Wet paddy, empty stomachs: The aftermath of floods in Assam

Location IconNagaon district, Assam

Incessant rains since the beginning of May have led to floods, landslides, embankment breaches, and waterlogging in Assam. Typically, the southwest monsoon reaches Assam in June or July. This year, however, intense pre-monsoon showers caused an unexpected deluge in the month of May itself. Experts attribute the changes in the intensity and arrival of rainfall to climate change. What’s even more worrying is that the heavy monsoon rainfall is yet to arrive.

The first harvest of the rabi crop of Boro rice is usually reaped between April and June, just before the arrival of monsoon. But this time much of the paddy crop has been damaged or washed away. The fields are inundated with dirty floodwater and at least 82,000 hectares of crop land stands damaged. The fertile topsoil has been eroded away, which will leave new saplings with nowhere to set roots. The loss of agricultural land will have an immediate impact on income and food security in Assam, where over 75 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihoods.

I am travelling to Nagaon, one of the worst-affected districts. As we near Nagaon on the highway that connects it to Guwahati, we cross a two-kilometre stretch that is carpetted with harvested paddy. The crop is still soaked and carries a rotten stench. We stop to speak to a few farmer families about what seems to have been a wasted effort. Much of the paddy that has been saved does not seem consumable and could very well lead to diarrhoeal diseases.

“We know this can happen, but we have no choice. At least this will fill our hungry stomachs. We will consume this as we won’t be able to sell this in the market. It is better to be sick than to die of hunger,” said one farmer. Men, women, and children are all engaged in redeeming the harvest; everything else has taken a back seat.

Geeta Lama manages the media portfolio nationally for Save the Children in India.

Know more: Learn more about the annual floods that inundate Assam during the monsoon.

Do more: Connect with the author at geeta.lama@savethechildren.in to learn more about and support their work.


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