Devastation along one of the world’s longest yet most remote rivers
GUWAHATI, ASSAM, INDIA––Exceptionally heavy monsoon rains pelting the southeast side of the Himalayas, believed to be symptomatic of global warming, have for the fifth year in a row triggered deadly landslides and caused the Brahmaputra river and tributaries to overflow their banks.
More than half a million people and an estimated 600,000 domestic animals have been displaced, including poultry and livestock, as well as wildlife. The widening crisis, said to be the worst along the Brahmaputra since 1950, has prompted the Guwahati-based humane organization Just Be Friendly to appeal for emergency help to the global humane community.
“Hundreds of animals swept away”
“As flooding devastated villages across Assam state, hundreds of animals were swept away,” Just Be Friendly veterinarian and managing trustee Sashanka Sekhar Dutta told ANIMALS 24-7. “Many who survived the initial surge have fallen ill or are starving, wreaking havoc on local economies that cannot function without livestock and working animals.”
Managing the regional Animal Birth Control program co-sponsored by the Indian government since 2009, as well as rabies control and public education programs, Just Be Friendly has established a positive international reputation.
Yet, except for a grant of $7,500 from the Seattle-area organization Help Animals India, the appeal for flood relief help has so far drawn little response, Dutta told ANIMALS 24-7. “We have sent our appeal to various organizations and social networking sites,” Dutta said, “but have had very few responses and have received little financial support so far.”
Nearly 100 human deaths
Nearly 100 human deaths attributed to the landslides and flooding had been reported as of July 19, 2017, a surprisingly low toll given that the Brahmaputra is one of the longest rivers in the world, much of the lower portion densely lined with human habitation.
But Brahmaputra basin residents, animal and human, are used to fierce monsoons, and are prepared for ordinary flooding.
What is unusual in 2017 is the magnitude of the flooding, said to be three times worse than floods that were considered unusually severe in 2016.
Rising in Tibet, the upper half of the Brahmaputra collects glacial melt from the northern Himalayas, flowing due east to drain much of southern China as well.
High water in four states
The Brahmaputra then hooks back west through the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur, a region located above Bangladesh but below Nepal, linked to the rest of India only by a narrow transportation corridor centering on the river.
All four Indian states are now experiencing high water and human and animal displacement.
Turning south and then east again, the Brahmaputra merges with the Ganges in West Bengal to form the Meghna, emptying into the Bay of Bengal through the swampy lowlands of Bangladesh.