ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Infrastructuring Floods in the Brahmaputra River Basin

Hydrocracies, Hubris, Hazardscapes

The effects of infrastructural projects in Assam that lead to floods in the Brahmaputra river are discussed. These projects play a prominent role in “engineering” floods, thereby creating hazardscapes and precarious conditions for the riverine communities. A people-centric approach involving these communities in the decision-making process is needed to curb the recurrent floods and their aftermath.

Riverine communities have unique lived experiences of floods, spread over time, in various parts of the world. This flows from the fact that every river basin in the world has unique characteristics, geomorphology, and social, economic and ecological histories. The downstream communities of Assam of the 405 megawatt (MW) Ranganadi hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, experience catastrophic dam-induced flash floods in the monsoon months, while for the rest of the year they see the river as a trickle. The communities talk of “theft of their river,” of “run-away-with-the-river” while they were promised a “run-of-the-river” dam project, and had no experience of dam-induced flash floods before the dam was built in 2002 (Rahman 2014). This underlines the aspect of infrastructuring floods, and of creating new flood discourses.

Such dam-induced flood hazards are spread across the Brahmaputra river basin, for instance, the Doyang and Kopili hydroelectric projects in Nagaland and Assam respectively, and the several dam projects being built in upstream Bhutan, China, and the multitude of proposed small, medium and mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh. The basic point is that catastrophic floods are not a single, localised or an episodic event, but the effect of multiple events and cumulative hazards spread across a particular river basin. The patterns of ocean and moisture-laden air currents, torrential rains, climate change and ano­malies, coupled with the anthropogenic interventions that are engineered and embedded in the river basin, deforestation, degradation of wetlands, and disruptions in wetland connectivity, cumulatively lead to extreme flooding events.

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Updated On : 29th Sep, 2020
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