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INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON LANDSLIDES AND RIVERBANK EROSION (12-13 DEC 2017)

Out of its total length of its 650 kms in Assam, the River Brahmaputra is stable only at a few points in its downward journey. In the remaining reach it sways in the lateral directions and in the process erodes its banks on both sides. The problem is attributed to the soil quality of the floodplains and the geomorphology of the river itself. According to a report by the Water Resources Department (WRD) Assam, more than 4.27 Lakh hectares of land has already been eroded by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries since 1950, which is almost 7.40% of the landmass of the state. Annually, this loss is about 8,000 hectares. The long term social and economic impact of the disaster is not yet fully understood but in immediate terms, it is believed that the disaster has adversely affected the identity of many who have lost their lands to it. Thus it is a silent disaster grasping the fabric of the Assamese culture and identity. For example, a significant threat of the problem is felt in the Majuli Island where the landmass of the island is constantly shrinking due to the same cause and in the process, the ‘MahapurushiyaSanskriti’ is facing a direct threat. Satellite images have shown that the island has shrunken from 1,325 sq km. in 1901 to 421 sq. km in 2001. It is found that out of 65 major ‘Satras’, 29 have vanished already. In the process, a large number of people are affected adding to some major cultural, socio-economic and secondary natural disasters. A similar ferocity of the problem is felt across the Barak Valley and other smaller tributaries too.

Along with the riverbank erosion, people living in the surrounding hills of Guwahati City feel a similar threat during the monsoon. Over the past decades, an unchecked expansion of the city has allowed for a portion of the population to live in these hills. In a race to survive and compete, they have developed unscientific ways to build houses and the hills are being cleared both on the surface and on the slopes. Because of this, landslides bury people and property in the most unexpected moments. The usual reports of deaths and property damage find it difficult to make a way and remind the public for a long time the dangers of these places and practices.

Though these two disasters seem to be different at first, they are somehow same in terms of the spatial and temporal uncertainty and the geomorphological background of the valley. This uncertainty is becoming more pronounced in a background of a changing climate. The need of the hour is to learn and adapt a culture of learning and co-existence with these disasters and for that it is time that the scientific community is able to reach upto the affected people. Scopes of improvements are there in slope stabilizations and scientific constructions of habitat. Similarly, examples of bank protection can be learned from a meticulous studying of the nature and engineering techniques coupled with in-situ measures. We can learn from success stories from our neighboring countries who are facing similar difficulties. To learn all these, Assam down town University (AdtU) has taken up a decision to offer a platform to initiate a discussion among the bright minds in the fields. They are believed to throw some light to better understand the problem from an engineering point of view and allow for a scope to adapt modern technologies available in some developed countries in the context of Assam. Resource Persons from countries such as The United States, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and our neighbors such as Bangladesh and Nepal will actively deliberate on these problems of great significance. Together they will discuss their expertise in tackling these problems, experiences in mitigating these and share success stories with experts from India and the audience in a two day Seminar organized by AdtU in its premises on December (12-13), 2017. You are kindly invited to be a part of this experience and knowledge sharing and witness the platform offer some proactive measures of mitigation and adaptation in the greater benefit of the Assamese Society.

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