Major Assam Dredging Project to begin in Brahmaputra River


July, 2017


Updated February 2019

Officials in India finally have a time frame to begin the dredging project that they hope will prevent severe flooding in Assam in the future.

A meeting took place in New Delhi, India, during July, 2017, where Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, decided that dredging in the Brahmaputra River in Assam be scheduled the following September, 2017 after the monsoon season ended.

Dredging Process Control for flooding in Assam. Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

Dredging had been in Assam’s talks for a long time. In 1950, a magnitude 8.6 earthquake hit Assam, causing enormous damage and raising the bed of the main river channel, causing the perennial flooding and erosion issues that the state has since faced.

During 2016, for example, heavy rains caused massive flooding. More than 1.4 million people were affected, with hundreds of thousands ushered into 300 makeshift relief camps. The Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population, was also 80% submerged, causing wild animals to seek shelter on roads.

1.4 Million people affected by the 2016 floods

80% of the Kiziranga National Park was submerged in the 2016 floods

The flooding in 2016 was not an isolated incident. Assam frequently has severe flooding issues. The hope is that dredging the river bed will allow it to carry enough water to alleviate the flooding and prevent disasters like the floods of 2016, and also help to improve navigation along National Water Way No. 2. However, it is no simple task.

The dredging project itself is massive; the Brahmaputra River will be dredged from Sadiya in the east to Dhubri in the west, a distance of about 600 kilometers (about 373 miles). Six dredgers will create a minimum 45 meter depth throughout the entire segment of the Brahmaputra that passes through Assam. The sand dredged out of the river will be used to build the Brahmaputra Express Highways along both sides. Funding for the project is Rs. 400 crore (around $62.4 million).

Major Assam Dredging Project to begin in Brahmaputra River

An additional Rs. 200 crore was allotted toward repairing highways and roads that are in bad condition, with the potential for more funds once the National Highways Authority of India submits its report on the highway situation. The use of dredged sand from the Brahmaputra River is an excellent way to save money on an already expensive project. Sonowal also wants to modify the existing embankments to function as a road/dike to further help prevent flooding while still contributing to the health of Assam’s beleaguered highway system.

The Brahmaputra River presents many challenges that would make such an operation complex, and also expensive. However, given the disastrous history the state has with regards to flooding, it is wise for Assam and India as a whole to give the issue as much attention as possible.

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