When nature strikes back at us in any form, there is not much we can do. All we can do is find a reason to blame or a scapegoat. Some blame our fate, some on our actions and others find better reasons – pointing fingers.
It is monsoon. Rising river levels, flash floods, and landslides are common features of monsoon in our part of the world. The monsoon arrived on time and some parts of the country are already feeling the heat of the wet season. Several roadblocks are reported from across the country, particularly from the eastern and southern parts of Bhutan. Landslides and flash floods are washing away roads or bridges, even claiming lives.
In neighbouring Assam, it is worse. Dozens of lives were lost in the floods, hundreds of hectares of agricultural land are inundated, and infrastructure, some new, is being ripped apart by landslides and floods. Guwahati, Assam’s capital city was water-logged for days. The Himalayan foothills experience torrential rainfall every summer. Some years can be pretty bad. This year is one such year.
Some Indian media are blaming Bhutan for the floods. One popular newspaper was blatant when it stated that the flood situation “ accentuated in districts such as Nalbari, Baksa and Udalguri due to the release of high volumes of water from the Kurichhu dam in Bhutan upstream.”
Meanwhile, in Kurichhu, Mongar, officials confirmed that while it rained in the past few days, the excess water discharged was way below the danger level. Kurichhu has a capacity to store 15.7 million cubic metres of water. The excess water this year was not much, according to officials. The maximum they discharged was 800 cubic metres, way below the danger level – to trigger a flood.
Cognizant of the risks of flooding, there is an arrangement. Officials of Kurichhu report or inform their counterparts in India when they discharge water that is above 1,000 cubic metres. This year, it has never crossed 800 cubic metres. Bhutan’s hydropower projects are all run-off the river scheme. This means that excess water has to be discharged as they have no control over the increasing level. The best they could do is inform those in the lowlands as early warning information.
Every time there is a flood in Assam, Kurichhu is blamed. The Gongri river is bigger and with incessant rain in Arunachal Pradesh, water level in Gongri increased. There is no dam on Gongri river. One Indian newspaper said that the matter, release of excess water from Kurichhu, would be taken up at the Chief Minister level for further communication. Kurichhu project officials brush it off as a far-fetched report. There is no water released to “accentuate the floods.”
Such misinformation could create misunderstanding at the government level while it is important that the truth is known by the people of both countries. As a close neighbour and friend, Bhutan has all the best intentions for the people of Assam. we could feel the pain of our friends in Assam. We could only pray for the lives and properties lost in the floods and hope for the best.