Signs of hope as flood water levels slowly begin to recede in various parts of AssamIntroduction:
Heavy rains over the past week have caused the Brahmaputra river and other smaller rivers to exceed danger levels and inundate many areas in the northeast Indian state of Assam, causing many human deaths, considerable economic damage and displacement of millions of people. The floods affected wildlife too, especially in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP). But now there are signs of hope as flood waters have slowly begun to recede from many areas.
Flood Situation (as of July 2nd)
Kaziranga National Park: As of 2nd July 2012, the water level at Nematighat, the nearest gauge station in the Brahmaputra closest to KNP is touching the danger mark and is flowing at a steady rate with no marked fluctuation since the previous day. In Dibrugarh, the water level is slowly coming down and is near the warning level as of today. This is an indicator that the flood water in the PA’s, especially Dibru-Saikhowa, Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang, Laokhowa and Burachapori is going to recede pretty soon. For the parks, this period will be tough as the roads will be unusable due to flood damage, mud and slush. Boats will also be of partial use only as the water availability may not be sufficient enough in many areas to sail through.
The annual floods play an important role in rejuvenating Kaziranga and Pobitora. However, if the rains continue and the water remains stagnant for another five to seven days there is the risk of the vegetation getting damaged, resulting in scarcity of preferred food for rhinos and other herbivores. In such a scenario, the herbivores are likely to move to different places in search of food and that may pose a security risk for the rhinos.
Two unconfirmed cases of rhino poaching have been already reported from the fringe areas of KNP. A male rhino was found killed and horn removed in the foothills of the Karbi hills (near Haldhibari, Paharline) and another detected on July 2nd in the Parkup Pahar area (Anjukpani) south of KNP. In addition, a number of rhinos are reported to have moved south towards the Karbi Anglong hills and a couple of rhinos are reported to have moved east reaching Jorhat and two more towards west reaching close to the Burachapori WLS.
Another worry is the fact that even after a lot of efforts to prevent the same a number of road accidents took place leading to the death of a number of animals, the highest probably being of the hog deer. The overall scenario will be clear only after the flood water totally dries from major parts of the park. By rough estimates it can be stated that more than 100 animals have so far died due to flood related causes that may also include rhino calves. A number of animals have also been rescued that also include rhino and elephant calves.
Frontline forest staff from other divisions is on special duty to help the KNP staff and senior officials of the forest department are also camped in the area for necessary support. Even though there is inadequate staff strength the existing staff is working overtime with great dedication even if many of them are continuously falling sick due to the tough field conditions.
Pobitora WLS: In Pobitora, almost the entire 16 sq.kms. actively used by the rhinos has been inundated. The animals are mostly safe in the highlands but a proper picture will emerge only after the water dries. However, a couple of the highlands have been observed to be damaged due to the flood waters. The park might need logistical support once the situation is properly evaluated.
Manas NP: In Manas, the flood water is slowly draining out but the impact has been massive. Almost the entire road network is severely affected. Bridges and culverts in more than 10 vital locations of the park have been damaged. The entire south boundary road had been affected as the approach to two bridges was washed away apart from damage to the road. The situation is gradually improving and the south boundary road connectivity has been partially restored as the two damaged approaches of the bridges have been repaired. The security situation is precarious now as the patrolling and monitoring cannot be carried out very effectively.
WWF has been extending all possible help and support by creating awareness among the villagers to not cause any harm to the animals in stress. In addition, support has been extended to the Park for the construction of temporary bridges in vital locations to maintain connectivity in some critical areas. The Park authorities have requested for support for maintenance of the vehicles and this is in the process of being extended. The local Bodoland Territorial Council is providing necessary support and the Chief Eexcutive Member of BTC, Mr. Hagrama Mohiliary visited the park on July 1st to gain first hand knowledge of the on ground situation.
Orang NP: The water is receding in Orang as well, but during the peak floods a major part of the park was inundated and this has damaged the road network. A couple of camps near the riverside have been affected with one of them completely damaged. There are unconfirmed reports of deer casualities coming in.
It is expected that the flood water will drain out from most of the parks mentioned within the next three to four days. This will help in forming a better picture regarding the impacts. It is very likely that a lot of deaths may be reported this year, especially from Kaziranga and Pobitora and it may be necessary for WWF to be ready to provide assistance and support in the post flood scenario to the parks, particularly in terms of health care for the affected staff, rebuilding of the camps as well as in the restoration of the communication infrastructure.
For further information:
Head, Assam Landscapes
M: +91 9435 485 789
Senior Communications Officer
T: +91 11 4150 4783