Assam soil erosion recognised as natural disaster



Guwahati: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Assam's erosion problem will be included in the list of the country's natural disasters, a move that will enable the state government to spend central relief funds (CRF) to tackle the issue.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on Tuesday that the move will also enable the state to receive more central funds to tackle the problem and also extend financial help to people affected by erosion.

"The Prime Minister during his meeting with the state Cabinet at the airport near Guwahati on Monday recognised the erosion problem of Assam. He assured the ministers that he will take steps to enlist erosion in the list of disasters," Gogoi said.

According to Gogoi, Manmohan Singh also said he will take up the matter with the Planning Commission so that more funds are allocated to the state to check the menace of erosion.

"Earlier, we were not able to extend financial assistance to the people affected by erosion, which was not included in the list of natural disasters," Gogoi said.

The state has lost about estimated 4.50 lakh hectares of land to erosion in the last few decades. The Assam government had also started a project to reclaim land.

The Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited Assam on Monday and made an aerial survey of some flood-hit districts. An aid package of Rs 500 crore for the state was announced.

The floods, which have hit all 27 districts and affected 21 lakh people, have caused the deaths of about 65 people, and inundation of large stretches of land, including crop land.

"An early warning system is a must to help the people. It also helps in rescue and relief operations. We have also requested the central government to set up a regional office of the Central Water Commission in Assam, which would also help the state in dealing with flood situations," the Chief Minister said.

Gogoi also appealed to the Arunachal Pradesh government to reconsider the issue of setting up a North East Water Regulatory Authority (NEWRA). "The formation of NEWRA will help all the northeastern states, including Arunachal Pradesh."

The formation of NEWRA has been delayed as Arunachal Pradesh has been opposing it, apprehending that formation of such a regional water regulatory body will deprive the state of its hydro power potential.

IANS