit, Ryncostylists retusa is...
“Brahmaputra on one way sacred, one way trouble maker,” this was the observation made by the 14thDalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso in Dibrugarh during his recent tour of Assam. During an interaction programme with students of the Dibrugarh University in the University auditorium on April 3, the Tibetan spiritual leader said that due to global warming there are more glacial melt in the Himalayan ranges. “In today’s world we face increasing natural disasters, including earthquakes, due to the effects of climate change. Yesterday in Guwahati I attended the Namami Brahmaputra Festival celebrating the sacredness of that great river, but we know it also has a tendency to flood.” “Because of global warming...
The Northeast forms a complex geomorphology with vast flood plains, valleys, hills and ridges of varying elevations, beels (wetlands) and swamp areas with presence of large number of avifaunal diversity. The mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries serve as the winter visiting ground to many migratory birds. From the marshes of Kaziranga to the forests of Eaglenest in western Arunachal and further up to the alpine areas of Arunachal -- one come across more than 750 species of birds that includes most of the winter visitors. Assam, along with the other six northeastern states, shares a common migration route for many of the avifauna that flies over Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh...
The Northeast forms a complex geomorphology with vast flood plains, valleys, hills and ridges of varying elevations, beels (wetlands) and swamp areas with presence of large number of avifaunal diversity. The mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries serve as the winter visiting ground to many migratory birds. From the marshes of Kaziranga to the forests of Eaglenest in western Arunachal and further up to the alpine areas of Arunachal -- one come across more than 750 species of birds that includes most of the winter visitors. Assam, along with the other six northeastern states, shares a common migration route for many of the avifauna that flies over Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh...
An ideal habitat for the breeding of rhinos, Kaziranga has seen a rise in the number of the species. The animal shrugged off its ‘endangered’ tag as soon as its population crossed the 2000 mark. This fuelled an overweening strategy--the much hyped Indian Rhino Vision -- that targeted 3,000 rhinos by the year 2020 in the rhino-bearing sanctuaries of Assam. However, with the number of this pre-historic pachyderm crossing the 2,500 mark, a host of challenges also came to the fore, poaching being only one of the concerns. Kaziranga has been plagued by other challenges like-- shrinking of the habitat, encroachment of the corridors around the Park, siltation of the water bodies and a complete...
At the prestigious India Today PSU Awards 2014, the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) was awarded the ‘Most Eco-Friendly Public Sector Unit (PSU) in the Miniratna category. It was stated that the award assumes a great deal of significance since the selection process included all the 229 PSUs nationwide in the fray and is, therefore, a befitting recognition of the innovative, sincere and dedicated efforts of the company towards preservation and conservation of the ecology and the environment.A year later NRL was once again in news—this time for sending rare and Scheduled I species to death throes! The anti-conservation strategy and gross violation of environmental norms by the company drew...
That the Brahmaputra is drying up is no more a hype. The water line of the river is fast receding throughout its course in the entire Brahmaputra valley. According to information available from the Central Water Commission (CWC), the water level of the mighty river, known to be the lifeline of Assam, has reduced in an unprecedented manner this winter. “The water level of the Brahmaputra has reduced to 101.78 metres in the last week of December (2014), which is the lowest water level of the river so far. This decreasing trend is likely to continue till March,” an official of the commission said. As per information available from the commission, the water level of Brahmaputra in...