Monsoon menace: Siang devastation

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

The rampaging Siang river is devastating large areas of prime, fertile land on the left bank areas of Mebo subdivision. The major damage started last year, and it appears that the devastation will be massive this year. It is estimated that about 10,000 hectares of agricultural fields, plantations, forests and community burial grounds have been washed away by the flooding river. Many villagers have shifted their houses to better locations, and many buildings/houses have been destroyed.
It seems that the continuing contamination of the Siang river, originating in Tibet in China, for the past two years has led to a rise in the riverbed by several feet, leading to the river spreading sideways and causing massive soil erosion. The most probable reason for this rise of the riverbed is the prolonged deposit of a cement-oil mix caused by massive construction and mining activities along the Tibetan side of the river.
The rampaging Siang river is threatening many villages of Mebo subdivision. Villages like Sigar, Ralling, Motum, Borguli, Seram, Kongkul, Namsing and Mer are on the brink of being washed away. Even key roads and bridges are threatened. The villagers of the affected area realized that if emergency protection measures are not initiated in the ongoing few months, many villages along with their agricultural fields may be wiped out in the coming rainy season.
Towards this, the SEEANG Foundation and the villagers of the area mobilized the local villagers by conducting several kebangs, and approached the state government for help. The group consulted experts on flood protection works, surveyed the area from air and boats, and used satellite imagery to finalize a protection strategy.
After the research, it was decided to construct bamboo or wood porcupines, and bunds and spurs made of stones/netting with the limited resources on a self-help basis at key sites. The villages mobilized resources and started construction of the flood protection measures. Entire villages were involved; while men and women worked, others prepared food at the sites for the workers. On these lines, all the affected villages have constructed porcupines and bunds/spurs.
Seeing the people’s movement, the state government and the district administration visited the sites and also provided support. Though immediate funds were sanctioned by the state government, the election model code of conduct delayed the release of the much-needed funds.
Crash programmes have been conducted to construct bunds/spurs in key areas near the affected villages with help from the district administration, the Army and other organisations. Though these locally constructed measures may not provide total protection, even if the damages are reduced and a few hectares of land are saved, it is worth the effort.
In the meantime, the villagers of the affected villages are still continuing construction of bamboo and wood porcupines and bunds/spurs made of stones/netting to protect their villages, agricultural/ancestral land, roads and bridges. The villagers are also hopeful that the promised funds will be released soon to carry out some meaningful flood protection works. The villagers of Mebo subdivision in East Siang district require your support and prayers for the upcoming monsoon. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)