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The Massive Destruction Caused By Floods In Bihar And North East Should Worry Us More

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Torrential downpour in the eastern part of the country over the past week has resulted in many rivers flowing above the danger level and causing flood along their course. While the flood situation in Assam is said to be the worst in 13 years, its neighbouring states, Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar are also submerged.

Climate change experts say the main reason behind the flood is the changing rainfall pattern in northeast India. Dr Abdhesh Kumar Gangwar, an environment and climate change expert and the programme director of Centre for Environment Education, says the global temperature has increased which is leading to more evaporation from the seabed and higher precipitation. “Because of climate change, we are witnessing extreme weather events. We are having floods in some areas and drought in some other areas at the same time. Rainfall is the same, but before industrialisation, rainfall used to be slow and gradual and we had more rainy days and enough land to absorb the water. Now, the same amount of rainfall comes down in a very short period of time which is leading to flooding,” he says.

Parts of Gopalganj district in Bihar remain submerged. (Image Credit: Manoj Pandey)

Grim Situation In Bihar

More than half of the districts of Bihar are deluged with almost all the rivers flowing above the danger-level mark. According to the Bihar Disaster Management Authority, more than 3,867 villages in Purnea, Nalanda, Patna, Kishanganj and Madhubani districts are bearing the brunt of the flood. As many as 133 villages in Madhepura, Sitamarhi and Gopalgarh were affected between Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Bihar, the number of people affected by the deluge stood at 73 lakh on August 16, according to the state’s daily flood report. The flood has claimed 72 lives in the state so far, with 16 lives lost between Tuesday and Wednesday. In this period, 48 new relief camps were set up, taking the total number of camps to 504.

Villagers get transported to a relief camp in Supaul district in Bihar. (Image Credit: Ranjan Kumar)

This time around, the floods have reached even those places that have not witnessed one before. In Pashchim Champaran district, a few blocks have seen three to four cycles of flash floods. The situation has worsened in eight of the flood-affected blocks this week. According to the locals, the district has never experienced flash floods of this severity. Vinay Kumar, secretary of NGO Water Action says half of the affected populace in Pashchim Champaran has never seen a flood before.

A submerged area in Supaul district in Bihar. (Image Credit: Ranjan Kumar)

Vinod Patel, a farmer from Ramgarh district lost his belongings after his house was washed away in the floods. “I found the remnants of my house a kilometre away. I am just trying to salvage whatever I can,” he says. According to a news report, the flood situation worsened in Bihar after 4.85 lakh cusec water was released on Sunday from the Gandak barrage in Valmikinagar.

Women in Khagaria village in Bihar offer prayers to bring the flood situation under control. (Image Credit: Ritesh Kumar)

Anirudh Kumar, joint secretary, Bihar Disaster Management Department, says the situation was critical in Madhubani, Kishanganj, Katihar, Champaran, Supaul, Araria, Saharsa and Madhepur. Forty-eight teams of National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and the army were working round the clock to rescue people. He says 2.78 lakh people have been rescued so far and 1.6 lakh have been relocated to a safer place.

The Indian Air Force has also pitched in with a helicopter, two aircraft, four boats and 90 troops for the rescue operation, a senior Air Force official says.

Army engaged in rescue operations. (Image Credit: Pranab Kumar)

Supaul resident, Rahul Kumar, says streets in Kishanganj and Araria were under waist-deep water. According to chief public relations officer of East Central Railway, Rajesh Kumar, 18 trains have been cancelled and the others were running late because of the flood. “Katihar-Siliguri rail route was closed and there was no contact with the northeast,” he says. Kosi river, which had wreaked havoc in Bihar in 2008, is inundating villages and eroding lands in Supaul.

Assam Continues To Suffer

In Assam, which is experiencing the third wave of flood this year, 24 of its 32 districts are under water. About 33.45 lakh people and 2,970 villages have been affected, according to a report by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority dated August 16. The government has set up 304 relief camps, where about 1.39 lakh people have taken shelter. Floods this year have claimed 140 lives in the state.

The third wave of flood hit Assam as people were beginning to return to their villages after biding time in relief camps. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the quantum of rainfall Assam has received so far this month is twice the normal expected rainfall.

Seven rivers–Brahmaputra, Dhansiri, Jia Bharali, Puthimari, Beki Sankosh, Katakhal and Kushiyara–were flowing above the danger level till the evening of August 16. Instances of swelling rivers breaching embankments are being reported with four such instances reported on August 16 alone. Earlier this week, Jia Dhol river breached an embankment in Dihiri village in the western part of the state and submerged 22 villages.

A school inundated by flood in Tezpur, Assam. (Image Credit: Pranab Kumar)

A worried Anu Rabha of Bamun Gaon in Dhemaji district says, “My entire agricultural land is under water. I have lost all my cattle, too. I urge the government to compensate us for this loss as we are suffering. This happened because the Guyekhowa embankment is breached and this is the fault of the administration.”

In the eastern part of Assam, Dhemaji is the worst hit by the deluge. It lies cut off from the rest of the world since the district administration closed the Kumtia bridge. Severe erosion is taking place in Udalguri, Nagaon, Bangaigaon and Chirang districts, affecting agriculture fields, houses and schools.

According to the disaster management report, as on August 16, more than 1.43 lakh hectares of crop area was affected in Assam. The worst affected district was Bhuragaon with more than 17000 hectares of crop area under water.

Arunachal Pradesh Submerged

In Assam’s neighbouring state Arunachal Pradesh, heavy landslides caused by incessant rains have blocked many roads. The remote Anjaw district lies cut off as the main road connecting it to the neighbouring districts has been blocked since August 8 owing to a landslide.

Some villages in the district were cut off from each other due to the flood a week ago. Flood has isolated four districts in the state–Anjaw, East Siang, Namsai, and parts of West Siang districts–and submerged a part of National Highway 415, which leads to the state’s capital Itanagar. After the water receded, the highway was opened for small vehicles after some repair work. A 400-metre-long stretch of road caved in last week due to water logging.

Deputy chief minister Chowna Mein visited the flood-affected sites on Independence Day and remarked that the state’s measures to control damage in case of heavy rain were proving to be effective. He observed that much work needed to be done to further minimise the damage. The flood has damaged many roads and bridges in the state.

Syeda Ambia Zahan and Pranab Kumar Das from Guwahati, Ganesh Prasad from Bihar and Saurabh Sharma from Lucknow have contributed to this story. All reporters are members of 101reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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