As of Thursday, 4.2 lakh people across seventeen districts have been affected by the floodwaters. Many have been displaced, with 1,843 people taking refuge in relief camps as the waters submerge 749 villages.
The flooding has gotten worse over the course of the week. On Tuesday, it was reported that 62,000 people across eight districts had been affected, with 145 villages submerged. This worsened on Wednesday to affect 2.07 lakh people across eleven districts and then, overnight, to the figures reported on Thursday. Reports state that the districts of Bharpeta and Dhemaji are the worst-affected in the state, with 85,262 and 80,219 residents affected respectively. At the time of writing, at least three people have lost their lives in flood-related incidents.
The flooding is being caused by the overflowing of rivers including the Bharmaputra, which is flowing above the danger level according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), alongside the Beki, Dikhow, Golaghat, Jia Bharali, and Puthimari rivers. Flooding from the Brahmaputra is an annual occurrence, with past measures proposed to tackle the floods including the construction of a 5,000-kilometre embankment to safeguard those living within the river’s vicinity – a move that was criticised by environmentalists over concerns it could worsen the flooding.
Projections expect the situation to deteriorate further, with heavy rains expected over the course of the weekend. Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya will also be affected, whilst the floods are expected to hit Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the hardest.
In Maharashtra, flooding at a level not seen since 2005 has been observed in Mumbai as the city witnessed its second-highest rainfall in 45 years. The death toll across the state is continuing to rise, with 35 reported dead on July 3rd. Many are pinning the blame on the state government for negligent disaster management in the face of the floods. A BBC News report noted that “when, in 2005, at least 900 died in floods in Mumbai, a decision was made to build eight stations to pump out water. Two of them are yet to be built.”
The implications of the flooding for health go beyond the immediate risk of injury and loss of life. Floodwaters also increase the risk of infectious diseases owing to increased breeding grounds for mosquito populations and contaminated water, as was the case in Kerala last year which saw outbreaks of lepostropsis, acute diarrhoeal disease, and dengue fever following its worst floods in almost a century. Exacerbating the risk is displacement forcing individuals into camps – as seen in Assam. These environments often involve tightly sequestered populations, meaning a plethora of infectious conditions can easily spread.
The risk for many states is particularly acute in view of its burden of encephalitis. Bihar is the most notable example of this but, as reported by Health Issues India, states including Assam, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh now contending with floods are also grappling with suspected outbreaks of the disease. Cases of the illness can be linked to the culex mosquito.
With lakhs of individuals facing the wrath of the floodwaters – witnessing, in the process, loss of loved ones, livelihoods, and injuries – it is vital that authorities take action to prepare for disasters to mitigate loss of life and destruction. As the flooding continues, efficient and effective management is imperative – both during and after.