By Rakesh Singh, Project Manager, SEEDS
On 25th June, 2012 the Brahmaputra breached its embankments leading to severe flooding in various parts of Assam. The floods inundated a number of villages in the state affecting large tracts of agricultural land and destroying a large number of houses, roads and bridges. Access to large parts of the state was cut off, Paddy crops were destroyed and a large number of livestock animals were killed. Thousands of rural residents were left without shelter, assets or a source of livelihood, forcing them to migrate or seek alternative means of sustaining themselves. Dhemaji district of Assam was the worst affected and particularly severe impacts were noticed in Junai, Sissiborgaon, Machkowa blocks of the district.
Although flooding is an annual feature in the state, this year they affected a larger area and inundated those areas which had remained relatively unaffected for the past 25 years. Thus the residents of these areas were caught unawares and unprepared for the destruction caused by the floods. However, coping with the floods was just the beginning of problems of the affected people as their problems continued to multiply even after the flood waters had receded. Flooding has led to issues of availability of safe drinking water, waste disposal facility, livelihoods. Construction material is also scarce, making it difficult for the affected people to reconstruct their shelters. Deposition of sand in the fields has made agriculture impossible and a large number of people have been affected by waterborne diseases. Although government and non-government agencies have distributed relief to alleviate the suffering, it has done little to allay the anxiety of the people who are faced with limited options of resuming a normal life.
A joint assessment of shelter, health, WASH, nutrition etc was carried out by Sphere and IAG and discussed with CEO, ASDMA. Appropriate interventions to address the issues are being planned.
Rebuilding Schools and Restoring Education
The picturesque state of Sikkim was shaken by a major earthquake on the evening of 18th September, 2011. It caused substantial destruction and loss in the state cutting it off from other parts of the country for a couple of days. Though a large number of buildings were badly affected in the state, a major impact on school buildings was noticed. The schools in rural areas were particularly affected badly due to improper construction techniques used. Fortunately nobody was affected in these buildings since the schools were not in session at the time.
However, the destruction of the school buildings left a large number of children without a place to study. SEEDS, committed to building a safer environment for children, has initiated retrofitting and reconstruction of school buildings in the state. One of the school buildings that has been selected is located in Sangkhola village of East District of the state. The school was selected not only because of the damage suffered by it but also because of the vulnerable location. When I first lay saw the school building I was shocked to see the location of the school. Although I carried the experience of retrofitting buildings in hill areas from a previous project, nothing had prepared me for the kind of situation that I saw in front of me.
Located at the base of a steep hill the school faces an ever present danger of landslides putting the lives of about 100 children at risk. Seeing the location of the school, I and my colleagues were glad that the initial assessment team had selected the school and we immediately got down to implementing plans to reduce the vulnerability of the school. In order to reduce the vulnerability the very stones which pose a threat to the school are being removed from the hill side. Compaction of soil on school premises has also been undertaken since the soil on the hillside is loose filled up soil. Necessary permissions are now awaited from the authorities to start construction work.